Why a mom and her son began attending the national convention of the NFB and the annual Parents' Division seminar.
Kathi Cassi and son, Luke: My name is Kathi Cassi, but I would much rather be identified as Adam and Luke’s mom. We were content living a small-town life. Like all families we had our problems, but they were nothing we couldn’t deal with. Then my son Luke, who is now nineteen, began to lose his vision soon after high school. While in high school he excelled in sports and socializing. His biggest worry until then was that he and his friends, (many of whom he had had since kindergarten) were all about to go separate ways.
The doctors determined that his vision loss was caused by a disease our family had never even heard of called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. The fact that it is a mitochondrial disease that is passed from the mother added another dimension to the horrific pain, shock, and sadness that I was feeling upon learning my son was losing his sight. I felt extremely guilty. I also began to worry about my other son, Adam. Would this terrible disease strike him? I went into a mother’s mourning having lost such a precious part of my child.
As I rose from my despair, I was ready to fight. I found Barbara Pierce, and she encouraged us to attend the national convention in Dallas. She also encouraged Luke to consider going to the Louisiana Center for the Blind for adjustment-to-blindness training. With much hesitation, not knowing what to expect, Luke and I went to the NFB convention in Dallas. We hooked up with other Federationists in Cleveland, and the welcome, fellowship, unity, and friendship never stopped. We have both made life-long friends.
When we arrived in Dallas, Luke and I met his roommate for the week. I told this gentleman that he did not have to worry about babysitting Luke because he is very independent. Eric Duffy assured me that he would not babysit even if I wanted him to. After a while I almost wished I had persuaded him to make that babysitting commitment.
Luke may not always have gotten A’s in academic subjects in high school, but he always got A’s in “plays well with others.” Most of the time I could not keep up with him. I found myself knocking on the door or calling the room asking Eric if he knew where Luke was. After a while, when Eric heard my voice, he automatically said, “No! I don’t know where he is, and I don’t want to know where he is.”
Here are a few things I learned from the convention:
1. I learned that blindness doesn’t rob a person of his gifts. Luke can still make friends as easily as he ever did.
2. I learned that I have taken life and vision way too seriously.
3. I learned that you don’t need pictures or souvenirs to carry home; the memories are in your heart.
4. I learned that the most important things in life cannot be seen: God, love, self-confidence, success, and joy.
5. I learned that our days are measured. Whether we enjoy life and what we do with our time is our choice and in our power.
6. I learned that my son is going to be okay. He has tapped resources that he never knew he had. His mind, heart, and soul are intact. He is strong and kind and fun to be around. He holds his head high and carries and presents himself with confidence.
7. The image of a hero you’ve spent a lifetime constructing can change in a week or in the blink of an eye.
8. Stupidity, meanness, and lack of compassion are more blinding than the loss of eyesight.
Thank you, National Federation of the Blind of Ohio; you taught me how to see. Luke is now attending the Louisiana Center for the Blind and reports that things are a little tough but certainly doable. I miss him terribly, yet I have great confidence that he is where he should be. This belief is reinforced each time he calls with his friends nearby, eager for him to get off the phone.
Reprinted from the Fall 2006 issue of the Buckeye Bulletin, the newsletter of the NFB of Ohio.