S1: Episode 39 - George White

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to My Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Stories are often found, resting along the edges of surprise and revelation. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else. Episode 39, George White.

George:  I’ll never forget it. It was, uh, August the first. Well, I, I, I played on a men’s baseball team and I coached a ladies’ baseball team. And after we played on Sunday, we would all go to the club and have a drink. I pulled into park when I got out of the car. I turned around and I looked down the barrel of a 12 gauge shotgun. When, when I was shot, it knocked me against the car. I felt the blood started running right away, and I could feel something moving my eye. And I dropped my hand down and my eye fell in my hand. The shotgun was the last thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life.

I was in Bexar County Hospital. What floor? I still don’t remember When, when, when I did wake up and come to myself, I had a bunch of holes in my face and my head is swollen up big is a basketball. So I told ’em, I said, take the bandage off thinking I could see. And they says, why? I said, because I’m going to kill this sucker. They shot me. My girlfriend was there. She said, Georgia, you’re not gonna be able to see. And I said, no. They just dark for a little while. She said, no, you’re going to be blind.

After I lost my eyesight, the biggest thing was I picked up a bottle of whiskey. I wanted to die. And I tried to think of so many ways to get it over with and nothing worked. I was running into the, the wall, the doors, you name it. I was running into it. As time went on, they brought me a cane. I got thinking about the way I was. Nobody ever seen me without a smile on my face. Being dressed like I used to dress, seeing me with a cane or holding onto somebody trying to walk. I couldn’t handle it because I was ashamed of it.

The thing that I missed the most by being blind is cut in half. I was about one of the youngest barbers to hit San Antonio. A lot of Harlem Globetrotters came through and some of you singing, uh, uh, uh, people, they had heard how good I was. And with them facing the public, they had to look good. I wanted to be better than everybody else. And everybody else was cutting from the pocket. I cut from my heart. I can remember my little girlfriend is Jet Black. And when I say black, it’s almost like you see in the dog. But she has a pretty shine to the blackness. She has beautiful white hair, beautiful brown eyes, and some beautiful white teeth. I can remember how she dressed. She dressed like a movie star and she had a beautiful body to make it up, perfect. And she’s like, I am. She loved diamonds on all her fingers.

The biggest misunderstanding, I think, being blind is people think that we’re helpless. I’ve had some people to tell me I should have been at home. I didn’t have any business out in this outside world without having any eyesight. Uh, they’ll curse you out. Oh, yes. The lady that, uh, came along in the car told me, get your blind ass out the street. People will come up to you and ask you, do you know what you’re doing? I don’t know. I don’t like it. But you have to learn to accept it. My girlfriend is my whole life. She gave me determination. She said, Georgia, uh, we gotta do something. You laying around here, you’re smoking, you’re drinking and no job and nothing coming in. You gotta get a job. So one day she called and said, get dressed. I said, get dressed for what? She said, Kevin’s gonna come and pick you up and check you to the lighthouse and see about a job. They told me, you know, take a few tests and do this and do that. And I did. So I started out what they call a general assembler. As time went on, they learned me different things. And being at the lighthouse changed my whole life. They have shown me that I could do things that I never thought I could do.

I’ve lived on both sides of the street. Oh, yes, sighted you could walk around and see everything you wanna see. Being blind is being able to tell people what it’s like. I think I’m better now than I was when I had eyesight because the shotgun in my face got me off the streets. And 95% of the guys that I used to be around are dead and I’m not. The biggest difference was I had to accept it. And that’s the biggest problem in the world, is accepted.

[Outro Music]

Host:  George reached deep to find his hidden possibilities. He spent nine months living at the Chris Cole Rehabilitation Center in Austin, Texas. He learned how to cook, shop, read, write using braille, and became more and more independent. It was his girlfriend of over 40 years that gave him the confidence and hope he needed most. He said, she was always there for me, believed in me. He plays basketball with his grandson and says, when it’s my turn, I take my cane and hit the goalpost so I know where to shoot. Sometimes I can make it. It’s beautiful to play with him. It was an attitude change that was most critical, said, George, I have no more anger and I accept the reality of both my limitations and my abilities.

Join us next week, two new episodes will be released. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can also go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast. for portraits and transcripts, thank you for listening