Jason Eien, 48, takes a TARC3 bus to the Blankenbaker, Southwest or Indiana campus of Southeast Christian Church for worship services. Blind since age 7, he taps with his white cane to avoid obstacles and people as he makes his way through the atrium. He hears commotion and bits of conversations, everyone in a hurry to get somewhere.
Somehow, he has a clear picture of each campus, its big screens and sound systems. He loves worship music and being part of the crowd.
Eien is the lone survivor of his family. His losses are unimaginable, but he believes God saved his life and gives him purpose.
What happened to him Nov. 26, 1978, made headlines that shocked the music world.
Eien has no memories of his mother. He was just a baby when she ended her life in the garage of their home. Eien and his older brother, Justin, went to live with their father, famous jazz trombonist Frank Rosolino.
Rosolino played with big bands—recording with stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Mel Tormé and Quincy Jones. He appeared in the film “I Want to Live” (1958) with Susan Hayward and in “Sweet Smell of Success” (1957) with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis.
He was known as an incredible musician who cracked 10 jokes a minute. No one knows what fueled deep depression behind closed doors.
Eien remembers that his father traveled a lot on his entertainment schedule. Sitters cared for him and his brother.
There was no warning for what happened about 4 a.m. Nov. 26, 1978. Rosolino shot both sons as they slept, then turned the gun on himself. Justin and Rosolino died instantly.
Eien was still breathing after being shot in the head. He survived 14 hours of surgery and finally awoke from a coma three weeks later. The bullet took his eyesight but not his mind.
When he recovered, Eien went to live with his mother’s cousin, who adopted him and changed his name.
Raised far from faith, it became an anchor as he grew up.
“Since God healed me from the coma, He’s everything,” Eien said. “I know that everything is from Him, and I do believe that all things work together for good. Over the years, I went to a lot of different churches depending on where I lived, but what really changed me was reading and memorizing the Bible.”
At a music benefit after Eien recovered, one of his father’s friends told him a lot of people in the room loved him. He asked, “Why?”
“Just because. Take my word for it,” the lady said.
“Do you know who really loves me?” Eien said. “God loves me.”
He is not bitter with his mother or father. He’s not even angry at those who hid his father’s royalties or got rights to his most famous hit songs.
In the next 20 years, Eien went to various boarding schools, learned to read Braille and studied music.
He sings and plays the harmonica, keyboard, guitar and trumpet.
Since Eien cannot tell the difference between day and night, sleep has always been an issue. As a kid at boarding schools for the blind, he often read a Braille Bible for long stretches through the night. Belief that God saved his life and had a plan grew through loneliness.
Eien said he walks by faith, not sight.
“Since I wasn’t raised in a family, God has always been my Father,” he said. “He has cared for me throughout my life.”
Though he is quiet, Eien often tells his story to large audiences. He moved to Louisville last year because of resources available to those who are blind.
Though he cannot see, what he knows from his other senses is almost unbelievable. He keeps up with the latest computer and phone technology.
Eien works as a dishwasher at a local restaurant and waves a sign at a Little Caesars Pizza in Clarksville, Indiana.
“Sometimes people stop to give me tips because they like my dancing with the sign,” Eien said.
Eien said the hardest thing about being blind is meeting new friends. People seem reluctant to start a conversation. He is afraid to intrude on conversations he hears all around him.
“Since I am blind, I see people from the inside,” he said. “I love it when people introduce themselves or start a conversation.”