Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Day Out with Mom #7: the story of blindness in her life

Greyhart Photography
When I was eight years old, some kids and I were playing in the barn and an older girl swung a rope that had strands of wires woven in it. It hit me in the eyes, cutting them. I was blind.

My parents took me to San Francisco where my eyes were operated on. That kind of thing was not common back then. I came home, and my mom told me I would never see. I told her after a while that I could see shapes and colors, but she said I was just imagining it. I was right, though, and I gained some of my sight back. The doctors were happy but told me it probably wouldn't last, and now here I am finding life hard because I can't see so good.

I had to wear glasses, and they were thick like Coke bottles. One boy at our school in Morris Ravine was from Oklahoma. He was bigger and older than me, and he kept calling me Four-Eyes. He just wouldn't stop, so I clobbered him and he never called me that again. I was just a tiny thing, too. Remember, when I married at twenty-six, I was just five feet tall and ninety-eight pounds.

Kids were a lot tougher in those days, living through the Depression. Kids these days--a lot of them couldn't take it. I went to school through the eighth grade in a one-room school house in Morris Ravine. The kids lived on or around Table Mountain and down by the river, some of them in tents.

My dad would take some of the greens that he fed the rabbits he raised and take them and other food down to the tents so the people would have greens and wouldn't get the gout. He chopped firewood for the school to keep it warm. It had a pot-bellied stove, and every morning the teacher would start her day by putting on a pot of beans that was part of our lunch. Dad also brought gravel to put in front of the school so the kids could play outside on rainy days and not get muddy.

I never drove, even though I took the written test and got a one hundred percent. My eyes were just too bad. I liked to draw, though, and was good, and I liked to sew. After graduating, I became a Practical Nurse. You had to take a test to get a certificate from the state of California. Years later, Dr. Boom sat me down and just chewed me out because I didn't become a Registered Nurse. I just raised you kids, though, and now I'm too old and my eyes are bad. I'm eighty-eight years old now and too old to go back to nursing. I just can't see.

I worked as a nurse during World War II in the county hospital. I did a lot of different things, but my favorite was working with the babies. That's where I learned everything I needed to know to take care of you kids. I always made sure you got your shots, too.

There were babies who came to us all dirty and uncared for. Back then, there were still parents who weren't good and didn't care or who didn't know any better. We took care of them all. I was still working there when I met your dad. The other nurses gave me a ride to work, since I couldn't drive. All you kids were delivered by Dr. Craviotta, a woman doctor. There weren't many of them back then.

Now my eyes are getting worse and worse, just like the doctors said. I'd be able to do a lot more if I could see better. There are things I can't do that I used to. You just have to keep doing what you can, though, and not give up. I do a lot by touch.

It's sad getting old, but I keep doing things. I've worked all my life. My parents adopted me by paying a man from the state who came around with kids in a wagon. It was a lot different back then. They were my parents, though. They loved me and cared for me. We didn't have a lot of money, but we had more than some. We shared what we had to help others get by.

That's what people did back then, and that's how I tried to raise you kids. It's a different world now. People seem to always be going a lot faster and don't take time to rest. Some things don't change, though, and those are the things I tried to teach you.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


  1. I truly enjoyed reading this Tom. Wish I had written down a lot of the things my mom and dad told me about their early lives. I've forgotten so many of the details, though I do have a couple of their diaries. One has a few pages my dad wrote when he was about 8 years old in 1926. One entry said, "It was a sorry day. My sled broke".

    I'm inspired to write some memoirs of my own for my progeny. I went to a one room school, too. It was a sweet childhood and I have so many stories I could tell. I started writing some thing on my computer years ago. I just need to make the time to keep working on it. Wonder where it is on my computer...


    1. Thank you for your feedback. It gives me more incentive to keep going, other than using this as a way of processing this stage of my and my parents' lives.