S1: Episode 27 - Calvin Whitehead

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator: Welcome to My Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Stories are often found, resting along the edges of surprise and revelation. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else. Episode 27, Calvin Whitehead.

Calvin: My nickname is Skin. They call me Skin. When I was born, I was real skinny, so they just caught me Skin for short. And I always had worked all my life. I had different jobs, hands on jobs. I’m good with my hands. When I was boxing, I was like 14, 15 years old. I fought for the Golden Gloves. Well, you have to be quick with your hands and fast on your feet. Well, I ain’t got knocked down. I knocked some people down. It’s a up and down game in boxing. I set ’em up with my jab and stepped to the side and hit him with an upper cup. Overhand, right. Yeah, you gotta roll with the punches. .

When I first met my wife, I was over to my aunt’s house and my wife was moving in that day and uh, I was helping her move some boxes and stuff, so she couldn’t pay me. So I asked her to cook me a meal. And the way to get to man heart is his stomach. We was real compatible, you know, only thing, she was tall and I was short. She a tall glass of water. She’s six three, I’m five, eight and a half. She said she always look up to me no matter how tall she is. She always look up to me.

I never thought that I would wake up one day and and wind up blind. Never in my life. Well, I can tell my sight was getting bad. Cause you know, I started misjudging things. You know how you see things, but you don’t see it. And, uh, it just gradually started getting worse and worse. My sight got worse and worsen. Well, I had, uh, rp uh, retinitis, pigmentosa it. He said in my adulthood that I eventually I was gonna lose my eyesight. I just said, how, you know, it can’t be, you know, I just thought the whole world was coming down, crashing down on me.

Well, you gotta get past the fearness first. You know, the fearness of being blind, you know, a lot, a lot of people think it’s the end of the world because they lost their sight. Life. It goes on, you know? No, I’m not afraid of being blind. I done got over the, the pain, you know, the, the loneliness, the, the emptiness. No, it’s not a bad life. It’s a good life. No, I ain’t never, I ain’t not. I’m not afraid of challenge. I always tell people I’m not blind. I just can’t see. I’ve never been hit by a car, never had a bone broken in my body. I’m pretty good on my feet. That’s one thing about being blind. You know, the, the senses you have, you can pick up on things. And like when I meet a person, I can, I can pick up vibes with a person that’s got a good spirit or bad spirit deme you no good. I try to stay away from that. I don’t. It’s just something I learned since I’ve been blind.

What I miss the most about not having my sight is driving, being free to go places. It’s not that I’m trying to hide something from my wife, but you know, she ain’t got know everywhere I go. Some places I might want to go and be alone. You know, my life philosophy is, is form your circle and keep a bunch of negative stuff out your circle. You know, surround yourself with positive things, positive people and, and stay focused, you know? And don’t get discouraged. What, what you put on the wheel. It comes back around. Like my parents, they, they embedded a lot of, a lot of stuff in us. Good, good seeds, not bad seeds. I say to people when they speak to me, I’m blessed and highly favored. You know, I’m just blessed. I’m blessed and highly favored. So I try to stay prayed up, you know, with so much hustle and bustle going on in this world. Just, they prayed up. Well, I do a lot of singing, praising, worshiping a lot of old church hymns and stuff. , I, I’m out in the, uh, pew, you know, singing out there with ’em. It’s a song called, uh, I’m Going to Stay on the Battlefield, the Battlefield of Life. And then you have to treat everybody right? Oh yeah. Yes sir. Amen.

[Outro Music]

Host: I had the great privilege to spend two days with Calvin and his family, his voice, his narrative, his grounded in humility, reflection, and great humor. His experience is a reminder that generalizations about blindness fall apart along the edges. Being born blind is nothing like losing sight in middle or old age. Losing vision slowly due to a genetic eye disease is nothing like losing vision in a moment. Calvin is generous and laughs easily. He said, “again and again. I’m not afraid of challenges. No, I am not. I tell my friends and anyone I meet, I’m not blind. I just can’t see.”

Join us next week. Two new episodes will be released. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can also go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for portraits and transcripts. Thank you for listening.