By Chad Nelson
Some people think a blind person is different, and I have even been told that I can’t date simply because I am blind. It can be difficult for a blind person to find someone, because it is hard to pick up on the visual clues, such as seeing a ring on the finger. It’s sometimes difficult to strike up a conversation if it is unknown who is in the room, or feeling embarrassed to ask a question. I have not asked certain questions of someone I was interested in because I didn’t know if she was married or with someone, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself or her by asking. With being blind, however, sometimes those questions are appropriate if worded correctly.
There was a very special person I met during my younger years. Ericka and I first met in June of 1988. Our story is the focus of this blog to show that blind people can find each other and find their soul mate.
In June of 1988 when Ericka and I were teenagers (she was 16 and I was 17), we attended a summer program in Wausau. This program was for the blind and visually impaired to help them decide what vocational or career path they wanted to explore. For Ericka and me it proved to be the start of a wonderful friendship.
The program lasted for three weeks and I remember on the first evening I was there, I didn’t know anyone and was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I specifically remember going downstairs in the dorm we were staying in, and I saw Ericka; she was watching TV by herself. I walked over and said hello. Keep in mind, back then both Ericka and I were very quiet and shy, so we did well to just say hello to one another. Little did we know that that “hello” would start a very close friendship.
We clicked right away, and spent every waking moment we could with each other. By the next day we were best friends and were inseparable for the entire three weeks. We stayed awake sometimes until one or two in the morning, just talking and holding hands. I honestly don’t remember any of our conversations, but I do remember very clearly the times Ericka and I spent together. The RA of the dorm was a very nice younger person, but told us one time that she should really enforce the 10 p.m. bedtime curfew. However, she said she trusted us and that if we got up on time in the morning for classes it was okay.
The end of those three weeks came up way too fast. I recall the day I left to go back home to the farm in Spencer, and Ericka was going to go back to Monroe. My mom was waiting in the car and I remember giving Ericka a hug and not wanting to leave, or even let her go. From our recent conversations, I found out that she felt the same way at that time. But, being dumb teenagers, as much as we meant to each other and as close as we had become, we never exchanged phone numbers or addresses.
Fast forward to 2015: Ericka and I didn’t speak or keep in touch for 27 years, and this was not by choice. We both went to different colleges, got married and divorced, and neither one of us knew where the other was. We later came to find out that a mutual friend told Ericka she was praying 20 years ago that we would find each other because we would be a perfect couple. In March of 2015 Ericka put out a friend request on Facebook and I accepted it. We texted for about two days until Ericka suggested we talk on the phone. We talked for about five minutes and she said to me, “It doesn’t seem like 27 years, it seems like 27 minutes since we talked,” because we picked up right where we left off in 1988. The greatest part is that we hadn’t lost any of our feelings for each other. Nine months later, Ericka and I are doing very well and we couldn’t be happier.
When people think it is amazing that blind people can meet, fall in love, and have a wonderful relationship, all they need to do is look at Ericka and me to show that two people who are visually impaired or blind are just like any other people.
Looking back on my past, and especially to 1988, I wouldn’t change a thing, except I would have asked Ericka to date a long time before April of 2015. The summer of 1988 was the best summer of my life.
Blind people can have a more difficult time finding their partner because of various factors, but it isn’t impossible by any means. The most important thing to remember is: don’t be shy, and sometimes asking an embarrassing question can turn into the best question ever asked. Even just a simple hello can lead to dreams come true.