O & M actually stands for Orientation and Mobility, as most of you know, but today the letters have the meaning of over and mystifying to me because the lessons I’ve had with Dave nearly every week since November of 2008 have come to a close.
In the beginning, our lessons were all about teaching me to use the white cane, to know my position in space, to orient myself by sound and sometimes the position of the sun. Dave showed me how to be mobile again after I lost my vision. Having these skills led to me being able to use paratransit to get places like Saavi to work out or to be able to walk to my mail or take out the trash.
The independence I gained from the skills Dave taught me were the first things I grabbed ahold off to regain some semblance of normal life after going blind.
Dave was not only my O & M instructor, he was a mentor for me even though he is sighted. He told me about services Saavi offers and encouraged me to do anything I thought I might want to do. On our way to the locations of lessons, we’d talk about life, our pasts, our families, anything. I told him of my adventures, I rambled about the latest technologies I’d found, I bounced my wild ideas off of him. He became like an uncle or a big brother.
When B went out of town back in July, Dave turned our lessons into an opportunity to get whatever thing I might need. When my coffee pot died, we turned a lesson into going to Walgreens and when we got back home, he opened the box and made sure I could find my way around the coffee pot. He knows what a coffeeholic I am.
When I decided to get a guide dog, our lessons became all about preparation. Dave had done training for O & M instructors at GDB and even did my first ever Juno walk.
He made sure I knew what I was getting into, he listened to my fears. He gave me strength while I was in class, knowing I would be returning back to him, his mild mannered speech, his understanding of my fatigue, his faith in me.
He helped me adjust to life with jayden, taught me how to show Jayden new routes, took phone calls from me in the summer when Jayden’s heavy panting scared me, assured me Jayden was fine after every new dog thing occurred. Dave is a dog person so aside from being my instructor, he also helped me ease into being a dog mom.
For the last month or so, we’ve been grasping at straws to come up with ideas to do on our weekly lessons. After I arrived home with Jayden, Dave and I met twice a week, carrying over the pre dog schedule. Going down to once a week was an adjustment, but there wasn’t as much for me to do, so it was ok.
We both knew our lessons were coming to a close. We’ve known it since we first started inventing things to do, new places to pattern. This morning there just wasn’t anything. There was no new place to check out, no route to master. Finally I mentioned that I still felt uncomfortable finding the relieving area at Saavi so we went and did that. I had gotten help from other staff, but there’s just something about an O & M instructor’s brain that really helps you map things out in your head, especially when you know longer use a cane, which offers much more feedback than the gentle turns of a guide dog.
Upon arriving home, Dave said he thought we were done. As tears filled my eyes I had to agree. I don’t need him anymore. That fact is incredibly bittersweet, because the fact that I don’t need him anymore means I’ve accomplished a lot in the less than three years I’ve been blind.
He asked me if I could visualize how far I’ve come and all I could say is that it’s night and day. I won’t share anymore of our conversation because that’s between him and me.
I will say that I will greatly miss our Tuesdays. I’ll miss his jokes and his friendship. I’ll miss the confidence he had in me, which transmitted to my own self assuredness. He’ll still be there though, if there’s a new route to learn.
It’s completely mystifying to me that that I’ve graduated from O & M lessons. It’s overwhelming to look back on the last nearly three years. The difference between who I was when I first met Dave is not even comparable.
Orientation & Mobility. Over & Mystifying. Complete. Mission Accomplished. Independence acquired. A truly irreplaceable friendship made.