Mother reaches goals despite physical setbacks

By: William R. Toler - Daily Journal editor

I can only imagine what it’s like to grow up blind.

My mom, however, knows firsthand.

Granted, she isn’t totally blind, but it’s been a struggle nonetheless.

When her vision problem was first discovered, the doctors said she would only be able to see shapes and shadows. That was not the case.

She was able to go through public schools, with a little difficulty, and was an active member of the Junior Civitans at West Craven High School.

Following high school, she attended Western Carolina University for one year. She probably would have gone back, but she met my dad over summer break. They met on a blind date…literally.

By December, they were married. And a year and a half later, I came along.

Now, I can’t remember when I first found out about her obstacle, but I do remember other things. I remember her rocking me to sleep in her blue-backed rocking chair. I remember her strapping me in to the child seat on the back of her bike and riding to the local store, nearly three miles away.

When I started school, she and her mother, my grandmother, would volunteer at my school. She also served as a substitute teacher for both kindergarten and fourth grade.

Once I got settled into my education, she continued hers, this time at Craven Community College.

Not letting her sight, or lack thereof, hold her back, she maintained a high grade-point average, became an ambassador for the college, was a charter member of the international honor society Phi Theta Kappa, and made it on the national Dean’s List.

During this time, she tutored two local blind children for her classes.

In 1994, she graduated from CCC with an associate in arts degree in early childhood education.

She would have continued on to work on her bachelor of arts degree at East Carolina University, but couldn’t find a ride. She had planned to ride with me and we would both be enrolled at ECU following my high school graduation.

Well…plans change. In February of my senior year, she gave birth to kid number two: a hyperactive bundle of energy named Jesse James.

With that being as such, and my not applying to a four-year college on time, I attended CCC — for six years.

She continued to raise my brother and became active at church. She served as the education director at our church and planned the week-long vacation Bible school.

I have gotten away with not having to pay for gas or insurance by being her chauffeur…driving her to the doctor, to get groceries, to a National Federation of the Blind protest in Washington, D.C. — things like that.

She has been an inspiration to me, as well as others, vision notwithstanding.

This column was originally published in the Oct. 11, 2005 issue of the Independent Register. William R. Toler is editor of the Richmond County Daily Journal.

William R. Toler

Daily Journal editor