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Man strings lights despite blindness

POSTED: January 4, 2008 5:03 a.m.
After dark, anyone driving down Lights Ferry Road in Flowery Branch can see the ‘Merry Christmas’ message beaming from Tommy Tallent’s yard.

It took Tallent two full days to craft the 25-foot-long message out of white Christmas lights and neatly border the nearly 6-foot-high letters standing against his fence with red bulbs.

What’s the big deal? Tallent is completely blind.

"I’ve only been blind half my life," Tallent said. "So I remember seeing, and I just imagine M-E-R-R-Y Christmas."

The Christmas display is not Tallent’s first. Ten years ago at his home in Loganville, Tallent single-handedly decorated the roof of his home with a lit cross, as well as each eve, banister and column with 5,000 green, red and white lights.

"Being that I’ve done it before, I knew how to measure it and make it even," he said. "I guess there’s an art to it that you exercise when you can’t see. I use my hands, I feel around, and I count the boards and how wide I want to go and how much space in between.

"Actually, I was measuring with my hammer, to help me space it out — how far up and how far down," he said. "I count the lights — so many lights for each letter you make. I just imagine it, and stand back and look at it like I’m looking at something in my mind and I draw a picture of it."

Struck blind due to diabetes when he was 24, Tallent, now 47, said that he never decorated his own home with Christmas lights until he was blind.

"The enjoyment I get out of doing something artistic with my hands that I can’t even see ... I can’t even explain it, it blows my mind," he said. "I didn’t know that I had this artistic ability until I went blind, and I couldn’t even see what I was doing."

Tallent said that since he has been blind, he has developed patience. He said it takes a long time for him to finish a task, and even longer to get it right. For example, decorating his Loganville home in lights was an achievement.

"When I started doing it, I got a little crazy with it and I went all over the house. I just covered everything and it was beautiful. It was special. I’ll never forget it," he said.

As a child, Tallent said he remembers watching his father string lights around the roof of their Michigan home each snowy December. He said decorating his own home with lights helps him to rekindle childhood memories.

Tallent said that due to a recent leg injury, he wasn’t able to lavishly decorate his two-story Flowery Branch home as much he would have liked. But he said he has big plans for next year, which holds another chance for him to light up the neighborhood.

Since he became blind 23 years ago, Tallent, a member of Free Chapel Worship Center in Gainesville, said Christianity has played a much larger role in his life, making Christmas even more important to him.

"I wanted to put it real big on the fence: Merry Christmas," Tallent said. "I want it to be seen loud and clear."



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