when caireenn witter gets up in the morning, it is dark. it is dark when she gets dressed. when she walks to the train station to catch her train to work, it is still black as night because you see, caireenn witter is blind.
as a premature baby, too much oxygen administered by the hospital burnt her retinas and left her blind, so all cairee has ever known, is darkness. telling her that the mountains are a beautiful blue today, or that she has hair blonde as wheat in a summer field ready for harvest, mean nothing. to her, her hair is thick. her mother cuts it. she dresses according to the texture of her clothes. she touches the face of her braille watch to tell the time, enters numbers into her phone by touch. she lived alone for 12 years, till 2 years ago, she met her boyfriend at an outing for the visually impaired. she says they were immediately drawn to each other and they now live together, though she also says it was hard to get used to sharing her space with anyone other than her guide-dog, tia.
cairie is why i choose to do the pioneer rally which raises money for the pioneer school for the blind in worcester. my grandfather lost his sight when he was in his 60’s and i never knew him as anything but the man with the milky irises, the cane and his faithful dog, bonzo at his side. it was too late for him to learn braille, but for the many south african children who are born blind or who later lose their vision, the only chance at a future, is the pioneer school for the visually impaired in worcester.
the resilience and whacky sense of humor of someone like cairee, is so incredibly humbling. she is an avid binnelanders fan, listening, rather than watching. thinking of her as my audience, makes me so much more aware of my performance, making sure that i reflect every little bit of nuance in my voice and not only in my face.
being in my line of work, i often get requests to attend certain functions or support certain charities. this is one request to which i will always say a resounding yes. imagine not being able to see. imagine not just the loss of color and light, or not seeing the changing emotions that flit across the faces you love, not enjoying sunsets, moonrises, art… but think of the more practical things, the many obstacles a loss of sight entails and how difficult it must be to make ones way in the world. then think of cairie. funny, gregarious, out-spoken, independent. then think about supporting the school that helped provide the skills to keep her that way.