That Saturday morning was not all cartoons and Sugar-Frosted Flakes. At ten sharp, my wife and I walked into a waiting room where six couples sat silent, feet shuffling, fingers drumming. One in each pair ruffled Sports pages while the other cracked their knuckles. Had my wife taken a wrong turn into the Green Room of “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” and, if so, where were Oprah and Dr. Phil?
A single man strode into that waiting room. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the sighted guide workshop.” Seven couples murmured a reply. “Today, we will become safer and more effective. Being a sighted guide is an awesome duty. You are responsible for the safety of your partner.” My wife took my hand—a gentle gesture. Then I felt her fingernails dig into my palm.
Our sighted guide teams took turns navigating obstacles common to that downtown Chicago building. We walked through doorways—“Hinged right and coming at you” and stairways—“Eight steps up, handrail right.” We steered narrow hallways—“Single file now” and crowds—“Shorten up that cane.” We found which door led into the Men’s Room—“I can handle it from here, Honey.”
Back on the street, I showed my wife my sore palm, chuckled and asked, “Is this your comment on our host’s opening statement…that you are responsible for my safety?”
My wife smiled sheepishly, then kissed my palm. “You know I love you. I will help with anything you can’t see. That’s my part. Your part is to do your best, keep up your skills. If you get lazy or play the self-pitying victim, then that’s unsafe for you and unfair to me and I’ll lose respect and I’ll resent you for it. We’ve learned we can face any part of blindness…or anything else…as long as we work together.”
That Saturday morning is long passed. But its message remains clear to me. Some folks find my wife’s words harsh; others laud their wisdom. Then and now, I feel she got it right. That Saturday, my response was to whisper, “You and me, kid,” then take her arm and walk along Wabash—across streets, up and down curbs, around newsstands and window shoppers—as the L train rumbled overhead.
“Two of Us” by The Beatles, from the album “Let It Be” (1970)
“This Is Us” by Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris, from the album “All This Roadrunning” (2006)
“We Walk” by REM, from the album “Murmur” (1983)
“One Step Forward” by The Desert Rose Band, from the album “The Desert Rose Band” (1987)
“Walk Right Back” by The Everly Brothers (1961)
“You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Rodgers & Hammerstein, from their musical “Carousel” (1945” and covered by singers ranging from Gerry & The Pacemakers (1963) to Andrea Bocelli