The word “blind” has only one connection for me and that would be my blind brother Brian. He was blinded in an automobile accident in 1985. He was an OR-tech and had been called in or perhaps kept over for a late case and was returning home after midnight when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a telephone pole or maybe it was an electrical pole. Extremely bad luck since he was on a country road in the middle of nowhere with ample option to just drive into someone’s corm field with little harm done.
My brother was always meticulous about using his seat belt, perhaps though I don’t know for sure, due to his operating room work. A job like that provides you with many cases involving traumatic catastrophes that did not involve the wearing of seat belts. The safety belt in his older model Ford sedan failed and he hit the windshield resulting in major facial trauma. Fortunately he was taken to an ED before he bled out but was left with significant facial disfigurement and blind for life.
Though I never really got all the details he received a modest settlement from the Ford Motor Company. There was no court case involved as I recall just the checks written by Ford. There was some connection with seat belts in this model being unsafe and lawsuits brought by Ralph Nader. Many people only associate Nader with his third party run in the 2000 presidential election but his long and very successful career as a safety consumer advocate is quite frankly astounding both in its breadth and success. My family certainly owes Nader a debt of gratitude, as do millions of other Americans. Nader is currently involved with suing Boeing for the airline crash in Ethiopia that killed a niece of his and 156 other people. If I were Boeing I would just get the checkbook out.
I was back in Illinois after my brothers multiple and major, mostly reconstructive, surgeries that summer of ’85 and was present when the bandages came off with just the slightest of hope that he would have any vision at all and sadly there was none. To be blinded in your mid-thirties is something I am not sure I could have handled at all but Brian has done remarkably well. He lives independently with his seeing eye dog, his third actually since they get retired at age ten or twelve, and Brian is going on thirty-five years now without his sight.
Other than the sporadic trip back to visit him and many other relatives in Woodstock, Illinois my contact since 1995 has been very minimal. My last significant personal interaction with him was to take him to a Grateful Dead concert in July of 1995 at Soldiers Field in Chicago. Ironically this turned out to be the last Grateful Dead show ever with Garcia’s death being a few weeks later on August 9th.
The death of my partner David a few weeks after that on September 17th 1995 seems in hindsight to have resulted in my refocusing even to a greater extent on my family of choice here in Denver. Several of my biological relatives of course knew my David and were saddened by his death but their outreach to me around his funeral consisted a few well-meaning cards and flowers.
A couple of years after David’s death I sold our Park Hill home. I was then able to buy a small home in Woodstock Illinois for my brother and my mom. They lived there together until my mother’s death in 2006. My brother then bought me out (thanks again Ralph Nader) and he still lives there now. It was a cash buy-out on his end but this was in rural northern Illinois and not anywhere near Denver real estate prices even back in 2006.
The main lesson I take from my brother’s blindness is the amazing human resilience we are capable of mustering when needed. A couple of smaller issues I take from my brothers misfortune are that I should never be a whiny little bitch and don’t fuck with Ralph Nader.