Of Blindness and Teamwork

I’ve been thinking a lot about team work lately. When I was a child they wouldn’t let me play sports owing to my blindness. This made sense when the only games for kids were baseball and basketball. But somehow the physical education instructors believed it would be good for me to sit on the sidelines and so I’d daydream to the sounds of sneakers on wood floors or the vaguely pastoral whispers of baseball. I did a lot of daydreaming. It was easy because no one talked to me. Talking was reserved for those who were in the game and I was for all intents and purposes in Valhalla. The truth is I never had a team experience, never had camaraderie, reliance, the sense that somehow someone had my back. Never had someone who made me better because he or she was there. This quality of unsporting isolation in childhood was the most painful thing about being blind. When I recollect the isolation and enforced solitudes of boyhood I see how my first guide dog not only gave me confidence in traffic–she also gave me the first sense of being on a team. We might only have been a team of two, but we were a powerful and mobile team and yes, we had each other’s backs. Corky dog brought me this spirited physical and emotional bond that had always been missing from my life. Dogs are teamsters through and through.

Everyone knows that in a team sport you can’t win without others. I saw this for the first time when Corky and I were crossing Columbus Circle in Manhattan. From a traffic standpoint the area is a nightmare. It’s a lethal circus of combined avenues and cross streets, the traffic moving so fast it makes a zithing sound. We plunged together into the maelstrom with her good judgment and my faith in her. I once tried to describe the moment when we left the sidewalk’s safety there on the upper westside of Manhattan as embracing the emptiness between stars. Now that’s teamwork. “Who is your team mate?” “Blaise Pascal.”

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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