One Christmas morning in the late 1970’s, Santa Claus brought bicycles for my brother and me. My brother, who is almost two and a half years older, already knew how to ride but I still needed to be taught. I’ll never forget my dad teaching me to ride that bike in the front yard of his Montgomery, Alabama, home that chilly Christmas morning.
My dad, Randall Fuller, was just like any other dad, albeit with one exception; he was blind.
Factor in his blindness with my stutter and it was an accident waiting to happen and boy did it ever. He simultaneously held the left handle bar and the back of the seat, took off running and told me to pedal. As a person who stutters, I have particular difficulty with words beginning with the letter S. I tried yelling “S-S-S-S-S” but by the time I got out “STOP!” it was too late. I was already lying face down in the sticker bushes.
Before losing his sight, he was a barber.
For a short period of time, he cut hair at Campus Barber Shop in Auburn. He even cut former Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan’s hair a time or two. Although he was a devoted Alabama fan, he swept up and kept some of the Heisman Trophy winning hair in an envelope. I remember that envelope full of hair being around the house for a few years. I’m not sure what ever happened to it.
Later, he owned the Playboy Barber Shop in the breezeway of the Midway Plaza shopping center in Opelika. Perhaps some of our readers remember the pet mongoose he kept in a cage there.
My dad was also a champion coon hunter. People came from miles away just to go hunting with him. I can’t go anywhere without someone telling me about some of the late night coon hunting adventures in the freezing woods of Tallapoosa County.
Predictably, after losing his sight, he couldn’t get anyone to go with him. I can’t say that I blame them.
My dad was a diabetic. He had “the sugar.” In fact, he was diagnosed with what has been coined the “silent killer” when he was just four years old.
I’m not here to bash my old man, but the cold hard truth is that he didn’t take care of himself the way he should have. He didn’t go in for checkups, because, according to my mother, he said he felt fine. By the time he started experiencing problems with his vision, it was too late.
He did, however, immediately enroll at the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega, which helped him cope with his impending predicament.
In spite of his blindness, he continued to work every day, just not as a barber. He set a great example for his two boys. My dad was a flawed hero.
He would have turned 67 years old on November 16; however, this dreadful disease prematurely ended his life at 35. His boys were only 11 and 8.
The startling statistics below come from JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.)
Diabetes affects nearly 24 million Americans.
In the U.S., a new case of diabetes is diagnosed every 30 seconds; more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed each year.
Forty-one children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each and every day.
More than $174 billion is spent annually on healthcare costs related to diabetes in the United States.
Diabetes kills one American every three minutes.
November is “Diabetes Awareness Month” but we should always be conscious of the “silent killer.”
Don’t be a victim. Educate yourself. Get tested. Add exercise to your daily routine and watch your diet.
The author of this article needs to do the same.