During my walks between home and work, my feet follow the course while my mind wanders.  Some days, I list things—U. S. Presidents, state capitals, pro sports teams (30 in baseball, 32 in the NFL).  Other times, I sing “Sgt. Pepper’s” or the first Doors album.  Today, I’m making a gratitude list.

I am grateful for my Seeing Eye dog, Randy.  His work ethic enables me to relax my mind a bit, to list things and sing songs during our walks.  He is my guide and companion.  With him, I never walk alone.

I am grateful to have GPS rather than relying on guesswork, memory or counting steps when I try a new route to work.

I am grateful for a sense of adventure that gets me out of the house to explore new places and things.

I am grateful for the willingness to say, “Please help me” for direction in life from a higher power and directions to the bus stop from a stranger.

I am grateful for the occasional wisdom to apply the phrase, “Don’t Give Up,” judiciously—to know when to keep pushing and when to give it a rest and come back to it later.

I am grateful that, for me, there is no physical pain with blindness and I am grateful to have the empathy to extend to those who suffer.

I am grateful for people in my life who love, care, encourage and try to understand and I am grateful when I find those qualities in myself.

I am grateful for the perspective to view blindness not as punishment, deficiency or a bad break, but to see it as a part, but not the defining part, of a larger me.

I am grateful for the gift to accept blindness as real life and to make of it what I will.

Posted in Moving beyond vision loss | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Time and Tide

Labor Day, 2015.  I stand on the balcony and stare at the lake.  Waves lap the shore, sails snap in the breeze. The sun sinks low and shadows settle over me.  It’s the end of the season.

My first summer here was 1957.  Early that season, Cleveland pitcher Herb Score got hit in the eye by a line drive.  The Yankee hitter said he would quit baseball if Herb Score went blind.  I was seven and heard it all on my transistor radio.

I was here in 1968, the year Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were shot and killed.  My high school buddies and me came for our post-Prom party.  I drank too much and could barely focus on the lake.

In 1977, I tried out my new mask, fins and snorkel.  I dove and rose, paddled and breathed underwater.  I saw schools of shiny fish and watched them scatter like shooting stars.

In 1985, I saw a lightning bolt split a towering oak.  I watched red sails blown across slate gray water.  I saw a waterspout connect the lake with the sky.

I stand on the balcony and stare at the lake.  I add blue to splashing waves, red to snapping sails, gray to clouds that shadow the day’s last light. My Seeing Eye dog lies at my feet.  We’ve been here a week, just the two of us.  We are companions.  He leads our walks and retrieves our Frisbee. I write on my laptop and listen to books

We wait for the phone to ring.  It will be my wife, saying she’s almost here and the holiday traffic  isn’t as bad as she’d feared.  I’ll know before I answer that it’s her — she’s the only ring tone with Quacky the Duck.  Now, a wood duck quacks from the lake and Randy nuzzles my hand, telling me it’s she on the phone.  “Time will come, big guy.  You’ll see her soon.”

Posted in Stories | Tagged , , | 1 Comment


While most people equate sun with fun, I prefer overcast.  This is not a mood disorder, for I radiate a sunny disposition.  Rather, this is a matter of perception.  A good, solid overcast removes glare from daylight and softens shadows through which I must pass.

Light perception, which I retain as a vestige of full eyesight, provides vital clues about my surroundings.  I sidestep car headlights and aim for the light at the end of the tunnel.  But light perception turns navigating on bright days into a guessing game.  Is that a manhole cover or a black hole that drops all the way to China?  Is that deep, dark shadow the mouth of a cave or just a leafy tree?  Logic and experience suggest I am safe, but one can’t be too careful these days.

A pedestrian passing between me and the sun casts a shadow which I perceive as a baseball bat aimed at my solar plexus.  For a passing truck, the shadow is a tree trunk.  In either case, I recreate a scene from that Psych 101 video—the “exaggerated startle reflex.”  My reaction, in turn, scares passers-by.  They think I’m having a heart attack.  And on such a beautiful, sunny day, that’s such a shame.  And my reaction beyond being startled is to get mad at whoever startled me.  How dare you cast your shadow across my path?  Well, how dare you?

So, what’s a fellow to do?  For one thing, my Seeing Eye dog, Randy, takes a lot of guesswork out of sunny day uncertainty.  If Randy doesn’t fall down the manhole, I guess I won’t either.  A white cane solves some dilemmas.  And baseball caps help, too, but sunglasses make the whole scene too dark.  Most of all, though, when shadows fall across my sunny disposition, I keep smiling.  I want to exude cheerfulness; I don’t want people to think I’m having a coronary or a tantrum —or both.

Posted in Adapting, Blindness, Guide Dogs | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

If We Never Meet Again

Hi Dave,

Happy Birthday to you!  Seventy, you say?  Yikes!  And me turning 65.  Time flies whether you’re having fun or not.  Speaking of time, can you believe it’s been five years since we were at The Seeing Eye together, you with Kenny and me with Randy?  Randy turned seven last month and continues to charge through life unhindered.  It was so sad about Kenny’s cancer.  A dog’s short life made even shorter.  But with Speedy, you sound like you have a great partner.  He must be about four now, right?

Everyone has a dog story and here’s mine for today.  Randy has this habit of veering toward the curb as if he needs to go, then when out of harness, he just stands there and stares at me.  Sometimes he will pull this stunt 4-5 times on a long walk, which gets annoying.  I wonder if he thinks I have to go.  That’s very considerate of him, but on hot days, I really just want to go home, have a glass of iced tea and take my prostate medicine.

