A few radio stories I’ve heard lately oughta give NPR listeners an idea of what a powerful – and positive — effect men who are blind can have on their offspring.
Let’s start with Bob Ringwald. My brother Doug introduced me to Bob years ago — they’re both jazz musicians, and they play together from time to time. Bob is blind, and his daughter Molly (yes, the one in all those John Hughes movies in the 1980s) was interviewed on Weekend Edition last month about her first novel When It Happens to You. She told Scott Simon that as a child she enjoyed sitting with her dad during movies and plays to describe the action. “I actually think that that informed my writing,” she said. “That’s something that I’ve done for so long, that it’s made me, perhaps, observe things in a different way.”
And then there’s Gore Vidal. After the famous writer and critic died in July, Bob Edwards Weekend replayed an interview conducted at Vidal’s home in Los Angeles in 2006. Vidal was raised by his grandfather, a U.S. Senator from Oklahoma. Sen. Thomas Gore was blind, and Vidal was ten years old when he started reading to him. “I read grown-up books to him: constitutional law, the Congressional Record, American history, poetry,” Vidal said. ”He was extraordinary, he was my education.” Vidal guided his grandfather to Senate hearings, and he said he didn’t dare fall asleep while sitting in the balcony waiting for the session to be over — at any moment his grandfather might give a hand signal to let young Vidal know to skedaddle down the Senate stairs to guide him to the bathroom.
And then, the live performance of This American Life that opened with Vancouver writer Ryan Knighton telling a story about a walk in the woods he took alone with his young daughter. Knighton is blind, and when she started screaming about a bear, he panicked. After weighing his options, he realized that her frantic cries of “bear!” were only in reaction to dropping her teddy bear on the sidewalk.
My sister Cheryl met Ryan Knighton years ago at a bookstore in Anacortes, Washington when he was touting his first book. His latest, C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark, is about blind fatherhood.
Ryan Knighton’s daughter is too young now to tell us what, if any, positive effects come from being raised by a man who can’t see her. I may not be a gambling woman, but I’ll betcha this: she’ll have stories to tell!