by Rita Levy
The snow fell gently and caressed the ground like feathers as we stepped from the truck on that March day. We were standing before the property we had recently purchased. In our minds we could see the house on that property as well as everything in it. We were finally going to build our retirement house and live in what we were sure was a paradise. We had visited the area many times in order to ski and raft and decided to stay.
We had purchased the land the previous August and were looking forward to building. At the time of the purchase, one of our friends had driven us from Jackson to Victor. Despite our blindness, we were determined to embark on this project. My husband Don had just decided to retire and we were overjoyed to have this opportunity to move west. We walked about the property and listened to the babbling of the irrigation ditch and felt the hay on our legs. We decided that this was the place for us and immediately put the papers in motion to buy it.
One week later we flew back to Connecticut and resumed our normal lives. Meanwhile, we began searching for a builder. We finally found one who would send us some floor plans on some buildings that interested us. We had decided to build a modular home, knowing that this kind of house would fit our needs.
Looking at the floor plans was an adventure in itself. I used an Optacon to get a general outline of the place. We then invited a friend to come and give us a more specific idea of what the place would look like. I had previously looked at some descriptions on the Internet and had decided that none of these would do.
After deciding on the house we wanted, I flew to Idaho Falls and explored the model home. This was still another adventure. I walked through the house and had the sales manager take notes on the specifics of the home in which we would eventually live. There were little things which a blind person would need and things that would present a problem for us. We didn't want an island in the kitchen because we would be bumping into it all the time. We did want a raised print thermostat so we could adjust the heat independently. After spending a couple of hours looking through the house we had chosen to see, we sat down and discussed carpeting, linoleum and such. I was also on the cell phone with my husband discussing voltages of thermostats as well as other electrical stuff I didn't understand. After this, I put down a deposit and away we went.
The second trip in March was to discuss the orientation of the house. We talked about where the sun would be as well as where the front and back of the house would be. We talked about dimensions and where on the property the house would stand. This was all in our imaginations.
A very important topic also kept our attention at that meeting. That was the question of guidance around the property, especially in times of snow. When I was a child, I had gone to a camp for blind children which had guide railings at strategic points. The problem in this instance was putting up railing which would not interfere with the aesthetic of the area. We decided we would have railings at waist height which would look like a fence. These railings have since been a boon to us.
During the next three months we kept in touch with the builders by phone. We tried to understand everything that was happening out there. We also had to sell our house in Connecticut. We were impatient to get into the new house and live our lives in retirement. After teaching, this would be an exciting change. We were turning our hay field into a civilized home. We knew it would take a great deal of work, but we were looking forward to it.
The move itself was harrowing because we had accumulated so many things over the years. It took one day to pack and another half to get our things out of the house. I almost cried when I saw my harp leave the house in its trunk. The trunk had only been used for shipping it from the harp factory in Chicago to our house in Connecticut. At last the house was empty. We ate our lunch standing at the kitchen counter which we would also do in our new house for a week before the furniture arrived.
After the house was cleaned, we joined some of our friends for a farewell party at a hotel. I had no feelings or emotions as we left the house which we had lived in for 10 years. After all, we were growing unhappy there. That house had no personality except for the presence of furniture and other belongings. We had turned it into a home, but except for that, there was nothing. The transportation was difficult at best and the people we had met were not friendly. We had encountered much opposition to our move west. People made fun of us; we were glad to leave.
We had a good time at the party and were so glad to see a friend whom I had not seen for years. After the party we went upstairs to our room and went to sleep.
The next morning, we woke at some ungodly hour and took a limousine to New York. We then boarded our plane for Denver. While on the plane I said to Don, "Honey, do you realize that we are on a covered wagon with wings?" He laughed and we were so giddy we began to giggle.
On June 2, 1999, we arrived in Jackson, Wyo. We embraced some friends at the airport and I realized that we were home at last. These were the same people who had driven us to the property in Victor and had helped us arrange for its purchase.
When we arrived, we realized that our field of dreams had become a field of mud. It was raining quite hard and had been doing so for days. It was little consolation to us that if the weather had been dry, it would have resembled the dust bowls of the '30s. However, we climbed the steps to the front porch, giggling all the time. We entered and were shown the house by the owner of the building company. We touched the walls, feeling the artificial wood texture. I was also shown the tactile thermostat as well as the washer, dryer, dishwasher and refrigerator. None of these appliances had any tactile markings. We would have to do something about that!
We were hungry as dogs, and decided we really needed something to eat. After lunch and arranging for a post office box, we went home. We had a microwave we could use and nothing else. We were ready to camp out. After our friends left, we explored the house some more. We needed some railings on the places which had steps as well as a doorbell and other things. One of our friends had put some tactile arrows on the washer and dryer and I was able to use them the next day.
Our first night in Victor was a story in itself. We had brought two air mattresses and we slept on them on the floor. We would do this for a week. There were only two places to sit and you can guess what they were. Our bedroom was a sight. Some cans of tuna had escaped from the suitcase and were rolling on the floor. We had silverware all over creation and were gathering it together to put it in the appropriate drawer.
Well, this nonsense went on for a week while I fought a nasty cold which I had caught while we were giggling in the rain. We listened to the portable radio while we waited for eternally late workmen to make the finishing touches. Don had his first encounter with the grocery store where he was treated very well. We used the CART bus, which was much better transportation than we had had in Connecticut. Don left the house with no money and I had to yell to the bus driver so that I could give him some. A week later, our goods arrived! I never knew that sleeping in a real bed felt so good. We didn't have to eat canned macaroni anymore. Now it was time to deal with the mud and the dust. We had decided to have sod planted. We listened to the guys digging up the rocks and then installing the sod. Now it was time for irrigation. We had set up some hoses which had to be turned on and off twice a day. We took turns getting up at 6:30 in the morning to switch the water on. We really did have a good deal of fun doing this. It seemed as if we were drenched all the time. Later we obtained in-ground irrigation with timers.
The next order of business was to have tactile markings put on the stove. A man from the state agency for the blind cane and did this for us, for which we are eternally grateful.
Well, we finally settled in our new home, and everything seemed to be in place. The climax to our journey finally came in October when I received Cooper, my second dog from The Seeing Eye.
Victor is home now, and I would never leave. It is indeed a fabric of our lives.