We will start at the very beginning, with a set of twins born on January 15, 1965–both very underweight. I arrived right after my sister, Robin, and was only three pounds, six ounces. Because of our small size, we had many problems, and I was later told that the doctor said he did not expect us to live six weeks, and later, six months. Yet I live.
At age three, I hit my head on the wall and floor and cried and cried, so my mother took me to see two different doctors. One told her that I belonged in a mental hospital and that I could only aspire to be a beggar. The other doctor said to my mother that she should take me home and love me like any child should be loved. So my mother took me home and loved me.
Later, my mother found out that I was born with glaucoma in both eyes. So, at age seven, I was prepared for an operation and someone placed a patch over my left eye. The doctor was supposed to operate on the eye with the patch, but ended up working on the wrong eye instead, and I lost sight in my left eye shortly after.
At age eleven, I could only read one side of the page in a book, with the other extremely cloudy. Doctors told me I only had a ten percent chance of seeing again. Three days after my twelfth birthday, I went completely blind.
At age thirteen I was fitted for a hearing aid in my left ear and went deaf in my right ear. At age fifteen I was fitted for a back brace to straighten my spine. I also had heart problems and some speech difficulty. All of this was due to birth defects.
I began working in 1983, when I was eighteen, at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Back then, I had some problems and difficulty learning how to cope with them. As a teenager, I had a temper and was looking at things the wrong way. At one point, I broke something, and got into some pretty serious trouble for it. My mother refused to pay the bill, and no one else was going to help, either. I had to face the music, and I worked rolling silverware in order to pay them back $350 for the broken item. It was a turning point for me, when I learned I needed to be responsible for my actions and adjust my view on life.
You see, despite everything we go through, we are not owed anything in this life. We must work for it. We must apply ourselves and work hard to accomplish our goals. There will be rough times along the way, but determination will pay off. For me, a strong faith and great friends help keep me strong. Let people think what they want to think. If they’re uneasy around me, so be it–that’s their problem, not mine. I’ve got too much to live for to worry about them.
I have been self-reliant as a deaf blind man for 28 years, working and living on my own. I continue to work for Red Lobster, rolling silverware, and will do that as long as I can, doing the best that I can in that role, taking nothing for granted.
Life is short. Live it up.