Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blind, Deaf And Dumb

Last night I worked until 3:00 am.
I slept until 5:30 am, caught the 6:30 car ferry while it was still dark... and made it home after dark.... just a little while ago.  I'm not complaining because I like what I do and every now and then, cases and trials hit all at once. There's no way around 14-18 hour days sometimes.
That's why, when you pick a career,  it helps to pick one you like.

This morning I was in Seattle before the sun was up and most of the commuters were there.
I had moved from the real sea, the Puget Sound, to the concrete sea, I-5 South.
I delivered cases to various law firms... and must say, it felt great to hand them over to the attorneys in whose capable hands I know our clients will find justice.

Here's a secret.
I hate lawyer jokes.
And here's a confession,
I like lawyers. The good ones.
Like all professions, there are good people and bad people.
Most are fabulous doctors, however, I have investigated a few who ended up in jail.
I know many good accountants, however, I have helped expose a fair share of fraudulent ones.
There are good attorneys and there are bad ones. I only work with the best.

The good attorneys... they are the warriors of the judicial system.
Your life, your freedom, your family's future and your financial security can literally be in an attorney's hands.
I know mine was once.
I was hurt by someone.
Were it not for the personal injury attorneys who fought for me, who invested their time and money in my case, I  believe I would have faded into an embittered, angry person instead of the civil/personal injury investigator I am today.

So tonight, when I walked in our beach house after many long days, many miles on the road and so little sleep last night, you'd think I'd step away from writing or thinking about this business. Yet the blog beckons me, as if it has a will, a voice, a story that must be told.

This would be that story.
There was this little girl. She was 7.  She was blond with blue eyes, reminded me of me when I was her age. However, she had no voice of her own beyond grunts and groans. She could not see. She could not hear. She was a little Helen Keller....and while she wasn't my subject, she was the daughter of that subject and she was present during my time with her mom in their apartment.

Mom had a legal action, I needed to interview her and ask some questions.
She just moved to the Northwest with her husband, a soldier, and her two daughters.... a perfectly normal 9 year old and the one I just wrote of... lets call her Libby.
Libby's mother explained, Libby can not see, hear or speak.

Libby lived and slept on a mattress in the living room. I later learned, she put anything she touched in her mouth. When I arrived she had a sock in her mouth, it didn't look clean. Her mom saw me looking at the dirty sock and pulled it out of Libby's mouth and shouted "No Libby" while gently slapping her hand. This made no sense to me because it made no sense to Libby.

I will admit I was more fascinated by Libby and the family dynamics than the case I was working.
I wanted to climb inside Libby's head and imagine what life was really like for her. I had been obsessed with Hellen Keller as a kid. Even though I knew Helen Keller was real, read the book of her life, and some books she wrote, saw the movie and real clips of her, I could not conceive how she endured life with such great sensory losses... yet maintained a positive attitude. It was Helen's teacher, Anne Sullivan, who let light into Helen's dark world.

I knew this was not and would never be the case for Libby.
Mom was Libby's full time caretaker and got a stipend from the state for doing so.
I studied Libby's young, smiling, optimistic, though not very bright mother -- who had a positive attitude and said Libby was gift not a burden.
I asked whether they ever thought of getting her a special teacher, or taking her to a special school and she said,
"No, Libby is as she is meant to be."
I found that disturbing.
How do any of us know what we are meant to be unless we are allowed to explore our own potential?

I chose not to argue the point with Libby's mom.
I just sat very still after Libby suddenly sensed my presence, crawled over to me, and ran her fingers all over my face, my hair, my eyes.
The whole thing was surreal.

And now, looking back at it, years have passed and I wonder how Libby is doing.
I recall when I left her house, I was conflicted. Mom seemed okay, doing the best she could.
Mom said either she (mom) takes care of Libby or Libby is institutionalized who knows where.

Still people are always on their best behavior when there's an investigator in their living room.
So I took the leap, told the attorney I was worried about the welfare of little Libby and asked if they could just check into it, make sure she was being cared for properly?
The attorney, as an officer of the court, said he would and I believed him.
I had taken photos of Libby at the house, shown them to him.... and he said he has a daughter Libby's age.... and never realized just how blessed he truly was.

There's a lesson here, I think.
No matter how bad we feel we got it, someone's got it  a whole lot worse.
Some people like Libby, from day one... birth.... aren't given a fair shot at life.
And some people who become parents, will never get to retire and experience golden years untarnished by a blind, deaf and speechless child with an uncertain... if any... real future.
And what of Libby's older sister and soldier father?
The pebble lands in the pond, the water ripples outward.
Everyone is affected.
Myself included.

Now is a good time to count your blessings.


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