Born Legally Blind, Not Disabled
My younger brother Mike was born legally blind and is an enigma. I’ll wait while you look up that word. That’s right; he’s just one of those people that are hard to figure out. Although he was born with a handicap , Mike never considered himself disabled, He’s done a few things our family would just as soon forget. Oh, he’s alright these days, but growing up you had to be on your toes around him.
Here’s what I mean. Mike was born legally blind. His eyes opened too early and oxygen damaged them. So, naturally later in life we nicknamed him “Hawk Eye”. He was always blind as a bat, but managed to get around fairly well with the meager sight he did have.
Since he had never seen any other way, he couldn’t comprehend he was handicapped. As far as he was concerned his sight was normal and you couldn’t tell him otherwise. This fact got him into trouble more than once. When we were out riding bikes and having fun, Mike figured he should be allowed to ride as well, but he was forbidden to. But, when you told Mike he couldn’t do something you could count on him doing it anyway.
Now, for a kid born with a genius level IQ, he sometimes didn’t seem to be the brightest bulb in the pack. It didn’t matter how many warnings he received not to run out into the yard when he heard a car pulling up, he would anyway. Once, about age 6, when he heard Grandfathers’ car Mike scampered out to greet him and promptly ran smack into the side of his ’57 Ford sedan. The car was undamaged except for a small dent where Mikes’ head had hit. Oh, Mike was alright also but he sported a large goose egg on his noggin for a while.
At other times Mikes’ brilliance shone through. At the tender age of 5 he was an inquisitive little devil, always fascinated how things worked…so he took them apart to find out. Sometimes Mom was not a happy camper. She’d find her hair clippers, toaster, coffee maker and other appliances in pieces with the culprit nowhere to be found. But by age 7 our little Einstein had learned to read electrical schematics and able to reassemble things he had torn apart in his quest for knowledge. He could take a transistor radio (that didn’t work), take it apart and repair it using Dads’ electrical tools. Dad was an electrician and had an extensive library on electrical repairs which Mike took extensive advantage of.
Once, before Sunday school class, Mike drew electrical wiring diagrams on the black board thoroughly impressing his classmates. Immediately following he also passed around the instructions from one of Moms’ tampon boxes. See how he could be smart and stupid at the same time?
There were other characteristics Mike possessed in his early teens which also made him stand out. He sometimes found it hard recognizing truth. OK, he was a compulsive liar! You could catch him red-handed in the midst of a crime and he’d deny doing it until his last breath.
Mike had an obsession with magnets and he could play with them for hours. Once, he stole the magnetic strip out of Moms’ refrigerator door. I knew he did it since I found him playing with the thing. When Mom discovered it was missing, Mike was the immediate suspect. And as usual he refused to admit it…even after I showed Mom where he had hidden it. Fortunately, in later life he grew out of that phase.
More Amazing Facts
Mike never did learn he couldn’t see well, or maybe he just refused to believe it. Over the years I couldn’t count the times he’d borrow one of our bikes and bring it back mangled after running into something. Even as an adult he drove a moped to work and back. On one trip, a car had pulled over with a flat tire. The driver was busily engaged changing tires as Mikes’ moped approached from the rear. The cars’ trunk was open. That’s where the driver found him, suffering a broken leg, arm and a concussion. And finally, this convinced Mike he couldn’t drive.
Here’s another amazing fact about my brother. He worked for years as a chief sewing machine repair mechanic and manager of that department. Even normal sighted persons sometimes need a magnifying glass to see those small parts.
Without a doubt, Mike is an intelligent person. But there’s a difference between being intelligent and smart. Mike had found employment as a stock boy in a local department store called “Treasure City” and the store’s owner soon became aware of his exceptional abilities. It wasn’t long before he found himself being exploited by the store. They had him installing security systems, doing electrical repairs and a host of other related jobs. Yet, after several years, he still only received stock boy wages.
This didn’t set well with Mike. Therefore, he decided to get what he felt was owed him. Mike formulated a scheme to rip off the store he felt had ripped him off. Since he couldn’t drive, Mike was forced to enlist the help of a get-a-way driver. That turned out to be our brother-in-laws’ younger brother who couldn’t keep a secret and blabbed about the plan to a friend.
They say “Loose lips sink ships.” And indeed they do. On the night of “Operation Treasure City”, Mike and his cohort set the plan in motion. Since Mike had installed the store’s security system he knew how to disarm it. They parked the get-a-way car in back of the store and proceeded to fill it with stereo equipment and record albums until it was filled to capacity. Then they began their escape. As they pulled around front, the parking lot was immediately illuminated by flood lights. Every cop in town must have been on the scene!
Of course they were arrested and put in jail. However, the stores’ owner discovered what had happened and surprisingly bailed Mike out…and subsequently dropped all charges. Apparently, he realized he was partly to blame. Mike kept his job and received a promotion to electrician along with a hefty pay raise. Who said, “Crime doesn’t pay”?
As a grown man, Mike still amazed us at what he could do. He became an excellent electrician, although he was unable to be certified. But he worked wherever he could doing electrical wiring and such. But the audio visual field became his passion. I’ve yet to see a stereo system or television set he couldn’t repair. And I’ve yet to pay a repairman. If I’m having a problem, all I have to do is call Mike, explain the problem, and without fail he can tell me exactly what’s wrong and how to fix it. He stays up to date with current technology.
I have an older brother, Tom, who lives on the same property with Mike in Kingstree, SC. He has short term memory loss. They spend a lot of time together. Sometimes people ask me about my brothers and this is how I describe the pair. “One can’t see where he’s going and the other can’t remember where he’s been”.