When you got no choice, choosing gets easy

Published 6:08 pm Sunday, February 2, 2020

The two senses most spoken of together are sight and sound. We think and talk of them as twins, operating together and enhancing one another more than any other sense. It seems they just are natural, that they go together.

But this week I was remembering former students. Well, really, they were charges of a college friend of mine who’d cared for them since they were children in a state of total blindness from their birth. They had never “seen” a thing. All they knew was what they heard. They’d now be in their 60s, and although I’m not in contact with them, I think of them a lot.

And I remember them as normal kids. Later in their lives, but long before they were grown, they lost their father in an airplane, I think, that he was piloting. But I know he had provided for them.

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This article is about the one time I remember asking them if they ever missed “seeing” things. And they answered an emphatic no? How could they? They’d never “seen” anything to miss. But hearing was a different thing. They’d heard all sorts of things.

They were adolescents then and into ‘Beatlemania’ with everybody else their age. They went to concerts and were part of all that frenzy. But they loved the classics too and were serious patrons of The Chicago Symphony. Of course, they had – and played – many records. Lots of them in fact.

But during our conversation, one of them said to me that life without seeing anything was normal, even natural to her. But, she said, she couldn’t imagine not hearing anything.

Not just the music, but the rain she said, and thunder. And the voices that identified all the people in her life, like smiles and faces to the rest of us.

But while she was talking and explaining this to me, I was trying to imagine my life without my eyes. I closed them long and often trying to imagine what that was like. “The Miracle Worker” with Anne Bancroft and Sally Field had given us some insight. And hope for what was possible.

And then I started trying to “see” things like they “saw” them; trying to imagine my life without sound.

Can you imagine not hearing thunder? Or the ringing of a phone?

Or cars on the “Dan Ryan” in the morning rush hour? And evenings when it’s worse.

Or The Beatles? Or “Bird” and Coltrane?

Can you imagine seeing birds in flight, but never hearing one? Or a baby crying?

Can you imagine being at Orchestra Hall, or Symphony Hall, or any hall at all and seeing the musicians moving, but not hearing any sound?

I can’t believe that having choice would ever make me choose.

But I do remember old folk saying that “when you got no choice, choosing gets easy.” I’ve lived that often enough in my life to know that it is true.

Still, I miss my friends and talking to them.

And hearing them talk back.

Yolande Robbins is a community columnist for The Vicksburg Post.