For about 5 years, until last April, I taught mobility skills to blind people. This basically means I would teach people how to get from Point A to Point B independently through use of a white cane or guide dog. I taught children as young as 2 and my oldest client was 101.
For small children, I would teach pre-mobility skills, including body & spatial concepts, etc. I would meet with parents of newborn babies who were dealing with so much loss. Adjusting to the loss of expected hopes and anticipated dreams for their children. I would show them toys to help stimulate their children's other senses such as tactile for learning Braille later on & toys with auditory stimulus to encourage the baby to hold their head up to develop neck muscles and motivate them to crawl towards an object. With no visual incentive to hold their heads up, many blind babies never developed these muscles and as adults hold their heads down. This doesn't exist so much these days as most people in developed countries get early intervention.
I taught high school, college and university kids how to cross streets, take buses, get to their different classes and who to get around their residence.
I also worked with many seniors newly blinded by macular degeneration or other eye diseases. We spent a lot of time together talking. Sometimes I think I was the only person on earth who they confided their stories to. Sometimes they told me things they said they had never talked about before. They were nearing the end of their lives, often house bound & alone. Their very well-meaning children often would tote them to and fro to their appointments and invite them to family events but were caught up in the midst of their own very busy lives. Often they did not want to burden their children with their private heartache.
These people had stories to tell. Stories of love & loss & heartache & triumph & pain. Sometimes the old men would get teary as they talked. They spoke of lost loves, lost children, their time spent in combat during war, lost homelands. Often I would get in my car after and weep.
There were a few people that I looked in on over the years until they passed away. Not everyone had the same impact, but there were always those who pulled especially hard on the heart-strings.
I learned a lot.
I learned a lot.
That old cliche that no-one at the end of their life wishes they had worked more, or had more money, or had a bigger house? True. I learned that most people wish they had spent more time with their children, and their family of origin, or travelled to the place of their dreams. I learned that people who were estranged from a sibling always regretted it. I know that you never get over the loss of a child no matter how long ago. I learned that sometimes after years in a bad marriage, the other is relieved to see them go. I learned that the final affront in old age for many is losing their home. I learned that friends became even more important later in life, especially when you can't keep up with your family. I learned that one of the biggest heartaches for a woman is losing her sister in old age, leaving her alone. I learned that the single biggest determiner of health for the current senior population was daily walking throughout their lives. I learned that often the nicest, sweetest parents who indulged their children had the most selfish adult children and sometimes the cold and demanding parents had kids that would go to the moon for them, still craving their attention and acceptance as an older adult. I learned not to accumulate too much stuff because it just weighs you down, you miss it when it gets taken away from you and your kids have to get rid of it all in the end. I learned that some people learn from their mistakes, even in the final stretch. and some people never do.
I learned to not put off until tomorrow what you can do today. LIVE it. Get dirty. Move forward. Push on. Laugh. Love. Let Loose. Listen. Inhale. Breathe. Cry if you need to. Be crazy. Be strong. Be a builder, not a wrecker. Don't shit talk people. Smell the flowers. Work your body. Have fun. Let it go.
That's not to diminish the very real pain we always experience in our lives. Just to say, take stock of what REALLY matters. There are very few disasters we cannot recover from. We do not need to get mired in the petty & small disappointments of everyday. That's all I'm sayin'.
Do I take what I learned & use it everyday? Hellz no. Not all the time anyway. But when I'm having a bad day and feel sorry for myself, I tell myself that it is never too late to change things, until it is.