Grandpa's Blindness

I was lucky enough to know my Grandpa Fitzpatrick. I say lucky enough for a couple of reasons. For one thing, there was a large gap between when he was born and when I was born, relatively speaking when compared with the average; he was born in 1876, and I was born in 1959, making him 83. However, fate was kind, and I was able to know my Grandpa for 6 years before he passed away.

Another reason I was lucky to know him, was because he was a very special man. Of course, I never knew him when he was younger and in better health, but the kind of man he always was, I was told, was manifest in my experience with him - kindness, intelligence, wit, a great sense of humour, and a very loving human being. A great reader, appreciator of music, hard-working, loyal. My few surviving memories of the time spent with him, are very precious to me.

One aspect of my experience that was unique was that he was blind for much of the time I knew him, so in reality that is the only way I remember him. I don't recall that being an especially limiting handicap for him, as he taught himself well how to get around his own house and yard, and appeared to enjoy life as much as ever.

He became blind through a unfortunate accident. Grandpa and Grandma Fitzpatrick (my mother's parents) were visiting Grandpa and Grandma Short's (my father's parents) home. He asked where the lavatory was, was directed to a door down a hallway, and - unfortunately - mistook the wrong door for the bathroom. He assumed that the door he opened, although dark, was simply the bathroom without the light on. It was actually the basement door, and as he stepped forward, he fell, hitting his head upon landing. In the end, that accident caused permanent blindness.

I remember admiring the cane he used, and being quite amused by his joy in the simple pleasures of life - good food, good conversation, being outdoors and feeling a breeze on his face...and even a good backrub against an old oak tree in the front yard. His example as a man, a person, and as a partner that showed much affection towards my sometimes cantankerous (but loving) Grandma, made a lasting impression on me that I have never forgotten...