In yesterday’s post, “sound and light,” I told you about Ricky – the blind teenager that my sister and I took to “see” fireworks when we were only teens ourselves. A new friend of mine had this to say in response:
No one really gets how fortunate we are sometimes. I just finished saying, “Fireworks get boring. After 28 years of the same thing, I don’t really need to see them.” And then I read this and thought, “[Ricky] will never see them. I’m not even aware of how lucky I am, to be able to.”
How soon we forget these poignant revelations. They flash so brightly before us in moments, only to fade back into the recesses of our souls. Or should I say, we allow them to fade. Even as they fight to burn hotter, illuminating meaning and purpose and what it’s all about, we stir our discontent instead of stirring their embers. We throw the ashes of bitterness over them. Or we simply turn our backs and walk away into the comfort of our unenlightened daily routine, forgetting to look at the sky casting its magenta glow right above our heads.
Over lunch today, I got to talking about Ricky with my friend Sullivan. Years before Ricky, at the same school for the blind, I met another friend. His name is Anindya, and we were both just kids when we met. Anindya, or “Bapin” as he likes to be called, is both deaf and blind. He has never seen me, per se. And all of our communication is through hand-over-hand sign. At first, it was through even less than that. How we became friends is a story for another time, but suffice it to say that it was one of the most challenging and wonderful adventures of my life thus far.
I just popped over to Anindya’s home page, and this is what I noticed first, one of the things he wishes most for the world to see and know:
Like everyone else, deaf-blind people also have dreams … people assume that, without sight or hearing, deaf-blind people could not lead “normal” lives. We need to remember that no one has a “normal” life or can ever go through anything without struggles.
I could write an entire book about my friend. He has a memory like a steel trap. I forget how many languages he knows. His sense of smell is … well, rather frightening, if I’m being honest. He once smelled me coming into a crowd of people at a wedding. It’s enough to give a guy a complex. Or the willies. Maybe both. Brilliant is an understatement where he is concerned.
For my sixteenth birthday, Anindya gave me one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. He has never heard English. He has no sense of musicality. He cannot even hear his own voice. Yet he dedicated months of tedious and frustrating time, secretly preparing with a mutual friend, learning how to form each of the words of “Happy Birthday,” and to vocalize them in cadence. On the big day, he told me that he had a present for me. Nervously, he stood before me, holding the hand of our mutual friend, feeling for the signed words to the song. And he sang. My deaf-blind friend was singing to me, all by himself.
And it was exquisitely beautiful.
I took the opportunity to drop him a line just now, even in the middle of writing this post, simply to let him know that he is one of the brightest, happiest, most creative and most positive people I have ever met. And, as you may have guessed if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time – I know a lot of amazing people. So this is really saying something.
Anindya loves life. But how is this possible?
He is disabled
Not if you ask him.
He cannot drive.
Yet he travels around the world with independence and ease.
He cannot see the sun rise or set over the ocean.
Yet he enjoys the sun’s warmth, the salt breeze and his feet in the surf, in ways we can’t imagine.
He’s never even seen his friends’ faces.
But he knows their hands – and their hearts – intimately.
He will never know the joy of romance.
Really? He’s the happily married father of a beautiful, two-year-old boy.
This would seem to support the idea that, as I’ve contended often, positivity and happiness do not fall arbitrarily to some, while evading others by way of some cruel, cosmic lottery. Rather, these things are choices.
When you have those true and glowing moments of realization in your life – about what really matters – don’t let go of them. Hold to them tenaciously. Write them down. Take them with you. Read them to yourself aloud. Change your habits around them. Because they are truth. Truth trying to speak to you and remind you, as my friend Anindya says …
Life is meant for living; there’s simply no room for regrets.