My paternal grandmother became blind before I was born. She had gone through all the emotional stages when one has a disability thrown at them. So, my first childhood memories are filled with a productive, coping, loving blind grandmother. On one occasion she turned to me with a cookie in her hand projecting in my direction and asked ”would Billie like a cookie?” I nodded my head in the affirmative. Then my Father swatted me in the back of my head and said “Answer her!” We had a special Helen Keller type of relationship. She being blind and I with a severe hearing loss.
My grandparents had a 7 acre farm out on east Church Ave. Some years he would plant alfalfa hay. After cutting and baling, it was time to pick them up and put the bales on the trailer. My father hitched up the trailer to his World War II Jeep. He brought over some men from his machine shop to help pick up the bales of hay. My father did not want to waste an able bodied man driving, so he asked his mother to drive the jeep. I remember the conversation: She was very hesitant and voiced her concerns. “Mom, I’ll direct you from the field and you just drive.”
So it was set. I sat in the front passenger seat at the age of five and my blind grandmother drove the jeep back and forth on the farm. “A little to the left!” my dad called out. “Stop!” “Make a right U-turn!”
Boy was I excited to ride in the jeep with grandma!
What an inspiration for me to strive to be my best in the face of any adversity.
On the flip side, riding with my other grandmother on the old San Jose road from Santa Cruz over the mountain to San Jose was equally terrifying. They had 2600 mating pairs of pigeons and delivered about 200 squab to market every week.
The old purple suicide door Lincoln Continental had boxes full of pigeons strapped in the open trunk. I swear that at times, only two tires were touching the curving mountain road.
I want to assure you that we obviously practice safety in our office today. Call it an early lesson in what NOT to do. We will not subject you to a rolling, bumpy, scary ride.