My Lifeline

By A.J. Llewellyn
When I was six, I lost my precious mother to a horrible, disgusting, slow, painful disease. Colon cancer took her from me when she was 37. I never got the chance to say goodbye to her. All I had left of her was the book of fairy tales she used to read to me. My father, in his grief, packed up all our belongings shortly after her funeral and whilst I was at school, he moved us in with my grandma. He had left most of our treasured toys behind and our books…except the fairy tales.
That book was a lifeline for me. I stared at the pictures at night to comfort myself. I read the words over and over…imagining she was still there with me, talking to me, laughing with me, assuring me that no dream was too big.
Words became my refuge. My days and nights were spent reading and writing. I wrote my first book at the age of 8. My dad began to worry about me.
And then he bought me my first typewriter.
It became my obsession. It was a small portable Olivetti and I taught myself to type. It’s been my chosen work tool ever since. I still have my first typewriter. It will always be in my life no matter how many laptops and desktops I go through.
Several months ago I began volunteering at Braille Institute doing Dots for Tots. It is work I am passionate about and deeply committed to.
One of the books I have worked on the most is Little Quack’s Bedtime. It is an important book for blind children because just like Little Quack, many blind children fear the dark and fear bedtime.
This book reminds me each time I touch it, work with it, and dot it, how lucky most of us are. This is not something most of us have to deal with. It’s been explained to me that sleep time is the time parents fear as much as their blind children because they have to leave them alone.
I hope as I progress in my work with Braille that I can help ease children’s fear of being alone in the dark. I hope they will have simply dozens of books to read, to transport them to different places. Just like any kid.
I do belive in the power of story. And I believe in fairy tales.
Today, I feel my mother is with me as I begin a new phase in my journey, learning how to transcribe Braille. This feels like a giant step and a right one.
The wonderful people at Braille are giving me a Braille Machine (see above) that looks a lot like my old Olivetti.
I can’t wait to complete Boot Camp on Thursday and then start the 12-month course so I can be a licensed transcriber.
My hope is that I can contribute to the inner lives of blind children, who just like me, need the lifeline of the written word. Our schools have neglected these children for too long. I was shocked to learn that 80% of blind children who are not taught to read Braille don’t graduate high school or go on to tertiary education. They wind up on social security.
Braille is coming back with a vengeance in our schools and our world. The best part about all this is that Braille books and services are FREE.
Just as I get a thrill out of knowing all the books I put dots on are going to a child who will love learning to read, I will love learning how to make those dots in the first place.
There is a part of me who is still that lonely kid who believes in fairy tales. I feel like Cinderfella, about to enter the ball.
Just me and my Braille Machine. And I can’t wait!
Aloha oe,

4 Responses to “My Lifeline”

  1. You’re a wonderfully caring person , AJ. Have fun learning braille and I wish you the very best in this endeavor and everything else you do in life.


  2. Wow thanks Michelle! My brain is fried tonight after my first day but I am still loving it so that’s a good sign lol!

  3. i’m a journalist and script writer and i have been tasked with writing a script of a blind boy who who has a great love for the environment and fights to save his areas environment though he is blind. i have started researching on the blind people and their challenges as well as how society treats them and i have discovred a lot.i do hope i will be able to bring to light a lot about the struggles and successes of blind people and i also have to learn braille. wow. your article has inspired me. i wish to inspire though those that can see and just as i am beginning to understand and appreciate blind people so shall many. wish you the best. i love reading and i know now you don’t need eyes to love reading.
    jackie from zimbabwe southern africa

  4. Hi Jack,
    How wonderful you are writing a screenplay about a blind boy. Braille sends thousands of books to Africa each year. I look forward to being able to Braille the books myself! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to post a response.

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