See­ing be­yond blind­ness

Port de Grave se­nior de­fies dis­abil­ity

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

At four o’clock ev­ery week­day af­ter­noon, the Port de Grave boy leaves school and gin­gerly wends his way to the only home he knows. He and his grand­mother drag the kitchen ta­ble over to the win­dow. He sits down and does his home­work by the light stream­ing in from out­side. In this way, the years pass and he grad­u­ates eighth grade.

As a boy, this was a typ­i­cal day for Bert Reid, who has been blind since an early age.

There was a time when he could man­age to dis­tin­guish a five-dol­lar bill from a ten-dol­lar bill if he held both ob­jects mere inches from his eyes. But that’s a thing of the past. To­day, the 67-year-old is blind. He’s even un­able to see the burst of a cam­era flash in front of his eyes.

Sitting in his room at the Bay Roberts Re­tire­ment Cen­tre, he re­calls the in­flu­ences that shaped his life. First and fore­most are his grand­par­ents, Mar­ion and Eli Reid, the ones who “did the most ( for me),” he says proudly. “ They raised me till they couldn’t do it any­more.” His nan re­ceives sin­gu­lar praise. “ When I did my home­work, a scat­tered time I’d write down be­low the line,” he says. She helped him stay on track. “ She was Mom and Dad to me, as far as I was con­cerned,” he adds.

Be­cause he was fa­mil­iar with the lay of the land, Bert had no trou­ble walk­ing around Port de Grave with the aid of a cane. He col­lected door to door for the blind, sold tick­ets for a va­ri­ety of causes, and went to dances. “I was re­ally ac­tive,” he says.

Even­tu­ally, Bert and his grand­mother moved in with her daugh­ter. About nine years ago, he be­came a guest at a per­sonal care home in Shearstown and, later, in Bri­gus. Last year, he moved into the new home on Coun­try Road.

Bert is known for his pos­i­tive attitude about his blind­ness. “I got used to it and never let it get me down,” he says sim­ply. “Okay, I can’t see, so what am I sup­posed to do, sit here in a chair and give up? I don’t think I’ll do that.”

And please don’t waste pre­cious time by pity­ing him. That’s some­thing he doesn’t want. “ There are lots of peo­ple in wheel­chairs with their arms and legs off,” he says. “I can get ready and go any­where, if some­one picks me up.”

He never al­lowed his blind­ness to pre­vent him from suc­ceed­ing in life. Leav­ing school, he went to work in a shop in Port de Grave. He even de­liv­ered gro­ceries around the com­mu­nity. In later years, he worked in can­teens in St. John’s, with the Cana­dian Na­tional In­sti­tute for the Blind, the Cari­bou Me­mo­rial Vet­er­ans Pavil­ion Hos­pi­tal, and the post of­fice on Wa­ter Street. Dur­ing all those years, he de­pended on the sup­port he re­ceived from fam­ily and friends.

He deals with what many peo­ple re­gard as a dis­abil­ity by liv­ing each day to the full and by mak­ing the most of life. His per­sonal faith in God sus­tains him. And he high­lights the role of good friends. “All I have to do is ask any­one to do stuff for me,” he says.

A mem­ber of the Orange Lodge for 45 years, he’s quite ac­tive with Lodge No. 26 in Cupids. “I love go­ing to lodge meet­ings just as well as I love go­ing to church,” he says. A proud mo­ment for him was when he ad­vanced to the Red Cross de­gree in 2008.

Re­cently, Bert was moved to tears when the lodge pre­sented him with a new chair to make his days more com­fort­able. “It means a lot to me,” he says, “and I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

As much as he loves his new chair, he doesn’t stay in it day and night. He goes out­side to the court­yard for a breath of fresh air and to shovel snow. He can’t wait for Au­gust to roll around when he makes his twenty-third an­nual trip to the Lion Max Simms Me­mo­rial Camp on the Ex­ploits River near Bishop’s Falls. He lis­tens to ra­dio and he of­ten chats with a good friend in Nova Scotia, who just hap­pens to be a woman.

A keen lis­tener

Bert is sharp as a tack. It’s diffi- cult to fool him when it comes to voices.

He may not be able to see you in per­son, but he has an un­canny knack for rec­og­niz­ing your voice af­ter he has heard it once.

And, he has a keen sense of hu­mour, say­ing to a pho­tog­ra­pher re­cently, “I’d say that cam­era won’t work any more af­ter you take my pic­ture.”

What does the fu­ture hold for Bert Reid?

He’s wait­ing for laser surgery to re­move a cataract or two from his eyes. His doc­tor says that with­out the op­er­a­tion, Bert “won’t even see day­light from dark.” With the op­er­a­tion, though, he “may get to see shad­ows.”

In the mean­time, would Bert like to be able to see? “I wish I was able to see,” he says. “I guar­an­tee you I’d be a happy per­son if I could. I’d give God thanks,” he adds.

Any words of wis­dom for fel­low suf­fer­ers? “ There are times you have your ups and downs, but it doesn’t have to be be­cause you can’t see. You can’t give up be­cause of that.

“I must say, al­though I’m blind, I re­ally lived a full life,” Bert says. “ While God gives me the health and strength to walk, I won’t let a lack of sight stop me.”

Bert Reid, who is blind, is shown here at the Bay Roberts Re­tire­ment Cen­tre on Coun­try Road. He en­joys goiong out­side for a breath of fresh air and to shovel snow.

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