My introduction to the life story of Helen Keller was through the film, The Miracle Worker. With the help of the acting brilliance of Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, I watched the impaired little girl transform not only herself but her family and teacher by her determination to overcome the loss of sight and hearing because of an illness in her infancy.
If you have seen this film, maybe you had the same reaction to Helen’s bravery when she, faced with the desertion of her teacher, breaks free of her family’s indulgence of her impairments and proves she is capable of learning.
In the film, she stumbles from one object to another in her front yard, naming each as her teacher had signed them to her, giving her utmost effort to vocalize words she has never heard.
During those moments in the film, I cheer for that little girl, fighting all the odds, including the people who loved her most, to be more, have more, achieve more than anyone believed she could, including her teacher.
By her supreme effort to prove she is capable of more than being a sightless, voiceless creature to be pitied, Helen is transformed into a heroine and a champion of those less fortunate.
That story, the legend the film created, has always inspired me and probably, with the help of women in my life and in my family who, in spite of adversity, kept faith with themselves, gave me the foundation that has seen me through my own, though meager in comparison, adversity. Women who, for their families and friends, follow their dreams, protect and provide for their children, stand by the men they love, even if they fall short of reaching their life’s goal, never give up. Always adjusting, altering, sacrificing to meet the needs of the people they love.
These qualities are part of what make us all capable of heroism, at least in the eyes of those we love. When my father returned home as a veteran, there were no jobs. Despite his experience as an Army officer, the only work he could find was as a farm laborer, picking potatoes. He had to provide for his wife and children and he did this back-breaking work to ensure than none of us went hungry. While he was bending beneath the weight of this burden, my mother was working nights in the canning factory.
My mother’s memoir of her WWII experiences is Following the Troops. She was proud of my father, even when she was run out of Boston because of him.
I’m an author and I write about women who, despite uncertainty, disadvantage or disappointment, take on life on their own terms, finding the men they need along the way, chasing them down when they have to.