It’s always great to swap emails with you, Dave.  I just had the thought that people who become friends during a shared month at The Seeing Eye really do not look forward to a reunion at that north Jersey location because it would mean that each has lost a beloved dog, either to death or retirement.  And, while I know that dogs don’t live forever, the prospect of Randy going down saddens me.  So, let’s keep up our correspondence because, in one sense, the farther we stay apart, the better off we are.  Does that make sense?

Hope you celebrate your birthday safely.  Keep your multitude of birthday candles from starting another California wildfire and I’ll avoid the second Great Chicago Fire with mine.  Deal?



Posted in Guide Dogs | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Can You Hear Me Now?

My mother is 93 years old.  I’d say she wears it well, to which she adds, “Considering the alternative.” Last Monday, she got hearing aids.  I called her throughout the big day.  She finally answered the phone around bedtime.

“Good thing you caught me between songs,” she said.  “I’m listening to Barbra Streisand.  Now I know why you like headphones so much.”

“So the hearing aids are pretty cool, eh?”

“Cooler than cool,” she said.  I feel I’m reconnecting with the world.”

“Speaking of connecting,” I said, “Helen Keller said that seeing connects you with things but hearing connects you with people.”

“She ought to know,” said my mom.  “I was missing so much.  You wouldn’t believe the talk among the ladies at dinner tonight.  What does LGBT mean?  I wish there was a way for you to get some eyesight back.”

“Me too.  I could stand a little more connection with things,” I said.  “But I’m grateful for my hearing.  I don’t think I could handle deafness.”

“That’s what you said about your eyesight,” said my mom.  “But you’ve done so much.  Heck, Helen Keller couldn’t handle life until she learned how to connect with people and her environment.  Remember The Miracle Worker?”

“Vividly,” I said.  “I guess we all have a limit to what we think we can tolerate.  If we just focus on loss, that is.  Still, I can’t imagine losing the pleasure of audio books, music and familiar voices.  To say nothing of survival sounds like traffic.”

“The unknown can be pretty scary,” said my mom.

“Got anything else planned for your big day?”

“Absolutely,” said my mom.  “And I have to go now.  Julie Andrews is waiting.  The hills are alive with the sound of music.”

“Keep the headphones on, mom.  You don’t want to wake the neighbors.”

Posted in Adapting | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

What You Can’t See Won’t Hurt You

“Wow!” says my wife.  “Cousin Bonnie’s really gotten into piercings.  And Ricky Junior is sporting a few fresh tats.  He’s got an angel on his shoulder.”

“The angel’s there to keep the monkey off his back,” I say.  “He’s a wild one.  Wish he’d turn off his Harley.”

We’re at the annual family picnic and my wife is describing the gene pool I can’t see.

“What color is Brittany’s hair this year?”

“Chicago Bears orange.  It clashes with her Packers jersey.  She’ll need to change one or the other before football season.  Here comes Cousin Eddie showing his vacation videos.  You’ll be spared that torture.  And Aunt Caroline’s snapshots of the grandkids.”

“I doubt Caroline will ask me to babysit anymore.  I’ll miss those great games of Hide and Seek.”

“You never did find Little Nellie last year,” says my wife.  “I think she hid in that tree all night.”

“But I whacked that piñata before any of those kids got to it,” I say, relishing the memory.

“Honey,” says my wife, “I think today you’re better off not seeing what’s out there.”

“The mere sound of it frightens me.”

“And the amount of flesh on display terrifies me,” says my wife.  “When was the dress code abolished?  What happened to self-respect?  Do I sound old?”

“Well, the radio said the average American woman weighs 165 pounds.  And it was rare to find a guy without a pot belly even when I could see.  So I ask you—how do we stack up compared to what’s on display here today?”

“Shall I be honest or make up something?”

“Make it believable,” I say.  “Age-appropriate is a good image.  But flatter me a little.  Not so I’m better than anyone, just OK.”

Posted in Stories | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment


I’m sad.  Don’t try to cheer me up — it won’t work.  The sadness will run its course and then I won’t be sad anymore.  It has to run its course because that’s how sadness works.

Why I’m sad doesn’t really matter.  Most likely, it has something to do with blindness, with grieving a loss.  It’s not self-pity and it’s not depression — as a social worker, I’ve studied the difference; as a human, I’ve felt the difference.

Enlightened Renaissance thinkers called sadness melancholia.  They regarded it as a necessary part of life.  They honored it in song and word.  The Book of Ecclesiastes talks of a season for everything — joy and sorrow, birth and death.

We moderns misunderstand sadness. We treat it as an aberration —“Don’t be sad.”  We fear it is contagious — “Don’t bring me down.”  We self-medicate — “Just a pinch to ease the pain.”  We try to cheer ourselves up — “Oh, “Look on the bright side.”  We deny it — “It’s not as bad as all that.”

I write about coping with blindness.  I try to be honest.  I honestly think that blindness can be enriching and it can be a pain in the ass. I write about being told I’m an inspiration when I don’t feel inspired; about needing to educate when I don’t feel like teaching.  As I write this blog, I feel sad, so that’s what I’m writing about.  When I wrote my last blog, I didn’t feel sad; next time, I’ll likely feel different than I feel today.

This weekend, a new movie called Inside Out grossed $91 million at the box office.  It’s an animated film about sadness.  It’s main character is an eleven year-old girl who is sad because her family moved across the country.  The lesson is that sadness is natural and necessary and needs to run its course before integration and growth can resume.  I figure that, if a movie can make $91 million, I’d throw in my two cents’ worth.

Posted in Sadness | Tagged , , | 2 Comments