S1: Episode 33 - Richard Cashat

Portrait of Richard

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 33, Richard Cashat.

Richard:  I’ve had people tell me they’d rather shoot theirselves than be blind. Some of the misconceptions I’ve heard is that, oh, well, your wife’s gonna have to shave you from now on. Someone’s gonna have to help you get dressed. Well, that’s, that’s silly. All you gotta do is close your eyes and do those things As a sighted person, you see how silly that is. I was raised in a family that everyone pitched in to help out the house that we lived in. My dad built it from the ground up. He didn’t, he didn’t show a lot of love. Never was the type that would hug you and, and that kind of stuff. But he showed his approval by demonstrating to you that you were able to accomplish a job. The good times with dad was when he would share with you his excitement for going floundering. And often thought when I was doing it, man, this is kind of miserable. But then I realized through the years how much fun that was to spend that much time with him, you know, to go home and clean those fish and cook ’em different ways. And that was all, you know, nice memories.

In 1976 on Ground Hog’s day, I was working at Exxon and I was electrician for them. I got off and it was a little before eight o’clock and it was already dark. And I was in my car, 68 Ford Falcon. Uh, the railroad tracks were only guarded by a stop sign. I never saw a light from an engine. I never heard a whistle. And the number of the engine was 5 46. It was lighted. And that’s the last thing I remember seeing. I lost my eyes from the glass and, and the driver’s side, uh, glass exploded and took my eyes out. The way, the way I feel like I adjusted to my blindness is that I had a family and I had two small children. That depended on me. And my worry is, is how was I gonna support them? It it, it was a very unsettling feeling.

Uh, the dreams were kind of, uh, eerie and distant feeling, I guess you could say from reality that this was happening. So you, you get, you get right into it. You’re anxious because you’ve got people dependent on you. I worked on automobiles as a blind man simply because I did that when I was sighted. Well, I’ve rebuilt engines and I pulled transmissions, you know, and I’ve done these things, gaskets, valve covers, you know, just on and on. You do so many of these things that you don’t really stop and think, what does it look like anymore? Because your hand just kind of automatically go to do the, the chore. I did everything but body work or painting, and you surely wouldn’t want me to do that. <laugh> Using your whole body to to live the daily life is, is can, can become very important. It, it’s easy to feel when parked cars.

You come up on them. You feel that presence there because it, it feels like an object. It’s not open space anymore. And, and you can feel shadows, believe it or not, when you’re walking close to a post, if you’re concentrating, you can, you can feel it, um, walking through a doorway. You hear the noise off of a wall when you’re walking down a hallway. But when you get to a doorway that’s open, it sounds like a dark noise to me. And then, you know, you feel the space that’s there. I do all the, all the things I can for myself. I do all my own cooking and cleaning the house and floors. And when there’s a repair to be done, a door hinge or knobs, I repair all that, you know, and, and I’ve climbed trees and, and cut dead limbs out of ’em. And I’ve put on roofs on homes as a totally blind man. I, I’ve never felt ashamed of being blind. It’s not something I did deliberately to myself. Embarrassed. I’ve been embarrassed as a blind man. Maybe not so much for being blind, but for the way people act around me because of the blindness.

I think sight can make you lazy. The physical lives miss a lot in life, even though they can see all around them. I, I, I think they’re missing maybe some of the rhythms of life. You know, some of the qualities that, that’s quietness and patience. Sight gives us a lot of a, a, a loudness that, that blindness hides. I think I might have a good grasp on reality if, if I want to. But I find myself as a totally blind person hiding from a lot of the pressures of life, uh, not real communicative and, and sociable, because I find all those, those situations stressful.

[Outro Music]

Host:  When I first went blind, Richard said, I didn’t go through the grieving process that most people do. I did experience the uneven layers of hopes and anxiousness. I just didn’t have time to grieve. I had a family. I worried. How was I going to survive? How was I going to be a dependable human being, father and husband? How was I going to support them? I was anxious because I had a family depending on me. So I jumped into learning new skills with an insistent urgency. Richard says, the public treats a blind person in so many degrading ways. I don’t think most of us are looking for pity. What we’re looking for is acceptance and understanding. Richard is competent and he carries with him many diverse abilities and skills. He works full-time as a machine operator. Blindness is not a limitation of human potential. Many are able to compensate in very powerful ways.

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.