‘No Blueprint’ – Family Raises Blind Son for No Barriers Life
By Brian Smith
Like someone hit us in the face with a mallet.
That’s how Buzz said it felt when doctors told him his son is blind.
“It was like, ‘Now what? How are you supposed to raise a blind kid? There’s no blueprint for this,’” he said.
Buzz, a Beals Island, Maine-area lobsterman, and Suzanne had always lived an active life. He and wife Suzanne initially wondered how Noah, their now 11-year-old son, would impact that. But the thought quickly vanished.
“We just said, ‘Let’s just tackle it, just do it,’” Buzz said. “Shoot from the hip and adapt.”
Said Suzanne, “It just wasn’t something we had planned for, but we just decided that he was going to live large just like we always had.”
As Noah started growing, they started to research what blind people, and others with disabilities, have accomplished. Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to summit Mount Everest and No Barriers co-founder, came up in a Google search.
“We wanted people in front of us that we could use as role models,” she said.
The family met Erik last winter and followed his Kayaking Blind expedition through the Grand Canyon. Buzz and Suzanne were inspired, so they took a No Barriers pledge to climb Mt. Katahdin, the highest point in Maine and the end point of the Appalachian Trail.
The peak is quite a drive from their home and Buzz and Suzanne planned to make it a weekend trip in honor of their 30th wedding anniversary. But their dog fell into medical trouble just before the trip, keeping the couple home and scuttling their plans.
So, as they’ve grown accustomed, the family adapted.
At a gain of 1,528 feet in seven miles, it was the hardest bike ride they’d had as a family.
“It felt like it was straight up,” Suzanne said.
Suzanne’s fears, however, were focused on the return descent. Noah and Buzz often partner on outdoor pursuits – from skiing, to swimming, cross-country running, t-ball, horseback riding and even docking his father’s lobster boat.
“So, I have to let go of my fears and what I think the limitations are and trust that he knows what’s physically possible,” she said.
And although Mt. Katahdin is still on their list, Suzanne said they’ve learned not to be disappointed when life throws a curveball.
“You have to be flexible,” she said. “A lot of it is figuring it out as we go. We try to plan things out so Noah can be included and pick activities he can do with us. But there are a lot of surprises, too, and you have to figure out, ‘OK. How can we adapt this experience to his fullest capacity and enjoy it?’”
As Noah continues to push himself and live a No Barriers life — he’s mentioned being the first blind astronaut — Buzz and Suzanne see their lives and the world around them differently.
It’s made them appreciate life more.
“I just can’t imagine our lives any differently, really,” Suzanne said.
Noah said he’s not afraid to show sighted people what blind people are capable of doing.
“I’m not setting any limits – No Barriers, right?” he said. “And that’s just me. That’s how I am.”
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