S1: Episode 41 - Judy Jackson

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 41, Judy Jackson.

Judy:  I’ve never met my biological parents. The record said that they were migrant workers. It’s my understanding that my biological mother was a, a fortune teller and a tarot card reader. And my father was a, a used car swindler when I was about three months old. They took me to a shelter and they never came back. And so I became a ward of the state in 1961. I was raised by foster parents. My foster parents had 46 children over time. Um, I had a good childhood. I was happy. I loved school. Um, I loved going and playing with friends. I believe the single most important thing that made them extraordinary parents is they believed in me and they made sure that I had what I needed.

I have always known that I was blind. I mean, ever since I can remember. However, it was never made to be an issue. When I was going into the sixth grade, I remember my foster mother whispering to my advisory teacher, and I heard her say, she’s blind, but she whispered it. I was taken aback because while I knew it, it was never brought to the forefront. And I didn’t know what that meant because I wasn’t raised to be anything different. And I said, what is blind? No, I’ve never wanted to see objects like the ocean or the moon or the, I’ve never really cared about seeing a sunrise or a sunset. I know that those things are things that people comment on that are so beautiful and, you know, so intriguing. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t flown across the ocean. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been outside when the sun is rising and so blindness for me, you know, I can’t see things physically, but I’m perceptive about situations. I I’m perceptive about people. I certainly have insight.

Sounds are important to me. They are the way in which I get information. If I hear something in your voice that doesn’t sound quite right, you know I’m gonna be a bit alarmed. I do have echo location. There’s a different sound that bounces off. I’m aware of building lines. I’m aware of parked cars. I’m aware of openings. When I think about how far something is, I think about how long it takes me to get there. I have a good awareness of where I am in space and I can usually retrace my steps. I remember when my daughter and I were in Paris, uh, they all got lost and they were having trouble reading the map. But I remembered where we’d been and I was able to get us back to the hotel.

There was a time in second grade when I would want to play with these little girls and I would come near them and they would run away and scream and they would run off. And that just really would make me so sad cuz I didn’t know why they were running off. It appeared as though they were afraid of me, um, because of the fact that I was blind. Loyalty is extremely important to me. It’s, it, it’s a character trait that I value, just like integrity, credibility. When, when I, when I find a good friend, I’m loyal. I’ll be, I’ll be I’ll. Stand by you. Right. Wrong. I, I am loyal to you and nothing will shake that. 

[Outro Music]

 Host:  When I met with Judy, she was living in Austin, Texas and working as a collection representative with the Internal Revenue Service. She’s married, has two daughters, Kaitlyn and Kayla. She credits her foster parents who had 45 other children as having hearts bigger than life itself. They never sheltered me, she said from anything and gave me the confidence, the love that made me who I am today. There are so many misconceptions about people who are blind. The biggest misconception is that people who are blind need to be taken care of. I can’t tell you the number of times as a grown woman, a stranger might bend down to tie my shoes as if I was helpless. That I can’t think for myself, that I’m not a whole person, that I don’t have an understanding of the world around me. It’s not just ignorance, but it’s blatant disrespect. Judy said, the theme of my life is relationships and loyalty. When I find a good friend, I will stand by them forever and nothing will shake that. She believes that patience and wisdom and understanding all have a common thread.

Join us next week. Two new episodes will be released. This is Michael Nye. Thank you so much for listening.