"People wanted to put him up for sainthood because he married me, like he'd made the ultimate sacrifice."

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00:00:47I don't really know about people's faces I mean tease my daughter's all the time they used to play with Barbie dolls you know Barbies and Kens and the Kindle has all these muscles and I said hey it's a really nice it looks because they have muscles all over their arms and stomach heck yeah mom there's Godzilla guess I said where are they you know
00:01:07I don't really I don't care what people look like I I noticed whether people are nicer how they you know how they treat me or how they treat other people I don't really think looks matter that much they don't matter to me. I can't see him so
00:01:19brunch Parton was born of what's called retinopathy of prematurity she and her twin brother were born 3 months early we on way to pounds a piece and they kept us in incubators and the oxygen they use on the ultraviolet light it damage my optic nerve so I never was able to see I could see some white when I was small but I used to wave at my dad he weren't even ship General Motors and he would flash the headlights and I would wave at him from the front porch but by the time I got sick so I couldn't see like anymore
00:01:54I could ride a bicycle not run into trees cuz I could see Shadows I didn't know it was a tree but I know something was in front of me but I got older I didn't I couldn't see it anymore
00:02:06my mother said I was different than other people and she said that people wanted her to send me away to the School for the Blind and make him they didn't have specialized Services you know I can 1969-1970 and you just put children in the school for the Blind and they live there basically all year will she insisted that they should let me have stay in the public school so I was the only student in the whole County and somebody from Atlanta came once a week when I was 5 so by the time I started first grade I could read Braille and I could read I was reading better than anybody so we will all the other kids are going spot can and I'm going to stop and run you know actually let me read longer than the other children cuz I could actually read but she insisted that I was being real independent I mean I knew how to heal find my clothes and tie my shoes and she would I say it whenever I'd say why can't do such-and-such and cheese I can't never could do anything
00:03:00yeah you can do it you just have to try harder you can do it so by the time I was 12 I could cook dinner and I can do laundry and do everything that she did want to study psychology and sociology at the University of West Georgia and while she was a student of friends that are for the man named Ben
00:03:21they didn't meet in person right away they started up just talking on the phone a lot for weeks and weeks but Ronda didn't tell Ben that she was blind people sometimes get the wrong impression you know they owe you can't say okay then I have a lot of guy friends in high school who tell me about their girlfriends and I was the one that called I'm going to do but they never wanted to go out with me much I was a good friend but not a I didn't date very much so I decided that this particular time I would wait to get another person first and maybe see if he was a good person and then maybe if you wasn't really shallow really just he would go fast do you want to I can tell after 3 weeks I liked it when I thought well this will settle it if I tell him that I can't see and he acts uninterested then I'll know that you don't got a person I need anyway
00:04:11I was startled at first but I I found her to be just amazing and it never slowed me down person date well the first time I actually saw her you know there was no internet back in 1983 so you couldn't send pictures back and forth to each other and we just didn't do that so she was by herself it was on a Friday night she had joked that you could be an Axe Murderer or something in my family is gone on a family trip and I stayed home and she's smoking the door open and the first thing I said to her is instead of are you Rhonda it's nice to meet you I said you're so beautiful but he said what you want and of course
00:05:03I didn't want to eat anything cuz some what is she gets tough all over your new ideas when you go on a date you don't want to I mean I'm sure your buddies that way so I said why I just want to shake I like to move shakes when is more magnificent places in Douglasville Georgia that was an Arby's roast beef restaurant and they said they're basically in and talk to each other over a milkshake for a couple hours and we just discussed everyday things and current events and it was just really like we were Kindred Spirits are like soulmates from almost very beginning
00:05:39Lita most times when I guess if I don't know maybe it's different when you but when your first date somebody you don't hold hands right away you know you get to know them first you don't I guess you don't touch each other that much but I always had to hold hands cuz you know I couldn't walk without me I had to hold on somebody will see you when you do when you can't say you hold on somebody's elbow they call it Saturday guide because you stay a step or two behind so I would hold it been in since he was a well I don't want people to think I'm just your God person I want you to hold my hand like you like we like each other
00:06:11and I said well yeah but if I lost a step or two behind you either you just drop off the curb I mean I know you're stepping down next thing you know I'll fall off the curb for that cuz you know what you said behind you can tell when somebody steps down and then you step down so what he wanted me to hold his hand so I guess I'm okay
00:06:29it's that laugh she's had that same laugh all these years and I realized that I was not likely going to be able to live without that in my life and always wanted to hear that so it's uplifting and it's gregarious and it's happy and it's genuine and that's the thing that really got me above everything about her
