Blinded by Social Boundaries

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This post was written by Marybeth Ramey.

I have two sisters who went blind when they were about 10 years old due to a rare recessive gene disorder. My sister, Sue, who is just one year younger than me, is married to Artie, my husband’s cousin, who keeps a Blind Bloopers Book of Sue’s funniest, most “Helen Keller” moments. Yes, our family on both sides has what is probably the largest repertoire of Helen Keller jokes anywhere.

I love this because although, of course, very sad and shocking, she can laugh about it and does so quite publicly demonstrating to others that she is not her disability but just Susie who happens to be blind.

Although she is blind, she functions almost normally and is in fact a school teacher. The State of Massachusetts is very supportive of its disabled citizens and went through their home putting special Braille labels on switches, stove and teaching them some tricks of the trade. But things happen and instead of stressing or getting or upset, the entire family, the extended families and now you dear readers all over the world will all know too and laugh with them about her Blind Bloopers.

My favorite one is Artie buying a gallon of Hawaiian Punch which feels just like the plastic gallon of Tide laundry detergent. Two weeks later, my niece, Meghan, discovered that her mom had been washing the family clothes in Hawaiian Punch all that time. I asked if they had been drinking that tasty, refreshing Tide, but evidently no.

Another instance was her recent status on her Facebook page saying she had just taken the dog’s medicine and had given Sophie her hormone pill. Within hours there were dozens of catty (sorry Sophie for the feline reference) but hilarious comments on her page about her having to go that evening to her in-laws and to be sure not to bark, drool on the furniture or sit on her tail. Never mind the hormonal hell poor Sophie was probably going through, hehe

On numerous occasions, she has attempted to get into the wrong vehicle when being picked up, only to realize once the door opens that it’s not her ride. Her descriptions of the varied reactions of the drivers are truly hilarious.

One of her own favourites is the time she was walking with her dog in a new neighbourhood in very deep snow. She thought she was asking a young teenager directions but she was in fact conversing with a fire hydrant. Sophie the dog looked quite puzzled at this exchange as related by a person passing by who assisted her home.

Then there was the fancy Thanksgiving Dinner with the extended family that particular year at their house. In this case, she had stored the casserole dish where she always had under a drawer near the kitchen sink. Nephew Eddie noticed the short silver nails first and much (American talk, of course) ensued about the lawsuit they would be slapping on the manufacturer at the green bean company. That is, until Artie went to wash up and realised those were HIS nails in HER cooking dish. He had moved them a drawer over without telling her not realizing they might drop into her casserole dish.


Not only does Sue have a full time white collar job, she also has a second source of income; she crochets all kinds of baby and toddler apparel, bedspreads, carseat covers, etc. A few years ago she kept being annoyed at the clicking sound her diamond was making with the fast moving needles. So she extracted the diamond and plunked it in a wine glass where it lay forgotten until 6 months later at Easter Dinner, again at their house. Artie’s sister Audrey announced she believed she had a diamond in her mouth after taking a sip of a harmonious red wine. Very quickly she was ordered to spit it out or else risk having an enema on the dining room table.

I’ve come to find out over these many years that if you can’t laugh at even the worst situations you might find yourself in, then you might as well go in the closet and die. Laughing at yourself is the best medicine there is.

It is sad for me to see throughout many parts of Asia families still filled with shame over a family member with a physical or mental disability to the extent they keep the person inside the house all their lives. What a terrible waste of human capital knowing that one of those young children could be someone like my sister Sue.

And even though it’s been five years now since my spine surgery which had some serious complications, taxi drivers who know me, office workers in our building and other local Malaysians who at first would actually tear up looking at me and race over to help, now just see my happy nature. This is why I refer to myself as a cripple. To me, it is a funny sounding word that is the opposite of being politically correct plus it is a fact and makes me laugh, resulting in the person I am with laughing too and we all relax. I always hope that if the older, more traditional Malaysians who know me might themselves have a family member who is not physically perfect understand better now that it is the person you are inside your physical structure that really counts.

This article was written by Marybeth Ramey for The Expat magazine.
Source: The Expat February 2012
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