Today in My History
25 March 2020
Here is a random photo I came across this morning.
This is a ceremony presented by The Smithsonian, in D.C.. We were there with our friend Georgia Griffith, sitting in the wheelchair. Georgia was receiving an award for her contribution to information technology for the handicapped. She was born blind and lost her hearing in her 40s, but she was a wizard at computers and taught other handicapped people (she refused to call herself "disabled." She was one of the most "abled" people you'd ever meet!) how to use computers. She translated all 9 Beethoven symphonies into Braille so that blind people could play them when she worked for the Library of Congress. Her motto was "To give is to live."
She wrote a book about her life in 2003. In truth it wasn't a very good book, but I was in it, so I was happy when she sent me a copy of it. She died in 2005. I had not been in communication with her since I left CompuServe.
She understood and was able to speak/write in something like 8 languages. You "spoke" to her by writing words in the palm of her hand. Because she was able to hear and speak for 40 years, she would answer you by talking. But you could also have a conversation by using her "versabraille." You typed on one machine and she read what you were typing on another which printed the words in braille. Then she could speak to answer you.
Walt and I stayed with her for a night when we were visiting Jeri in Ohio (she was doing summer stock). It was my idea at the time that I wanted to write a book about her, and I wanted to see her in her place, and interview her friends, especially her sister, who was her caregiver (Georgia lived alone, but her sister came in every day to bring food and whatever else she needed).
She set up a computer for me to use. Because she was blind she did not have a monitor, of course, but crawled around on the floor among lots of cords and was able to plug a monitor in for me. I'm not sure I could have done it that efficiently being able to SEE everything.
My book idea never got off the ground. Her friends were very eager to help, but her sister arrived with a stack of about 300 photographs about HER and her family and didn't seem the least interested in talking about Georgia. I got the impression she wasn't was dedicated as I thought she was, but was in a job she didn't want but couldn't get out of. I felt sad about that.
But I had a lot of interesting experiences with Georgia. She ran something like 5 different discussion groups on CompuServe and I was sysop for one of them. We spent time with her in San Francisco and also in D.C. After the Smithsonian award ceremony, we went with her to meet Senator Mike DeWine.
After we met him, I learned he had lost a child and I sent him a letter of condolence and received a very nice hand-written letter in return. I have absolutely nothing in common with him politically, but that brief little encounter was ... different and kind of nice.
Despite her many physical problems, Georgia was a very happy
person, who said she woke up each morning with a song in her head and sings it
to herself all day. She giggled wickedly, told terribly corny jokes and she used
to make a terrific pizza, before an infection affected her sense of balance and
made her unable to walk steadily (she mostly crawled around her house and used a
wheelchair when she went out).
I'm glad I had the opportunity to know her.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
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This is entry #7308