00:06:54I'm Phoebe judge and this is love
00:07:02I bought a ring at a local shop and I had saved for months to do it and I also use part of a credit card and where are walking around this giant mall this particular evening and I said man there's something in my pocket I just it's just aggravating me to death can you hold this for a minute and she puts it in her hand and she feels the top of it and it's kind of a furry ring box
00:07:32and she said well what is this is just something I had my pocket I don't know open and see what it is I don't remember something about a while back and she feels of it and she feels it's a great big solitaire diamond and she just started crying his tears is flying I barely had to even ask her she knew what was going on and ask her to marry me and it was about another 6 months or so and we did it at January and help me pick out flowers cuz I didn't know come and see what try to describe what colors were by taste like metal purplish grape because I like grape jelly and like grapes so he would tell me different color flowers and I didn't really care cuz of me I can't see it but you know he would help me so I got to be quite the interior decorator quite the wedding planner I chose the flowers after I pick out her wedding dress I helped coordinate that
00:08:31eggs and the colors and it went off without a hitch and it was so gorgeous it was interesting to try to feed him cake after the buddy how you give each other about a cake cuz it's kind of hard to know where somebody's face is when you can't see it so I'm sure he probably had icing all over his face
00:08:51we made it laid drove to Atlanta and stayed in the biggest hotel at the time in Atlanta at the Peachtree Plaza it's about 72 floors and then we took off for the mountains of Tennessee and it just happened to snow that weekend so it was absolutely gorgeous
00:09:07their two children little girl named Jenna and Krista
00:09:12when did when did your children realize that you are blind
00:09:1818 month maybe two years old when I got there. They could hide it from me because you don't have to say Jenna where are you and she wouldn't say anything where are you did you say you don't like that so I'd say we are going to have to talk when I want to call you because I can't find you you know I can't see where you are so I put bells on their shoes whenever starting to crawl in those little Bill that people do at Christmas love you seen little children so every time they move it when does Chingling sound because they got to where they would try to hide I thought it was fun you know too so I wouldn't put their shoes to find them because babies can't go anywhere no babies can't call I can't walk you can hold him he can put them down but when they started walking I was so I was real careful about where they were
00:10:06Rhonda bought braille books and read the girl's green eggs and ham and Charlotte's Web she taught them how to read using magnetic letter she could put all over the kitchen the family grew up and then that's something completely unbelievable happened
00:10:30support for this is love comes from audible audible content includes an unmatched selection audiobook the original audio shows news comedy and more one book This is Love listeners might enjoy is Grayson by Lynne Cox who told her story in our second episode was offering This is Love listeners the free audio book with a 30-day trial membership just go to audible.com / This is Love and browse the unmet selection of audio programs downloaded title free and start listening if it's that easy go to audible.com So This is Love or text this is love the 500 500 to get started
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00:11:50I was driving one day and I could see what seemed to be like Halos of light around my vision field and at first I didn't think much of I thought I've been working quite a bit and it was maybe I fatigued or something of that nature so it went on for a few days and I happen to mention it to Rhonda one evening and she said oh well we need to have your eyes tested immediately you know you have all the eyes for the family besides the kids you have the adult eyes so she had me go to a retina specialist shortly thereafter he tried to say you know what I'm just tired I've been working 12 hours 14 hours a day and it's no big deal and I said well
00:12:40you know nobody ever asked me to get I want to go through life not seeing anything and you've got high side and I think that's a gift and you need to take care of it what did the doctor say diagnosis of some Advanced diabetic retinopathy and I'll be almost totally blind but then maybe a matter of months to a year
00:13:04I mean I know it's a kind of like are you kidding me I mean it with it but I thought come on now you know for this isn't it enough that I can't see I mean isn't enough I don't feel good and I'm happy and you know I'm just good enough I mean we have this much trouble or life I mean I mean this is not missed it happen I asked you know I was thinking this can't be true it just can't be where we going to do
00:13:41you know how I had begun depend on his side he could tell me what what a can was this peas or is as Peaches what is this this letter we got here is just a bill or should I throw it away and when he couldn't see things it was hard I mean it just was
00:13:56she basically put me through blind boot camp that's the way I would phrase it and I couldn't feel sorry for myself because she never felt sorry for herself so the jelly and I'll say it's on the top shelf on the left no it isn't I can't see it and I'd say yes it is you just have to look for it you don't put your hand in there and fill around the Shelf it's there you're going to have to find it and he will come and get it for me I know I'm not going to get it for you you need to know what what if I'm not here you want it you know so I mean it's okay to walk to the mailbox there's sidewalk here there's grass you can touch the grass Shoreline because of the grass around the sidewalk just you know be here to help you you know I mean small I know you can to find your shoes go get your shoes will get your jacket I don't know where they are we are you doing you more than go find them put my fingers near the
