Going Blind
127 pages
English

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127 pages
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Description

Finalist for the 2010 Minnesota Book Award presented by the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library

Mara Faulkner grew up in a family shaped by Irish ancestry, a close-to-the-bone existence in rural North Dakota, and the secret of her father's blindness—along with the silence and shame surrounding it. Dennis Faulkner had retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that gradually blinded him and one that may blind many members of his family, including the author. Moving and insightful, Going Blind explores blindness in its many permutations—within the context of the author's family, more broadly, as a disability marked by misconceptions, and as a widely used cultural metaphor. Mara Faulkner delicately weaves her family's story into an analysis of the roots and ramifications of the various metaphorical meanings of blindness, touching on the Catholic Church of the 1940s and 1950s, Japanese internment, the Germans from Russia who dominated her hometown, and the experiences of Native people in North Dakota. Neither sentimental nor dispassionate, the author asks whether it's possible to find gifts when sight is lost.
Acknowledgments

1. Blind Spot

2. Blinders

3. Blind: Out of sight, out of the way, secret, obscure

4. Turn a Blind Eye

5. Blind Faith

6. Blind Prejudice

7. Blind: Unable or unwilling to perceive or understand

8. Blind: Insensible, unaware, lacking intelligence and consciousness, narrow-minded with no openings or passages for light

9. Blind: To dazzle, to dim by excess of light

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Publié par
Date de parution 15 mars 2012
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781438426907
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1648€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Extrait

Going Blind
A Memoir

MARA FAULKNER, OSB

Cover photo courtesy of the author (private collection).
Published by State University of New York Press, Albany
© 2009 State University of New York
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Excelsior Editions is an imprint of State University of New York Press
For information, contact State University of New York Press, Albany, NY www.sunypress.edu
Production by Eileen Meehan Marketing by Anne M. Valentine
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Faulkner, Mara.
Going blind : a memoir / Mara Faulkner.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4384-2667-9 (hardcover : alk. paper)
ISBN 978-1-4384-2668-6 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Faulkner, Mara. 2. Children of blind parents—United States—Biography. I. Title.
HQ759.912.F38 2009
306.874'2092—dc22
[B]
2008046865
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

I dedicate Going Blind to my father and mother, Dennis Faulkner and Hattie Miller Faulkner. Though they died many years ago, their lives teach me daily lessons about endurance, laughter, a beautiful frugality, and the courage to question. They are the heart of this book, and my greatest hope is that I did justice in writing about them .
Acknowledgments

I thank my brother and sisters—Dennis Faulkner, Judy Faulkner McGuire, Jeanne Adelmeyer, Elaine Willenbring, Coreen Faulkner, and Mona Faulkner. Any of them could have written a version of this book, but instead they entrusted their memories and experiences to me. My nephews Jeb Willenbring and Chad McGuire patiently answered my many questions. All of them, plus other nieces and nephews, read drafts and offered helpful suggestions. I also thank my rigorous, generous readers who stuck with me through the ten long years this book has taken: Karen Erickson, Anne Patrick, SNJM, Nancy Hynes, OSB, Julie Kellum Jensen, Patrick Henry, Monza Naff, and Judy McGuire, my first, last, and best editor. Travel and research were possible because of a Central Minnesota Arts Board grant and travel grants from the College of St. Benedict. I am grateful for the hospitable space at Hedgebrook and Soapstone writers' retreats and the St. Benedict's Monastery Studium. Laura Schwarz, my faithful, cheerful researcher and typist, has hunted up numerous citations and typed endless drafts and revisions. At SUNY Press, I'd like to thank Larin McLaughlin, Eileen Meehan, Andrew Kenyon, and Susan Petrie for enthusiasm and reliable, skillful help.
My Benedictine community, and especially the women I live with, have influenced me in more ways than I can name. Most important, their values have helped me see my parents, my family, and even blindness more clearly and lovingly.
This book belongs to these people and many others. To all of you, blessings and thanks.
I gratefully acknowledge permission to reprint the following material:
From “My Father's Harmonica.” Unpublished poem by Jeanne Adelmeyer. Used by permission of the author.
From “Disability: A Lament.” Copyright © 1998 by Helen Betenbaugh and Marjorie Procter-Smith, from “Disabling the Lie: Prayers of Truth and Transformation,” in Human Disability and the Service of God: Reassessing Religious Practice . Used by permission of Abingdon Press.
From “The Immigrant Irish.” Copyright © 1987 by Eavan Boland, from An Origin like Water: Collected Poems 1967–1987 by Eavan Boland. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., and Carcanet Press Limited.
From “Christ Be Our Light.” Copyright © 1994 Bernadette Farrell, from Christ Be Our Light by Bernadette Farrell. Published by OCP Publications, 5536 NE Hassalo, Portland, OR 97213. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Unpublished haikus by Itaru Ina. Used by permission of Satsuki Ina, PhD.
From Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto, copyright © 1998 by Stephen Kuusisto. Used by permission of the Dial Press/Dell Publishing, a division of Random House, Inc., and Irene Skolnick Literary Agency.
From “Among My Souvenirs” by Edgar Leslie and Horatio Nicholls © 1927 (Renewed) Chappell & Co. Inc., and Edgar Leslie. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. and Herald Square Music, Inc. on behalf of Edgar Leslie.
From “World of Our Own.” Words and Music by Tom Springfield © 1965 (Renewed) Springfield-Music, Ltd. All Rights Administered by Chappell Music Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.
Glory be to you, O God of the night,
for the whiteness of the moon
and the infinite stretches of dark space.
Let me be learning to love the night
as I know and love the day.
Let me be learning to trust the darkness
and to seek its subtle blessings.
Let me be learning the night's way of seeing
that in all things I may trace the mystery
of your presence.
—J. Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction
ONE

