In thinking about what life was like for Ron & myself, there was nothing different when it came to being siblings in a family. Technically speaking, I suppose the only difference was my blindness. That, in no way, prevented us from playing, & doing things as other kids would do. Hide & seek, was a great example of this. It was always interesting whenever I would be the one that would have to find my brother. If I went by where he was hiding, he would laugh. Once I found him, I would pull his hair! Not exactly a nice thing to do.
As we got older, we did things that made our parents proud. We had a wagon we enjoyed playing with. I recall how many times, he'd ride in the wagon & steer. I'd be behind the wagon & push. We also grew up riding on a tandem bike. For obvious reasons, he would steer. I would ride on back & pedal. It was great fun. I think it's fair to say, that we grew to have a wonderful relationship as brothers.
The years continued their march forward in time, & with that march in time, came new challenges. Challenges, such as where would I go to school. Add to this, the fact that my Father was dealing with cancer issues. Back in the 50's, there was no such thing as a child who had special needs, going to public school. A field representative for the Iowa Braille & Sight Saving School, came & visited with my parents, about having me go to this school. Once again, a decision was made to send me to this school. The school was located some 160 miles away from the little town of Britt. It was located in Vinton, Iowa; in the Waterloo & Cedar Rapids area.
This was a decision that was met with criticism from some people in the community. The thought was, that because my Dad had cancer, I needed to be home with family. As tough a decision as it was for my parents to let go, they understood that I needed to have the same sort of opportunities that any other kid should have.
All at once, this incredible journey for the Pianoman, took on a significant change. It meant leaving home when I was 5 years old, to go to this special school. The price was right, as for kids in Iowa, we would receive a free education. As hard as it was to leave home, & as hard as it was for the family, once again, my parents knew what they were doing when they chose to do this. It was one of the best decisions ever made.
Submitted by Gary Gjerstad