Now legally blind, Amy teaches us a beautiful life lesson ...
When given conscious attention, what may seem mundane, what you may consider unremarkable, will provide your most treasured memories and exquisite gifts in life.
This year I turned sixty, Indian summer arrived, and the sun glistened off the leaves. Being legally blind, I compensated by using blue-tinted recycling bags. The contrast helped me to see them better. I also found my father’s giant-toothed rake.
Bundled up in a thick hoodie, I set to work raking. After an hour, I threw off my jacket, pushed up my sleeves and let the warmth steal over me as I scooted across our back yard. Although I missed many of the leaves, I didn’t stress.
With every sweep of the rake, I unearthed pleasant memories.
My dad’s face with his smile inviting me to jump into a pile of leaves. I recalled how he stepped back in his dress shoes and waved to the mound with his rake. His cap was askew, his grey trousers grass-stained.
A dried stalk of grass took me back to my tenth birthday. Dad had put together a hayride. Mom and I sent out invitations to my class. That afternoon, Dad attached his tractor to a gray steel wagon filled with hay. Off we went through town breathing in the sweet fodder. We had cake and cider when we returned, and bobbed for apples. As the sun shone on the rich colors beneath my feet, I could almost smell those long-ago apples.
The breeze twirled some of the leaves, reminding me of another vivid memory – when I came home to heal from the death of my twins and eventual divorce. I saw a tree filled with yellowish, golden leaves. It looked like a turn-of-the-century ballroom dancer. She had a full skirt and bent into the wind, as if holding a parasol. The rounded golden carpet beneath her dress transfixed me. When my dad joined me, I pointed it out and he cocked his head, as if seeing what I saw. He smiled and gave me the thumbs up sign. That was twenty years ago now.
I leaned another bag against the garage, recalling the last time I saw him rake leaves. He wore his brown corduroy jacket, tweed cap and work gloves. He had on blue jeans instead of trousers. Gone were the dress shoes. Dad used a wheelbarrow, his bad knees slowing him down. When he reached his wagon, he lowered the back and steered the cart up onto it, guiding the most stubborn leaves out with his hands.
Tears dripped down my cheeks. I wiped them away and set the seventh bag down by the garage.
With Dad gone, Mom took up the duty with me. I did the raking and she held the bags open. I laughed remembering her expression when I missed the bag and tossed the leaves on her. Mom shook a finger at me, her smile real, face softened and patient. Hair smashed flat with a bright yellow knitted cap, she wore an old jacket of Dad’s, and the edge of her long johns showed beneath her pant legs.
When Mom could no longer hold the bags, she watched me out the front window, tapping on the glass pane. She smiled and made a fist as if she thought I was strong. She always thanked me for “cleaning the leaves.” I loved it – my exquisite gift to her.
What a privilege to carry on the tradition of gathering up our leaves! At sixty, I felt like a college student with boundless energy. Even though I couldn’t see the leaves clearly, I bundled the bags and tied them off, feeling connected to my parents. In less than an hour, I finished. In all, I had eighteen bags!
Being blind didn’t hamper me a bit. At sixty, I feel capable, independent and accomplished. That God has given me such unstoppable vigor fills me with joy. I want others to experience the same confidence in whatever they choose to do.
Looking past sight loss is a gift we can give ourselves again and again.
Meet Amy Bovaird ...
Amy Bovaird is a ghostwriter, the author of two bestselling memoirs and a powerful faith meditations memoir and two shorter eBooks. She is the recipient of the “Distinguished Medal of Literature” by Ohio Valley University for her first memoir, Mobility Matters.
She is a former ESL instructor, world traveler, and inspirational speaker who peppers her talks with faith, humor and culture. She also happens to be legally blind and losing her hearing. But she advocates living your best life, one rich in gratitude. Amy now lives in northwest Pennsylvania in the same house where she grew up.