Blind Spot
The small, circular, optically insensitive region in the retina where fibers of the optic nerve emerge from the eyeball. It has no rods or cones. A subject about which one is markedly ignorant or prejudicial.
B LINDNESS WAS MY father's blind spot, and it became my family's and mine, the word we didn't dare say. In our house there was no gentle, businesslike dog, no white cane, no Braille playing cards or talking books. Rather than accepting and adapting to his blindness, my father, Dennis Faulkner, hoped and prayed for a cure—though less and less as the years went by—and walked a step behind my mother, an unobtrusive hand on her arm. In the early days, he made a game of not being able to see. Because there were seven kids in our family, he often dressed my little sisters. His hands were gentle with them as he held them one by one between his knees and pulled on panties, long stockings, and high white shoes. He couldn't see which shoe fit which foot, but he always made a game of it. “Right-er-left-er-left-er-right?” he'd ask. They'd giggle with delighted superiority and set him straight.
Somewhere along the way, the games and laughter ended, and instead of jokes about blindness, we silently agreed on denial, learning vigilance to help preserve his illusion. We whisked obstacles—the dog, little kids, footstools—out of his way and put cups and tools into his hands, so he wouldn't have to ask or grope. One Sunday when the nine of us were walking from the car up the steps to St. Joseph's Catholic Church, a woman who obviously knew us asked me, “Is your daddy blind?”
Feeling as if she had insulted him or accused him of something obscene, I said indignantly, “No, he just can't see too well.” All through grade school, high school, and college, I never told a single soul outside my family that I had a blind father, protecting his secret as closely as if he were a gangster or an excon.
Because I lost my father when I was too young to know him, I can only guess why blindness became our secret. I left home at eighteen, fleeing Mandan, North Dakota, my dead little hometown. The college my five sisters, my brother, and I attended was four hundred miles from home, and I had only enough money to go home at Christmas and in the summer. By then, my dad was aging and growing more and more silent. I loved him, but it never occurred to me to be interested in him as a person beyond the one I knew and the earlier one revealed in the stories I'd heard a few times too often.
Then I joined a Benedictine monastery and left him even further behind. As I look now at the stiff, silly letters I wrote home those early years of my monastic life, I realize that I must have found it impossible to bridge the gap between my simple home and the world of prayer, study, and constant cleaning that comprised my first couple of years in the monastery. Once my mother sent me a bag of carrots from her garden, with the dirt still on them. At home, I always ate them that way, straight from the garden, brushing the dirt off on my jeans. But the other novices were getting huge boxes of Fanny Farmer chocolates from their families. I hid my carrots and eventually threw them away. With my mother, I was lucky that she lived past my years of self-absorption and shame and that I chanced upon Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, and many other working-class feminist writers who helped me see her and her hard-working life in a new light. By the time she died in 1993, I understood her and admired her for a hundred reasons.
My father had no such chance at redemption. He died when I was twenty-five, and my grief for him was buried beneath the stony silence of the novitiate. Shortly after he died, my mother wrote with rare directness, “I know you lost your favorite person.” She was right. But in the years that followed, as my mother flourished in reality and in my estimation, my father diminished to a broken shadow who appeared only once in my dreams—an old, thin man in his faded blue sweater, lying on his side, silent, blind, with his big strong hands helpless and useless between his knees. Have you come, old man, I wondered,

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