How We See Ourselves (for my good friend Chuck, who often sees what I don’t see)

Yesterday morning I took my dog Dudley to Petco for grooming. Because we were a few minutes early, I decided to wander with the Dudmeister through the store and look at dog toys. Indoors when I wear my sunglasses on top of my head, I look like an extraterrestrial from a bad B movie in the 1950’s, so I decided this time to keep them in their position over my eyes as Dudley, still on his leash, continued walking ahead of me. Then I heard a young woman’s voice asking, “Excuse me, sir, but are you blind?”

Dudlers

Believing there was a blind man nearby, I tightened my hold slightly on the leash in anticipation of Dudley’s possible reaction to another dog in the vicinity. Then I was surprised, turning around, to see the woman who had posed the question, looking at Dudley and me. She and her male companion were both examining me in the most sympathetic way, as though I were a lost puppy or an injured toddler. Feeling my face turning red, I lowered my sunglasses to gaze over them at the couple, saying to them, “No, I am NOT blind,” which brought to the woman’s face a look of both relief and embarrassment.

blind man with white dog

“We wanted to pet your beautiful dog,” she said, “and it looked as if he was leading you. What breed is he?”

“He’s a West Highland White Terrier,” I answered. “The breed isn’t used as guide dogs. Those are usually German Shepherds or Labs.”

“Well he’s adorable,” She said. I was tempted to say, “Well, I guess he fooled YOU.” But I held back and responded instead with, “You’re welcome to pet him. He loves people.”

Then she and her companion knelt to greet Duds, who was enthusiastic over their attention.

“He’s a handsome dog,” said the man.

“He’ll be much handsomer after his grooming today,” I answered. “Right now he looks a bit like a dust mop without a stick.”

“Thank you,” said the woman, as she and the young man continued walking through the aisle of dog toys.

selfie 4

The experience gave me pause (paws?) to consider for the first time how I might appear in public with my slight limp from neuropathy in my right leg, my dog on his leash, seeming to be leading a man with gray hair wearing dark glasses indoors.

Dudley, John, and Jim

My perspective changed irretrievably, regarding my age, but I must remember also the dependable glint of humor from such experiences as they become more frequent with the years. I guess I’d much rather age while smiling than age through embarrassment and fear.   JB

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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