Excellent Work (Japan)
“A Young Man's Words”
Minoru Egawa , Kanagawa Prefecture
It is a very hard and painful experience to accept the disability at an older age. It's harder to live with the disability. Even without it, we are far weaker in physical strength and vigor than we were young. I retired 8 years ago. I intended to start a new lease on life, enjoying driving, reading and many other leisure activities while gradually getting back to society. But suddenly I was entitled to visual impairment together with senior citizenship. I came to use a white cane before I suffer weakened legs and have to turn to a walking stick. I bump into people and limp as I'm getting on and off the train or bus. I can't go anywhere without somebody's help. I can't go shopping, enjoy TV or movies. When I'm eating, the food drops from my chopsticks as I can't pick them properly. I tip over a tea cup or a miso coup bowl on the table. I pour soy sauce or vinegar too much. Every time I do that, it's a big to-do. I was keenly aware that my vision weakened that much. I was so angry about myself and took it out on my son and wife. It all ended up having a miserable feeling and finding myself in tears. When I was alone, everything that came to my mind was how to end my own life without bothering others. And it seemed I had lost that courage and vigor to do that with the progress of my aging.
When I lamented over my gradual loss of vision, I remembered what a 20-year old young man who was born totally blind said to me, "Lucky you, Mr. Egawa. You had days when you could see things. You watched TV and played games, didn't you?" It struck home to me. "I couldn't do any of those things since I was born. How much I wished I could drive a car even once in my life." His words made me realize how lucky I was. I saw things for a long time, nearly sixty years. In retrospect, I had days I saw things and was able to do many things. Now the ongoing hard days filled with fear of my losing vision. And the world with no color that I will have to grope through when I lose all my vision in the future. I am experiencing all those three worlds. If you lead a normal life, you will never experience them. It's not a loser's viewpoint, but here is another way of looking at it; you can enjoy life three times more than an ordinary person. Isn't it something great? That notion began to slightly mitigate my pain.
People say, "You are not going to need it at your age. Besides, it's so difficult." But I started learning Braille at 65. Before that, I rented talking books and thus didn't feel so unhappy about reading. But after two years of renting talking books, I was aware that this "reading by listening" was receptive reading. After all, I wanted to read writings by myself. Like that totally blind young man, I want to read Braille fluently. That is what motivated me to start learning Braille. But once I started, it stood to reason it was no easy thing for my finger tips with the aging sense to recognize six dots. I was often attacked by the fit to give it up in the middle. Thanks to the encouragement and advice of the Braille volunteers, I gradually learn to read words and single phrases. When I became good enough to read newspaper columns, I was on cloud nine like a small kid who just learned to read a picture book. It took three years since I started learning Braille. Now I have become good enough to read history novels although very slowly. I never dreamed of being able to read in Braille. This achievement led me to take on another challenge, operating a PC using voice. Today I often exchange e-mails with my friends, read newspapers on the Internet, download sound-translated data, and enjoy a variety of reading, both in Braille and by listening, a wide range of readings, from weekly magazines to novels and latest hit stories. I make a full use of the Internet from dictionary consultation and searching to shopping. My PC plays a great role in my life; it is the tool for my communication with a lot of people and serves as the eye and hand for me.
When I go out, I feel so warm by the kindness of people who talk to me for support or help me with various things. There are people who give me seats in the train even though they must feel exhausted after hours of work at office. I feel very thankful but sorry. A young mother pushing a baby cart pressed a button of the elevator for me. When I was lost in an underground corridor of a station, a cute elementary school girl talked to me and asked me where I was going. All these are what makes me, the blind me, feel so happy.
Although my aging continues, I have earned a lot of knowledge, experience, wisdom and ideas, and those help me carry out quite a large number of things even though I are blind. I can definitely say that now. I do DIY and home gardening gropingly. This year I made a green curtain with bitter gourds. Yes, we are all veteran, experienced, and experts. We are the masters of our life. We are handicapped. How many handicaps do I have? No, they are not handicaps; they may be advantages. Going back to society, which I gave up once, is not a dream any more.