CORNER BROOK Marjorie Pike is sitting in her living room, telling a story about one of her earliest visits to a doctor.
© Geraldine Brophy
Darryl and Marjorie Pike are photographed in their home Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013.
Born blind in Blackville, N.B., her mother, Blanche Walls, took her to see a specialist in Montreal when she was a small child. After examining her, the doctor asked for Marjorie to be put down so she could walk to him.
Before she reached him, the doctor placed a metal garbage bin in her path.
“I walked across the room until I was six inches in front of it and said ‘Take that damn thing out of my way!’” Pike said. “My mother literally grabbed me and ran from the office.”
As she’s sharing this memory, her husband Darryl’s face breaks into a wide grin, knowing that despite constant challenges, no obstacle has blocked her path since.
“I was going to do what I wanted to do and try everything,” she said. “There was nothing I wouldn’t try. I had no fear and my parents didn’t instill it in me. I certainly wasn’t left behind because I couldn’t see.”
It’s this independence that the pair will help promote when White Cane Week kicks off across the country tomorrow.
Sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind, the week is a chance to create awareness about eye safety and offer peer support for the blind. There is also an emphasis on the need for the visually impaired to stay active and resist the urge to isolate themselves.
Last Friday, Mayor Neville Greeley signed a proclamation at city hall marking the week, which will run from Feb. 3-9.
The Pikes are members of the local council of the blind and participate in regular activities with fellow members such as bowling, church meetings and music groups. Both are cancer survivors, and Marjorie lost the use of her legs nearly five years ago during her third bout with the deadly disease.
The couple have always relied on each other to manage daily chores and raise their children, Erin and Chris. But since being confined to a wheelchair, Marjorie has needed Darryl’s help more than ever.
After nearly 37 years of marriage, it’s something that seems to come naturally for him
“He’s fantastic. Between the two of us, we do it all — we always did,” she said. “Whatever I can’t reach or do ... he helps me.”
A retired music teacher, Marjorie has always had a passion for baking and cooking, something she still does as much as possible. While she may need help to reach ingredients or use the oven, there’s little doubt who runs the show when it comes to cooking.
“The kitchen is still her palace,” Darryl said with a chuckle.
Humour and the refusal to dwell on misfortune is a way of life for the couple.
Born in Port Saunders and raised in Hawkes Bay, Darryl lost his sight at age nine after his optic nerves were permanently damaged by a spinal meningitis.
At 11, after graduating from the Halifax School of the Blind, he found his lifelong passion as a rehabilitation teacher with the CNIB in Corner Brook.
“I dearly loved it and certainly excelled in it for 36 years,” he said, noting he worked all over the island.
He calls himself a “caner” because he uses a cane to guide him as he walks and, judging by the echos the cane makes, is able to determine if something is in his path or if a doorway is nearby.
“It’s gotten me out of a lot of scrapes with signs and things in the way,” he said. “After all, along our streets and sidewalks you’ll find a lot of things like tin cans, cardboard boxes and bicycles. My cane will strike them first.”
Darryl describes the cane as an extension of his body, almost like an extra finger. For the blind, he said the white cane is a powerful symbol of independence and the desire to stay active.
It’s a message he and many other will spread across the country this week.
“Life’s too short and precious to just sit back, moan and lament,” he said.
For more information about the council or White Cane Week, visit www.ccbnational.net