Prince Edward Island – A Lesson in Blindness

This will be a bit of a departure from the normal “trip-report.”

But, I hope you will take the time to read it.

Let me start by saying the folks from Prince Edward Island are the friendliest and most open-hearted people we’ve ever met.

Lynn had taken on much of the planning for this trip in terms of places to visit. Although we wanted to visit what might be considered the “standard sights”, we were more interested in seeing stuff that “tourists” might not necessarily head too.

Lynn came across a Facebook group called, “We Love Prince Edward Island” and joined up. Once she posted that we were going to visit their little island, Lynn promptly made friends I swear with half the people on the island.

Thus started the 100 responses to a question; the 200 suggestions of places off the beaten path to see; the most beautiful and toughest places to hike and explore. After about week, the invitations for tea or to meet started and most were like, “If you’re in this area or seeing this, my house is 10 minutes away, please stop for tea.” or “If you have time we could meet down by the harbour, we’d love to connect with you.”

Now that we’re back, the conversations are revolving around housing prices and employment opportunities.

Lynn had a bunch of messages back and forth with a fellow by the name of Ian. He had been disabled on the job and couldn’t work anymore, but he knew everything about the island and was excited to meet someone and share his knowledge.

If Ian didn’t know the answer to something, he always knew someone who did.

So, it kind of worked out that Ian would be the equivalent of our own “walk-on” tour guide for the morning part of our day in Charlottetown.

Lynn knew that Ian had good and bad days because of his work related injury. All I knew is that he couldn’t work.

What neither of us knew was how bad the injury was or even the nature of his injury.

Ian gave us his address; I plugged it into the Nav System in the car and off we went to meet him

The following is the part of the trip I feel ashamed about. Not about the trip, but about me as person.

Ian’s disability came as of the result of using exceedingly toxic chemicals to clean the inside of large vats. I assume it was the long-term exposure to these chemicals that caused his permanent disability.

Exposure to these chemicals had caused what I would say to be damage resulting in something similar to severe MS.

Ian came out of his small ground floor apartment using a cane, but barely walking. He could at this point in the morning only mumble words. Lynn and Ian greeted each other like old friends and Lynn introduced me.

At this point I was shocked and honestly at a bit of a loss for words.

We got Ian into the car and off we went. For the first part of the morning, all Ian could get out was that he was having a very bad day and that he was so sorry that he wasn’t much of a tour guide. We said, “don’t worry you’re doing great and that this was perfect.”

We drove around for maybe 20 minutes and finally ended up at our first stop St. Dunstans Basilica.

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I got parked more or less in front of the church and as Ian got out, he started to stumble and fall. He managed to catch himself on the car, but started to fall again as he went around the back of the vehicle. I caught him as he started to fall the third time and he sat down on the curb beside the car.

I asked if he was okay; did he need anything? Ian sort of laughed and suggested perhaps it was best that he stay here and that he would be fine. He said take your time.

I was shocked and disappointed in that I hadn’t signed up for this.

I guess I was expecting Ian to walk around with us and tell us about the sites we were looking at. Lynn had forwarded a list to him prior of stuff we would like to check out, plus any suggestions he had.

I suggested to Lynn that our time with Ian might be better served as a driving tour. See, Lynn hadn’t seen Ian fall. She was somewhat taken back as well.

After we came back outside, we found that Ian had really improved quite a bit. He said he felt so sorry about everything and that he was “some poor-assed tour guide.” We said not to worry and off we went.

We spent the rest of the morning just driving around with Ian. He took us to the harbour area; then to a kind of swamp/nature preserve spot; Victoria Park and a bunch of other things in  Charlottetown. He told us of his life; where he had worked(which was all across Canada). He spoke fondly of his mum and his family. He was exceedingly funny with a very dry sense of humour.

He was just a “hell of a nice guy.”

But, Ian reminded me of many things:

  • just because one has challenges doesn’t diminish who they are as a person. When I first meant Ian at his home, all I could see was the disability. That put a cover over my eyes that for a while, kept me from seeing who he really was
  • how selfish one can be; that I could be
  • that world didn’t revolve around Lynn and I that day and my/our minor sight-seeing schedule
  • that maybe there was something bigger happening that I just couldn’t get a grasp on

After reflecting a bit,  perhaps getting together with Ian for the morning wasn’t really about seeing the sights of Charlottetown. We had developed a pretty tight time-table to do and see things. We hadn’t built-in time that really wasn’t accounted for.

I forgot the whole “go with the moment” concept. I found out that the lessons we need to learn and re-learn sometimes come from the “go with moment” idea.

I’m thinking maybe the universe had something else in mind. Maybe it was a lesson, I needed to learn once again and maybe it was just to make a new friend.

Because you can never have enough friends.

None of this affected Lynn one bit. All she saw, was that Ian was a fella she connected with on a Facebook group and had wanted to meet. Yes, she knew and could see he had some challenges but to her……not a problem.

Around 11:30 or so, Ian suggested that maybe it was time to head home to give us back the rest of our day.

When we stopped at his place and Ian got out, I suggested we take a selfie together.

At this point Ian got a tiny bit teary and almost started to cry.  (it’s hard to smile when you’re crying).  It meant the world to him that we took the time out to be with him that that morning.  Well Ian, we felt the same… so very glad we connected with you.  As Lynn says, you’ll always be our first P.E.I. friend.

He said, he wasn’t in many pictures.

Well, he’s in one now!!

This is Ian.

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6 thoughts on “Prince Edward Island – A Lesson in Blindness

  1. Thats a great story , makes me think about the training we took at transit For disability and sensitivity training. We had stories like this told to us and had someone even come to our class to talk to us it was very emotional . But this makes you think about others and how they deal with everyday life dispite there issues , makes me feel proud to see you have this life learning adventure . Cheers to you , your wife and all those you met on your journey, especialy Ian .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Prince Edward Island – Day 3(Still on the Adventure) – justabitfurther

  3. Pingback: The 100th Post – justabitfurther

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