Through talking books, I can see the world

07/04/2014 7:00 PM

07/03/2014 8:36 PM

It’s no fun being 83 and blind. Before my eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa, took away all of my sight, I loved to read. Even when I was a young kid, I would go to the library and get books on all kinds of subjects.

Within those books, I had adventures on pirate ships, in caves — I would be a soldier in a war. Heck, I could be a general. Imagination is a wonderful ting. I could be anywhere in the world.

We couldn’t take real trips — there was no money for that. But I could imagine, and someday, if I worked hard and saved, why not? I learned so much from books about the world and the people in it.

That love of books and reading has stayed with me through the years. When I lost my sight, the Talking Books Library at the Miami-Dade Public Library helped me enjoy my life. My wife and I go to the Talking Books Library on Miami Gardens Drive, and visit the wonderful, dedicated employees there: Rolando, Enrique, Barbara, Deborah and Carmen. They know my favorite authors and the subjects that interest me most. Those are the books they find and send to me. They have patience and are always helpful. I hate to think what it would be like for me and the other blind and disabled people who go there if the library no longer existed. Last time we were there, a couple of vans pulled up and many disabled children went into the building. You could tell by their voices that they were happy to be there.

I am now retired after being a massage therapist for 45 years. My wife works, and she always tells me that she doesn’t mind leaving me alone because I have my books to keep me company. She knows the No. 2 love of my life is the Talking Books Library. She, of course, is No. 1.

Libraries have through the centuries been important to the soul of any community. Most of the knowledge on the Internet comes from books. Books hold the memories of a civilization and the knowledge of a nation. In this country, we are lucky to have the freedom to read whatever we want.

It is important that we keep our libraries open, in their own buildings, functioning full time, without firing people or cutting hours.

We elected Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the commissioners because we thought they were the best and the brightest. Surely they can find a way to keep our libraries alive and well.

Frank Bastek is a resident of Aventura.

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