S1: Episode 34 - Roger Meyers

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 34, Roger Meyers.

Roger:  My name is Roger Meyers. I’m totally blind. I’m building a house in the country. I expect it to take maybe three years to finish. I grew up in Bauchi, Nigeria, and my parents were medical missionaries there. I I remember the ha the house where we lived, and we had lots of different trees, tropical trees. They had something they called sausage bugs. They were about an inch and a half long and maybe an inch across. And they would make a lot of noise like a bee, but louder. And then when I was at the boarding school, some of the kids have races with the Rhinosaur’s Beatles, and then they had some other little pets. They would tie a string to their leg and let the bug fly around. It was real interesting. My parents noticed that I was having problems seeing when I was three years old. At first, they tried to fit me with glasses, but they didn’t do any good. I wa I wasn’t upset about it, uh, as a child. I just adapted to it. I think it’s, it’s, it’s more like, you know, your li in life. It’s just the way things are.

If a blind person likes to work with wood and they’re very creative on their ideas of how to do things, I don’t see a reason. A person that’s blind can’t build a house. I took precautions. When I’m putting up the tar paper. I put a two by four all along the edge so that if you start sliding down the roof, my feet will hit the two by four instead of going off the edge of the roof. Um, also, I can take, uh, two by two. They’re eight feet long and I can probe with it like it’s a cane and get an idea how far the distance is. There’ve been people that have told me that I should not build a house. It would fall down. It was dangerous for living the country that there were snakes and coyotes and, and scorpions, and you can’t see these things.

And, and so I’ve decided that I’m, I’m going to finish it one way or another. I don’t remember really seeing parts of a person’s face unless it was way back when I was like in first grade. Uh, I remember seeing the cartoons on the television in motion, like Kimba the White Lion running across the screen. I could see that, but gradually it gets worse. And, and now if I looked at the screen, I, I can’t see anything. Well, I remember my parents from their voices, and they tried to help me to see the world around. So they would describe things that I couldn’t see. My dad would read stories to all of us children, and he liked to stop when there’s, uh, something exciting happening. And then all of us kids would say, don’t stop there. Read, read some more. As you lose your sight, you have to depend on other senses.

And so you’re going to notice things that other people are not noticing. I can hear somebody opening a can or, or rattling paper. It’s like you’re walking along and you, you hear one of the signs on the edge of the road that’s rattling. So I can use those things to tell me where I am. But there’s other sounds that become like landmarks. Like, if I’m out near my house, I can clap my hands and I can hear the echo off the building. Sometimes if you’re near a tree, the tree will block sound from that direction, and then you can sort of tell where the tree’s located. I don’t think I’m actually hearing the tree. I’m hearing the blocked sound from that direction. <playing piano> Mu music helps me get out my feelings. So if I play the music, it helps me with moods, helps me. If I’m feeling discouraged, it helps me think more positively. Mostly the songs I play on the piano, they’re mostly tunes that I’ve made, made up myself. And whatever mood I was in when I composed it is sort of the mood that the song takes. I don’t really think about blindness much,

I guess it’s just become part of me. I, I know if I had a chance to see, I would definitely take it, but, but I’m not really concerned about it that much. I do what I have to do and keep going.

[Outro Music]

Host:  Roger was always good at math and science. When he was living in Africa, he found a fossil, a plant imprint on a stone. He was always wondering about bugs and giant trees, wondering how things are put together and how they work. Roger’s vision loss was due to retinitis pigmentosa. He graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and applied mathematics. He would record all of his lectures and re-listen to them again and again. He said, when I’m working on a math problem, I visualize the numbers in my mind’s eye in front of me. I would then move the numbers around in my mind to solve the problem. Roger went to medical school for two years. He worked as a computer programmer and he and his brother ran a pet shop for a while. His lifetime dream was to build a house in the country.

He said, I started building my house two years ago. I measured from the road and put stakes in the ground and made a rectangle 25 feet wide and 48 feet long. I visualized the house in my mind, so I knew where the doors and windows would be located. He said, I’ve had some help along the way, but not much. I had an electrician and plumber helped me. Roger’s house is in the country, very flat land like an ocean. The house would appear several miles away on the horizon as I drove in. I’m not a hermit, Roger told me. I don’t like being alone, when my house is finished I would like to have some homeless individuals stay with me for a while, free of cost. If they want to help out with something, that’s fine. If they don’t, they don’t.

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.