By Marcia J. Wick
I am going blind, but I don’t want others to worry about me. I tell myself that “going blind” is like “going on a journey” with a new sense of adventure, exploring different perspectives and experiencing unique challenges along the way. Living as a blind person requires special courage; I now belong to an elite group of intrepid folk who shatter barriers every day. I am learning to appreciate the special essence of people, places, and things through a scent on the breeze, texture from a touch, the hum of a motor, or the surprise of tart fruit on my tongue. I see in amazing dimensions that can’t be captured in a flat photograph that others can pass around.
In January, I cradle my gleeful grandbaby in my loving hands. Her energy surges through the blanket like electricity, tickling my fingertips and tingling my soul. In February, winter’s bite can’t keep me in. I venture out with Viviane, the best guide dog on the planet. Our daily walks warm my heart like evening wine. Each March, I age one year and my vision loss advances. Each day, dawn grows darker and I grow eager to learn new ways to sense the world around me. I stoop and feel early Iris shoots poking through the dirt in April. I poke my nose into their tall blossoms on Mother’s Day in May. My mouth waters at the thought of fresh corn in June; it’s sweet aroma escaping on the steam tells me when it’s ready for butter and salt. Walking in July with my guide dog, I lift my face to the warm sun and soft breeze, grateful that we’re not stuck in a stuffy car. Winds of change gust through the treetops in August. The warm Chinook roll downslope, carrying the last taste of summer. Up and down temperatures, birthday celebrations, and the anniversary of Mom’s death tease me like a roller coaster through September and October; Indian summer nips at the heels of winter. Music and lights, family and friends, and the promise of a new year temper the dark months of November and December.
I begin each New Year with a prayer that science may save the sight of those who come after me, but just in case my descendants inherit the blindness gene, I hope they will welcome a world bursting with possibilities, and delight in exploring their unique abilities with a new sense of adventure. I don’t mean to imply that it’s always a picnic. I have chronic bruised shins from the furniture. Twice, I’ve blackened an eye after encountering a door jamb. I’ve cried me a river and hosted more than my share of pity parties. But do I want to wake up red-eyed and weary every morning? Of course not. Could I blame God or my parents for challenging me this way? Or should I invite blindness to open my eyes to a new sense of the world around me? I couldn’t control whether I would be born to become a blind person, but I can choose how I will live without sight. Perhaps my grandchildren will remember that their Nana once jumped out of a plane with a parachute, and that she skied faster with her guide than Grandpa did on his snowboard even though she couldn’t see. Perhaps they’ll aspire to the Paralympics like some of my blind friends did, or maybe one will strive to be the first blind president! Why not?
In the sighted world, I trusted my vision to tell me all that I needed to know. But while staring at what was right in front of me, I realize now that I missed subtle layers of insight by using only one of my senses. With eyes newly-opened, I yearn now to see more clearly with my hands and heart.