What a shame that some folks minimize the suffering of others with sayings like, “There’s people worse off than you.” Though some folks whine about inconsequential matters, the suffering of many is a big deal to them. What I mean is that it’s proportionally large. For instance, a broken toy can be traumatic to a child who highly valued it but the original cost of the item can easily be handled by an adult. I suffered a terrible psychological shock fifty years ago yesterday which might seem small to some, yet it devistated me.
It all began when my mom told me I was going to a new school in some place called Vancouver. Being only seven, I had no concept of distances. Consequentially, I felt that I could come home each day after school as I had always done.
The plane ride and staying at some place called a dorm seemed exciting to me. Having to march down to the dining hall seemed odd but I assumed I would be doing that just once. The school day didn’t seem much different except that I was supposed to eat at that dining hall again. A teacher found me wandering the dorm’s corridor as I wondered where everybody else was.
After school, I waited outside by the dorm as the other children played on the swings and teeter-totters. Surely I should be ready to go when the bus came to pick us up for our flight home.
A lady came out of the dorm and asked me if I would like to play on the playground equipment. I told her that I was all right waiting where I was. Little did I know what would happen next.
Growing impatient, I finally asked a boy when we’d be going home. “Christmas,” was his astonishing reply. I thought he was joking but he assured me that we wouldn’t see our families until the holidays.
The horror of what my parents did to me finally hit home. I was at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, a residential institution far from my beloved home. I didn’t cry but I sure felt like it. The warm, sunny day and the picturesque mountains across English Bay didn’t matter anymore. I was stranded with no way of returning to my family except to wait for those months to painfully pass.
Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School chronicles my experiences there. In a matter-of-fact way, I present what transpired as I struggled to cope with uncaring supervisors, bullies, and terrible food. Read more about this memoir at the Bruce Atchison’s books page.