Heather Denham is my sister, Heather Norton. This article appeared in the Oklahoman. It is a great story and I am so happy for her!
Bartlesville couple falls in love at blindness training program
Heather and Don Denham met during a weeklong adult blindness education course in Muskogee, and were married within a year.
BY DUSTY SOMERS Oklahoman Published: June 14, 2010
Heather Denham knows there are puns galore when describing a budding romance between two visually impaired people. She's heard them all, from "blind date” to "love at first sight,” mostly from her good-humored adult children. But those jokes aren't entirely inaccurate.
Heather and Don Denham sit in their house in Bartlesville. They met at a weeklong training program for blind adults, and were married within a year.
After being divorced for 28 years, legally blind Heather found a new chance for love during a summer blindness training program. Adult Blind Living Education — ABLE — provides a week of instruction on skills including mobility and meal preparation, but Heather, 52, and Don Denham, 61, each found something more: a spouse.
The program in Muskogee last July led to several months of dating before Heather and Don married in February. When the group first met, Heather decided to overcome her quiet personality.
"Usually I'm one of those people who sits back and watches, (but) we were a quiet group,” she said.
Don, who himself had been divorced for almost 17 years and had almost backed out of attending, noticed her immediately.
"I thought she was the most outgoing,” he said. "Me, I'm kind of bashful.”
The two struck up a friendship that involved late-night conversations in the craft room and travels to and from the cafeteria, as the less visually-impaired Heather would help Don make the trip.
It didn't take them long to realize there might be an even stronger connection between them. After Heather made a joke about needing a rich husband, Don was quick to inquire just how much money that man would need to have, Heather said.
"I thought, 'Is he flirting with me?'” she said. "I haven't had a lot of men flirt with me.”
After their ABLE sessions ended, Heather and Don kept in touch over the telephone. Their first conversation lasted two hours, and Heather could've kept going.
"The only reason I stopped talking is (I thought) he probably thinks all I am is a chattering woman,” she said.
Their next phone conversation was six hours, and eventually she found a neighbor to help them connect in person. He lived in Tulsa, and she in Bartlesville, but that was a wide chasm for two blind people, Heather said.
"There were lots of logistical things to figure out,” she said.
Now that they're married and living in the same house in Bartlesville, the distance isn't an issue, but some challenges remain.
"I have this quirk about me — I am a rearranger,” Heather said. "I'm always looking for new ways to reorganize.”
That can mean shoes on the floor where Don doesn't expect them or a dish towel or remote control not where it usually is.
"I suddenly started realizing I couldn't do that anymore,” Heather said. "He's getting me trained.”
Don says he loves the honest and straightforward woman he married. Heather feels fortunate to have met the man she lived close to her entire life, but would've never encountered without ABLE.
The challenges of living blind are still there, but Heather is happy for the benefits of marriage, the companionship and the kissing sessions in the dark, she said.
"My kids think that we act like 16-year-olds,” Heather said. "Falling in love has been just as enjoyable as when I was 16.”