Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Jim Fairbanks and to call me unique is a bit of an understatement. Ditto terms like atypical, unusual, unordinary, or odd. I guess One of a Kind best sums it up, though I’ve known several people who were also one of a kind, but for reasons very different from mine.
Where do I begin to explain? If you read the subtitle of this blog, you have an idea of my situation. There are a lot of adjectives there, so let’s start with the most obvious ones first.
I’m middle-aged. Most people (especially those who haven’t reached middle age) guess my age at around five years younger than it is. Part of this is no doubt due to my personality, which can best be described as “smartass.”
I live in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This funky, picturesque city in the Ozarks is home to the University of Arkansas, where I graduated in 1986 with a BA in advertising/public relations. About half my childhood was spent here and I’ve left and returned a few times since college. This place has a way of tempting U of A graduates (and other former residents) to return. It has a way of drawing eclectic, artsy, college town Bohemian types from all over. I fall into both categories. A guy like me isn’t as out of the ordinary as I would be in most towns this size.
It should come as no surprise to you that I’m a writer. I’ve been a writer my entire life. But, I was in denial most of that time, refusing to believe anyone would be interested in what I had to say or that I had enough talent. It wasn’t until 2006 that I finally got serious about it and started writing my memoir. That’s when I accepted that I could do this and that maybe, just maybe, people would be interested in what I wrote. I’ll share excerpts from the book now and then. I’m looking for a publisher and this blog is a way of putting myself out there. I also write humor set in the Ozarks and you’ll get a sampling of that, too.
Legally blind people with a certain amount of usable vision can often “pass” for sighted. This has led to quite a few funny situations, which I will share with you here. How well I can see depends on several variables—contrast, time of day, how tired my eyes are, and the quality of light. Artificial and natural light are different. The angle and direction of light makes a difference as well as if it’s at eye level, above, or below me. Reflected light usually works best.
The transplanted pancreas, which I received in 1998 at the same time I got a new kidney, makes insulin. For 21 years I had to inject myself with the stuff, now I eat whatever I want and don’t take any shots. I don’t have to think about what my blood sugar is doing. Life as an ex-diabetic is, at varying times, miraculous and surreal. This really was an unexpected turn in a life brimming with surprises. Five years later, the kidney failed and I got another surprise. Someone not related to me gave me a kidney. It’s lasted longer and works better than the other one ever did. Taking care of two transplanted organs is a challenge, but well worth the effort.
As you can see, my situation is unique. There are so many aspects of my life that most people just can’t imagine experiencing. Not long ago, I was complaining to a friend about all these things which make me different.
“People just don’t know what to make of me, so it makes them nervous.”
A few days later, I realized it’s up to me to explain what life is like for me. Because all of these things make me so different from most others, I have the responsibility—and the freedom—to define myself to a greater degree than the average “normal” person. Limited vision means having to grope around to find or identify things. In this case, I’m groping for focus, in more ways than one. Magnifying devices—some fairly high tech—help me get some focus. I’m also on the lookout for medical breakthroughs that could improve my vision. Then there’s focus in the more esoteric sense of the word. With so many surprises and unique situations in my life, I often have to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. By taking you through that process with me, I hope to find a deeper level of understanding—your understanding of me, and my own understanding of the world around me.