Sharon Randall: We all need something to cheer

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 11, 2011

They say a picture is worth a thousand words ó especially if it is seen through the eyes of love.
Recently, after Clemson lost its first football game of the year, ending any hopes for an undefeated season, I called my brother in South Carolina to offer my condolences.
He didnít answer. I wasnít surprised. He probably wasnít in much of a talking mood.
Joe is totally blind. He has never seen a football. But saying that he loves the Clemson Tigers is like saying God loves sinners. There is no way to explain it. Love is love. Itís just how it is.
Joeís devotion to Clemson began when he married Tommie Jean. She, too, was totally blind, and a big Clemson fan. They were students together at the state school for the blind, but met years later through mutual friends. They dated three weeks before they were married.
Upon hearing the news, our mother threw a fit, questioning both the wisdom of the decision and Joeís mental health.
His reply was simple, but resolute: ěMama,î he said, grinning, ěeven a blind man can fall in love at first sight.î
They were married for 10 years, constant companions, the light of each other’s lives, faithfully following Clemson’s games on the radio. Then, in a matter of weeks, he lost her to cancer. For a while, after her death, Joe seemed to lose all enthusiasm for things like football and life.
Imagine my relief the night I called him after a Clemson victory and heard again that old spark back in his voice.
We all need something or someone to pull for. My brother pulls for Clemson. I pull for him. Iím no big fan of football, but Iíll be forever in its debt.
Last week, after I left him a message that said, in effect, ěSorry about your Tigers; call me or else,î Joe called me back.
We spoke briefly about the loss. Joe was philosophical.
ěMaybe it was good they lost a game, just to keep íem humble and playing their best.î
ěMaybe so,î I said.
ěGeorgia Tech was better this time than when we saw them,î he added, referring to a game we attended a year ago, where each time Clemson scored, Joe clapped like a wind-up monkey and danced to the ěTiger Ragî fight song.
ěYes,î I said, ěthey were.î
Then, to my surprise, he said he didnít call to talk about football. Instead, he wanted to tell me how happy he was to get the photo of his baby nephew.
Baby nephew? Of course. He meant Henry, my 2-month-old grandson. My daughter had sent birth announcements with a photo of Henry looking like a very wise, very old man.
ěHow did you know it was Henry?î I teased, as if Iíd forgotten Joe gets a friend to read his mail for him.
ěWell, Sister,î he said, ěI held the picture up to my eyes and pretended I could see it. And I could! He had a big smile and a full head of hair, cute as he could be. I saw him perfectly!î
For a moment, I closed my eyes and pictured Joe as a baby, not much older than Henry. I was 4 when he was born. I remember the day my mother told me that he was blind.
ěHe canít be blind,î I said. ěHe always smiles at my face.î
ěHe smiles at your voice,î she said. ěHeíll never see your face.î
Itís hard to resist making predictions for our children and grandchildren. We want to see their futures, what their lives will be like, the things they’ll do, the kind of people they will be.
We wonder what will become of them. How will they ever survive without us? Itís an age-old question, one that our parents and grandparents often wondered about us.
My mother was wrong about my brother. Even a blind man can see his baby nephew.

Sharon Randall can be contacted at www.sharonrandall. com.