Life Goes On 

by James Ory Theall

Fourteen days before my 77th birthday, I clutched my first novel and repeatedly asked my wife to read the cover to me. Cat and Dog, A Cajun Tale by James Ory Theall, she read, as she described the appearance of the book cover she had designed for me.

My thoughts wandered back to the day in 1957 when I fearfully awaited the eye doctor’s diagnosis. He sat facing me and told me I had an incurable condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, and I would eventually go blind. My tears welled up. Blind! No cure! The words resounded like a bell clapper in my head. The doctor spoke softly and said I could withdraw, indulge in self-pity, and make everyone around me miserable, or I could accept the circumstances and go on with my life. It would be necessary to make some radical adjustments, but life could still be full.

I cried myself to sleep that afternoon, awoke early in the morning, stared at the darkness of the hospital ward, and resolved to take the doctor’s advice.

My military career over, I entered the job market and, after several rejections because of my visual impairment, I was hired as an inventory clerk in a dingy basement of an appliance repair shop. Realizing something better was necessary, I enrolled in evening classes at the local university and eventually secured a position as the Controller for a large conglomerate. The CEO of that firm was a unique sort of person and accommodated my visual impairment. The highly leveraged company collapsed in the failing economy of 1982 and I retired.

By then, I had already attended BRCs in Hines, Illinois, and Birmingham, Alabama, for special training on a CCTV and a Kurzweil Reading Machine. My vision had diminished to a dim light perception in one eye, so entry into the complete VA blind rehabilitation program seemed advisable. Thus began a significant phase in my life! I learned the skills necessary to function as a blind person. I have returned several times to learn the use of special equipment. A completely new world was opened for me when I received my first computer in 1988 and I have never looked back.

I am now totally blind with no light perception. 

During the inevitable periods of depression, creative writing became therapeutic. This led to the publication of short stories in the Prairie Times, a literary magazine in Northern Colorado. I have been a member of the Longmont (Colorado) Writers Club for nine years and I contributed short stories to their 2005 anthology, Reflections, as well as to the 2009 Collected Works of the Longmont Writers’ Club.

My wife Lorraine (an award-winning author) and I traveled to England, Europe, and Canada. Her caring and ability to turn words into pictures led to the discovery of my genealogical roots. In 2006, we published a compilation of my family history.

On days when I don’t feel like writing or reading, I spend time at my second favorite pastime, woodworking, trying to create floating about the inside of my head. They don’t always work out, but the activity is fun.

The young eye doctor’s words of wisdom have never been forgotten. Of course, family and friends, especially my lovely Lorraine, have propped me up when needed. VA rehabilitation specialists, the VIST Coordinators (notably Pamela Newton at the Denver VA Medical Center), and fellow BVA members played an important role in my adjustment to blindness. Some blind friends were kind enough to read my manuscript before publication - not an easy task. All helped me realize that blindness and other physical challenges can be the beginning, not the end, of a productive life.

My book, Cat and Dog, A Cajun Tale tells of a grumpy, elderly man who hates getting old. The book (available online at Amazon.com) was chosen as “Larry’s Pick” during the first week in February 2010 on the Larry King Live webpage.

Among 5,000 entries in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, it has now made the second cut to 250, which is the quarterfinals. I anxiously await news about the book reaching the semifinals, which would place it in the final 50.

During my wait, I have followed up on my plans for future writing by preparing outlines for two sequels and one prequel to this novel.