More than 3,000 people with visual impairments showed up for this year’s National Federation of the Blind convention in Orlando. That’s a lot of white canes and guide dogs!
I’d agreed to sit on a panel encouraging people who are blind to consider writing as a career. But that was before I broke my foot. “You can still go,” my doctor said at my foot check-up last week. “Just promise me you’ll use a wheelchair in the airport.” I promised. Harper stayed at home with mike.
My sister Marilee lives in Orlando. She got a special pass to meet me at the gate, and before you knew it, I was surrounded by her wonderful family outside at their house, enjoying mouthfuls of my brother-in-law Rick’s good cooking and hearing earfuls of news about Casey Anthony. The jury was deliberating, and Orlando was buzzing about the trial.
Marilee drove me to my panel the next afternoon, and we were enjoying a quick snack at one of the convention hall restaurants when the Casey Anthony verdict came in. Marilee was one of the very few who took notice. No one else could see the TV screen!
My panel went well, and we had time to check out the exhibit hall before heading to the airport. Marilee took a deep breath before we headed in, readying herself to maneuver me through a sea of waving white sticks and curious guide dogs. Considering my oversized cast, This was, ahem, no small feat.
We were heading for the exit when a man suddenly approached and grabbed me by both arms “Are you an imposter?” he asked. “Where’s your dog?” I’d know that voice anywhere. It was Lukas Franck from the Seeing Eye. I lifted my pant leg to show him my cast. “Harper’s at home with Mike,” I told him, explaining how Mike was following all the Seeing Eye rules, insisting Harper stop at each curb, going on longer walks with Harper when possible.
Lukas gave me a big, long hug and then asked if Harper had been improving before I got hurt. yes, I said. He had. “Good,” he said. “We can send someone out to give you a refresher course once your foot is healed.” Lukas also suggested I consider sending Harper back to Morristown now, while I continue to heal. “We could have people here work him every day.” In that scenario, I might return to Morristown after my foot heals, meet up with Harper and work with him there for a while before hitting the streets of Chicago again. “Think about it,” Lukas said. “You know, Mike could use a break.”
The school had a table in the exhibit hall. What fun to visit with all those old friends – and meet some new ones, too. It was so reassuring to know that even with my injury, the Seeing Eye isn’t giving up on Harper. Or on me. And they also realize that the success of a Seeing Eye dog not only changes the lives of those of us who are blind, but the lives of those around us, too. Like Mike. And Marilee.
Outside the convention hall Marilee and I couldn’t help but notice a helicopter hovering. Turned out the Casey Anthony jurors had been sequestered right there where the convention was. Guess with all the blind conventioneers there, court officials knew the jurors would be safe. No one would spot them.