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What Christmas 2020 Was Like for Me as a Blind Person

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It is Christmas Day 2020. Hopefully, this is a time out of time that we’ll tell young people about years from now. So many traditions must be different because of a tiny virus.

I have been up since 5. That’s because the best time to get hot water in my apartment building is very early in the morning.

After my shower, I idly flip through TV channels looking for something — hope, energy, nostalgia? I don’t expect to find anything, but I do. My local cable channel is running a sound. I can’t see the screen so I only hear what is either hard rain falling or a fireplace.

I had found the Christmas Yule log on several channels. Some modern Yule logs have added background fireplace sounds. I remember the original WPIX Yule log meant for New Yorkers living in apartments. I am happy when I hear reincarnated traditions.

But what is this thing? I have always wanted fireplace sound instead of the visual images. It could be. So, for me, it is.

I leave it on while doing morning tasks. But I can’t stay away from the television. Cozy. Mysterious. The weather outside is rainy and miserable. There is no one I can call at 7 a.m. Christmas morning and say, “Go turn on channel four and tell me what you see.” So I proclaim a roaring fireplace without mess or music.

Friends’ phone calls begin around 8:30, but none live nearby so no luck solving the fireplace riddle. By 10 a.m., it’s off the air. I can’t ask anyone.

I am reading a Naomi Shihab Nye poetry book. She says we can keep loneliness in “storage.” I keep a “to do” list.

It has been a tough month for other reasons besides COVID. My very old word-processing technology has finally failed. It has taken thousands of words with it. It was sudden and spectacular. Every day, for a long time, I will trip over things I can no longer access. Will I remember when I changed the furnace filter last? Do I have all those phone numbers in hard-copy Braille?

This poetry book has a poem for everything. “What is the size of this farewell?” And what about the notion of abandoned vertical dreams?

I have a second refurbished Braille N Speak which is working. I have written this way for nearly 25 years. I bet no new tech devices work like that.

But I will catch up on lots of magazines. And I will resist writing everything in the newer device.

And then I am off to Christmas dinner, with a neighbor who lives on my floor. She is in her middle 70s and on dialysis. She now uses a walker almost all the time. But her son lives in New York and can’t get here.

Dinner is fantastic. Marie laughs and says it was easy. A small ham that just needed heating, frozen mashed potatoes in the microwave, and yummy steamed veggies. Dessert is a tiny cheesecake with a drink of sparkling juice (our version of champagne).

We all must adapt to circumstances. Marie’s bigger cat knows I can’t see. She goes to great meowing and rubbing lengths so I can find and immediately pet her. Even the little cat, who is older and becoming deaf, will sometimes let me pet her. Perhaps, in her advanced years, she has forgotten to be afraid of me.

I come home to read a few more poems and go to bed early. I check Channel Four again just in case. No fireplace. Tomorrow morning I will read emails and find messages on the Livewire phone system. My to-do list says I will work on creating a card file for my Council of the Blind chapter membership list.

Who will move into the apartment across from Marie? Will they really fix the hot water? Should I call cable and ask about the fireplace? Will Marie and I have more holidays together?

It’s the morning after Christmas, no fireplace. Naomi Shihab Nye says, “A muffin, a world.” I have two frozen blueberry muffins. I might thaw one out in the microwave. What would 30 powered seconds turn that muffin into? It might be cozy and warm. It will be a mystery until I do it.

Getty image by evgenyatamanenko.

Originally published: January 9, 2021
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