00:14:56until I pour the coffee and could feel the heat of the liquid before you run it all over the ground so she taught me things that I had taken for granted all those years when I was perfectly so I did and I really took to it because after all I had seen her put these things in action for all those years that we were married before I started having vision problems
00:15:21when you heard that you might be to be losing your sight completely weather things you wanted to look at again did you think about that I need to look at Rhonda what were you thinking that I'm going to miss seeing this
00:15:35well the thing that affects me every single day even today after almost 15 years is being able to drive I really missed the freedom of being able to get in my car and go down the street to go get a newspaper I miss reading the newspaper you know technology is overcome a majority of the things that were my concerns I'm able to read the paper online I use a magnifier I went back to college and I'm close to finishing my business degree online so I'm able to do that and it's just been a real blessing to have been with a person that had the wherewithal the stick with me and show me that there is a better way to do it
00:16:18how is this change your relationship
00:16:23where instead of me working 12 to 14 to 16 hours a day outside of the home we both have work at home jobs and we work a little bit each of us and we're together practically 24 hours a day their challenges but we've really overcome any of the challenges and we really enjoy each other's company were able to do Uber around the area so we have a very full life we have five grandchildren and we haven't focused on our inability to see we focused on the things that we still can do in life and that we can enjoy now that maybe I didn't have time to enjoy previously so we've made the best of a really challenging situation
00:17:07what do you think you've been married for how long of 30
00:17:1133 years this January and a newer two years before that so May 20th will be 35 years we've actually went on our first date but do you ever get upset that Ben knows what you look like but you don't know what he looks like sometimes but sometimes I wonder what I look like you know how women are real obsessed with their looks sometimes too much really so I can't compare myself to other women I can't look in the mirror and go oh yeah I know I can't fit in these jeans anymore but I mean you know and I know course he's going to say I look pretty I'm eating soda has to him if he wants to live with me
00:17:56so what I still I mean I know and I know what he looks like to sort of her and I know you know I don't know something you wish you knew I mean I guess people say if you could see one thing what would you want to see well I want to see being in my children and that's why I would want to see when I grow Falls or amount or something I want to see them
00:18:19think about it why sometimes I do sometimes I'm sad people think oh you're such an inspiration I mean isn't awesome that you don't even know you don't have your sire and I'm thinking so I told Ben I was going to have a shirt made it said today I don't feel like being an inspiration
00:18:33today I don't want to be sad. I can't see the sunrise and I can't see the sunset and I don't know where my children smile at me and my grandchildren me know today I don't want to try to encourage you and without to be positive because I'm positive I think I'm supposed to be happy I'm not happy let me know if I were some of the time but sometimes I'm kind of sad but you know how your husband is so sweet and I'm at my because he married me you know that's what they thought that's what they meant glasses heart isn't he just so nice I mean you can't see it all he married you don't like
00:19:09I mean I'm not laughing wanted to put him up for sainthood because you just marry me like he made the ultimate sacrifice
00:19:20your dog's here and certainly to introduce me to Caesar Retriever and I got him from Southeastern guide dogs in Palmetto Florida and I he's my second dog I had one before and there's Shadow under the table who is a lab mix she's 12 and he think he's either wants to get up now cuz I called him and he's sweet he knows how to find curved you can tell him for the cross find the find the door out when you're in a building like when you're ready to go to church you say find the door out Caesar He'll take me to the door that goes outside there's a bench outside I can say find the bench and don't put me where the benches and you can just say take me to McDonalds or people think dogs can just do anything but he just Knows by telling me no he's very handsome dog yeah he's sweet he's been too he just think so been teasing me all Tommy said yeah he thinks he's mine cuz he at when we come back from walking soon as we can decide to take the harness off he goes to bed because he wants me to say he did good
00:20:20thanks you're a good boy you know he tells him
00:20:30we want to thank you so much for listening to our first season of this is love it was wonderful to do and we've been so happy to hear from a lot of you about the stories and what they meant we're already working on the second season of the show and we've got some amazing Stories coming up and we might have a few surprises even before that
00:20:54This is Love is produced by Lawrence poor nydia Wilson in me audio mix by Rob buyers are in turn is Matilda foligno special thanks to Tina Antolini and tablet magazine Julian Alexander makes original illustrations for each episode of this is love you can see them at this is Love podcast.com This is Love is recorded in the studios of North Carolina public radio wunc were proud member of radiotopia from PRX a collection of the best podcast around special sponsored for providing their ad serving platform to radiotopia will be back soon I'm Phoebe judge and this is love
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