by Carol Estella Brown
Sarah had been reading to the old man for months — a school project for extra credit that turned into so much more. One hour every Sunday after church progressed into two hours, and over the winter it wasn’t unusual for Sarah to spend an entire afternoon reading to him. He loved adventure books and stories with action. Robinson Crusoe took up the first month. Then they finished Treasure Island over the Christmas holidays. The nursing home was within walking distance from her house, so snow days meant she could go there even more often.
Blind since birth and an only child, the old man had never married, so he was alone now and, except for Sarah, had no other visitors.
“He looks forward to your visits. He says you’re the only one who makes the words alive enough to make the story real,” the nurse had told Sarah. So, she continued reading to him several times each week, Watership Down now, even after her ‘punishment’ for a poor grade in English had been satisfied.
There was a singular question that bothered Sarah as she read. How could the old man picture things he’d never seen? How do you describe the blue sky to someone who’d been sightless his entire life, or any colors, for that matter? She’d observed him enough to know he did a lot by sense of feel and smell. “When the air flow in the hall is just right, I can smell that rose-scented water you like to wear, and I know you’re almost here.”
She wanted to ask the old man about it, but whenever she stopped reading, he would tap her hand impatiently and order her to read on. And then, there it was — “I will go with you, I will be rabbit-of-the-wind, into the sky, the feathery sky and the rabbit. In autumn the leaves come blowing, yellow and brown,” halfway down the page — the word “yellow.” Sarah ended that day’s reading then and there and took the problem home with her.
She avoided the nursing home while she pondered through the rest of the week and still hadn’t resolved it by the next Sunday morning, so she prayed for guidance. Even then, Sarah arrived at the nursing home without an answer.
Sarah sat in the straight-backed chair next to the old man’s wheelchair, ready to resume where she’d left off. But just as she opened the book to the marked page to begin to read, a ray of sunlight shot through the window and across the old man’s room.
Smiling, Sarah wheeled his chair into the sunlight. Feeling the warmth of the sun on his arms he smiled. “That feels good Sarah. Thanks.”
“Yellow,” she said. “That’s what yellow feels like,” and began reading.