amazing visit with Robbie!

Hey everyone,

So I’ve had the best day in forever!

I’ll admit it started out anxiously. While we didn’t get woken up by this weirdo from another floor (who’s not supposed to be til seven) singing, we did have an extremely angry woman on our floor calling a CAN the n word. Lovely

During my nap I was very jumpy anxious about the van ride, getting an Ativan without irritating old school nurse Ms. Earl and a number of things. But Jess was very helpful. She packed my bag amazingly so everything fit in even my laptop.

I did manage to eat lunch before leavingand had plenty of time to wait for the ride.

Jess had recorded a very loving sisterly message on my recorder which I really enjoyed.

Wished I could have looked out the window as we went towards my old home, the reason I came to Chicago in the first place. When the car turned into the parking area it felt very familiar and comforting to me.

I felt confident walking through the automatic doors. Not so happy about a front desk receptionist who seemed less than friendly only interested in signing me in. The ones we had from the start were amazingly chatty but now alexander just wants business at that front desk no talking.

So I sat down in the new leather good color seating and waited. Robbie came down and we found each other, he can’t see anymore so we like talked and moved towards each other and finally gently collided. He reached up and touched my hair and said I needed a hair cut.

It was a great moment being there in person. We went upstairs in the nice big, totally uncrowded clean elevator. Into the nice quiet hallway where I could easily use the cane and not run into zoned out uncaring people. We went to his apartment. Which reminded me of my apartment but a lot messier. It looks like an office that got all turned upside down. Like he had a million computer things, headphones that look really nice and other stuff all over everywhere. No couch or anything like I had so we had to work out putting stuff out and unpacking everything. He did a Robbie squeal at the surprise cookies I got yesterday good buy!

We got the com,puter running. We decided some stuff it would be best for him to just NVDA remote me with. But he did run the cleaner on it and stuff.

Then we sat down facing each other and started our signing lesson.

Like I’ve talked about here I only ever learned from nonsigners. Copying off videos. And who don’t get how to teach a blind person. So it was incredibly refreshing to work with someone so comfortable signing with the blind, cause ya know he’s blind LOL! His signs are like from the sixties because of the teacher he had I guess that’s what he knew, and he does signed English so some deaf people would have a fit, but it’s a good start.

Edith and I had a good start too. But again it was her trying to imitate a sign and not really understanding the language. And I didn’t get the benefit of both hands exploring the sign one hand feeling how he did it and then being able to manipulate my hands as well. It was such a smooth process of exchanging information. His hands were so relaxed it made me relaxed. As I said because I was signing with a sighted person they didn’t need the tactile feedback, and probably didn’t know how other than me feeling the sign our hands weren’t constantly in contact. I’d show it to them in the air in front of them so I was never really learning in a way that really worked for me or made sense. But as I said it was fun and I did learn some stuff.

The other person who tried to teach me I felt had really big awkward hands. They too are just learning, they sign a little with my deaf friend and I guess she understands it. Again probably visually done more confident than trying to do it tactially. The tention in her hands translated to my hands and made anything hard.

It was just amazing to work with someone who had actually signed before. With not just me who knew what he was doing! We quickly figured out that several of the signs I learned wrong, which doesn’t surprise me. We tried a couple verssions of “how are you?” and are still trying to figure out what works, while unlearning what I was doing before. Forget which person taught me that but they didn’t seem to notice how unclear the sign I was making was. We talked a lot about my signs not being obvious enough and very small so worked on that.

Sometimes I accidentally was doing a whole different word from what anyone thought. My sign for learning was the sign for memory loss! And my sign for sign was the sign for go. Now I know why I was told Kat looked confused whenever I tried to sign anything that’s not the I love you sign, though she did understand my version of how are you?

We worked on numbers which I hadn’t done. Counting to ten on one hand is cool. We did the sign for number. Can, can’t, man woman, house, home. Like. I think that was all. Good start for now and I feel like I’m more on the right track.

Then we switched gears and had brownies and cookies. I spent awhile getting stuff organized. We thought there were no cups in the room so Robbie used this one cup from the bathroom which I rinsed endlessly even though he said it had no germs in it. I remembered how weird the water is there and how it takes awhile to get really cold or really hot. I showed him how to get his water bottle working. Alexander would rather have that than God for bid spending money on cups as we usually did!

But then he found cups after all that. The joys of two blindys, in an unorganized space getting stuff done.

We only had a little time for braille. In the mess and because the housekeeper like ours just picks stuff up and throws it out, he lost the braille alphabet page that another resident made for him. I’m gonna have my mom send him my old brailler and paper. It will go to a good home.

I tried to type out letters on my braille sense but it had so many buttons and he was accidentally hitting stuff and I don’t know what half the buttons do anyway so not the best learning tool.

Then we did a little ipod. We managed to download the vorail ap but then they called from the paratransit automated call and so we got ready to go.

They came super late so I got to say hi to old and new staff/ residents that I chose too. What’s cool about being in a place with all blind people is if you’re really quiet no one knows you’re there. I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself. But it was nice to talk with activities Doug, as opposed to annoying resident doug who truly loved me. So sweet. Met a new social work intern who within five minutes and when vaguely discussing mental health issues she claimed you can “get over” most mental health things. OK! Time to shut my mouth now.

At the very end I bravely came up to alexander. When he knew who I was he made this big dramatic show of you’re Sam Nelson?!! Like I was famous or something. I felt like saying you’re Alexander Brown?! I’ve heard so much about you, can’t say it’s all good LOL!

A second later a braille business card appeared out of nowhere. Literally some magic trick. We talked for a couple minutes.It was okish. He’s kinda like I’ve been hearing he is kinda slick, all about appearance. He did say he’d heard of Albany and greenwood and had “worked with them” but when I tried to ask him in what way he literally wouldn’t say. After explaining briefly why I had left I asked about his views about how mental illness is handled here. He said it’s not about mental illness it’s about whether people can benefit from the services we provide. And then he was literally gone. I’m like wow!

So yeah it was an epic visit. Several times I talked about wanting to move back in now that I’d visited. But then really thought that over. It’s not really that I want to move back in there exactly. It would be totally awkward and difficult having to face the same people, staff and residents, who misunderstood my mental illness before when I now that I know way more about it and that it’s even more of a factor in my daily life. I would not want to work with dr. gil ever again but know that if outside agencies know that a psychiatrist technically comes there they wouldn’t accept me, never mind the length of the waiting list.

I guess it’s more that I wanted the feeling of friedman. The nice wide spacious feeling in the building and apartments. The calm atmosphere. Everything very clean. Yes it can be amusing and slightly frustrating to have a whole lot of blind people navigating around in elavators/ hallways. But it’s totally nothing compared to anything we have at Albany. No arguing, swearing, almost hitting, no pushing shoving cramming or anything like that.

That’s what I want I guess. Still the support but in a calmer atmosphere and more private too like how the apartments are.

Gateway is along those lines and so perhaps it’s worth continuing to explore. Both practically in researching and more important emotionally. So it was a very eye opening visit and I soo wish we could do it every day or every week. Robbie says I’d have to clone him first.

So thoughts? Particularly on learning sign? Also any good free aps for the blind or mental health related?


One thought on “amazing visit with Robbie!

  1. awesome you had such a good visit with robby. sometimes just hanging out with friends is what is needed. you should download facebook onto your ipod. its very easy to use. much quicker than using a pc. twitter is also available in an ap for the ipod. xxx

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