Anger Management

Springtime means gardening.  My wife prunes the peony bush while I plant petunias.  “Oh, dear,” says my wife, “you’re planting the petunias upside-down.”

I throw down my little trowel.  “That’s it!  I can’t take this blindness anymore!  I’m outta here.”

“Where are you going?” asks my wife.

“To the garage.  To find that wood handle I broke off the broom.  To carry it into the alley and smash it to smithereens.”

“Go get ‘em, Tiger,” says my wife.

I find the garage OK but it takes me awhile to find the broom handle. I tap my way to the alley.  I’m about to bash it against the asphalt when I think, “What if a splinter flies up and sticks in my eye?”

I storm through the back yard.  My wife asks me where I’m headed this time.  “To get my sunglasses,” I say. She tells me it’s overcast.  I tell her it’s not the sun I need to protect my eyes from.

Upstairs, I rummage through my dresser drawer.  I run across my Swiss Army knife and my Cubs cap and all sorts of stuff.  Finally, I find my sunglasses.

I storm across the back yard again.  “Go get ‘em, Mr. Cub!” calls my wife.

Back in the alley, I can’t find where I left that broom handle.  “For Pete’s sake,” I’m ready to yell, “who stole my stick?”  I grope here and there but come up empty-handed.  Then I think maybe I’ll go ask my wife to come and help me find the broom handle so I can smash it, and then I ask myself how ridiculous am I willing to appear here?  Besides, with all this running around, I’ve pretty much simmered down.  At least, the urge to smash something has been removed.

I saunter into the back yard.  My wife says, “I didn’t hear the crack of the bat out there, Slugger.”

“The storm has passed,” says I.  “I’m ready to plant more petunias.  Let’s start with the ones that say, ‘This End Up.’  Got any?”

[A version of this story first appeared April 23, 2012]

Playlist:

Poppy Red” by Richard Thompson, from the album Sweet Warrior (2007)

A Rose for Emily” by The Zombies, from the album Odyssey and Oracle (1968)

Lilac Wine” by Jeff Buckley, from the album Grace (1994)

Iris” by Split Enz, from the album Waiata (1981)

Baby Baby” by Lemon Twigs, from the album Do Hollywood (2016)

Orange Skies” by Love, from the album Da Capo (1966)

Anthem” by Deep Purple, from the album The Book of Taliesyn (1971)

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Where Do We Go from Here?

Cassidy parks her car, punches her phone, pinches my cheek and says, “OK, Bluesman, let’s boogie!”  Arm in arm, we high-step Mountain Avenue, black on black save low-beam headlights, pinpoint street lights and Cassidy’s high-beam iPhone.

“I don’t like this,” says Cassidy.

“What’s not to like about snowdrifts and ice floes?”

“It’s this GPS I don’t like.  It wants us to walk to Jefferson but I think I don’t want us to walk to Jefferson.  But GPS knows best, I guess.”

“Cassidy, you keep me straight and I’ll keep you upright.”

“Sounds like my Girl Scout pledge to keep myself upright, pure and reverentvirtues long abandoned.”

“Not to cast aspersions on your sighted guide merit badge, but are you sure that GPS isn’t leading us astray?  The theatre is 314 East Mountain and the parking garage is one block west on Mountain and that should make things simple.”

“Simple?  Simple is how I feel with this GPS.  How is it you’re the one who seems to know where we are when you can’t see the nose in front of your face, no offense.”

“None taken, my lost child.  You see, I’m really good at getting found because I’m really good at getting lost.  Here, let’s try this.  Since you can see, take a look around. Perhaps you’ll see Mountain Avenue, marquee lights, concertgoers.  Meanwhile, I’ll listen for something helpful to us.”

“Quiet, I hear music,” says Cassidy.  “It’s coming from this dark alley, from behind that sign that says, ‘Stage Door.’”

“Stage door?  Hey, now’s your chance at stardom.”

“I don’t want stardom.  I don’t want a dark alley.  I want to get in from the cold.  I’m guiding this guy I care about in the wrong direction and I’m going to make us late.  I’m nervous to meet his friends because I want them to like me.  I’m trusting some gadget more than my eyes, my brain, my forty years in Fort Collins and I’m ignoring his knack for finding the way he can’t see.  I’m anxious and I’m not thinking things through.  I didn’t believe me or him and I’m scared.  But here’s the good news: He’s willing to tell me what he thinks will work and I’m willing to listen and he doesn’t have to be right and I don’t have to be right and now I know we can rely on each other—even if we’re still lost.”

Let us go gently into this dark night,” I say as we slip and slide around the corner onto Mountain Avenue and I hear Cassidy cry, “Lights, camera, action!  ‘Tonight: North Mississippi Bluesman, Cedric Burnside.’”

We skip along Mountain Avenue to the box office.  “Thank you for getting us here,” I tell Cassidy.

She slips her phone into her pocket, smiles and says, “Teamwork.”

I take her arm and we stride from cold Colorado winter into hot Mississippi blues.

Playlist:

The World Can Be So Cold” by Cedric Burnside, from the album I Be Trying (2021)

Strange Boat” by The Waterboys, from the album Fisherman’s Blues (1988)

Stone” by Faces, from the album First Step (1970)

Where Do We Go from Here?” by Chicago, from the album Chicago (1970)

Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith, from the album Blind Faith (1969)

Space Captain” by Joe Cocker, from the album Mad Dogs and Englishmen (1970)

Show Me How This Thing Works” by Cracker, from the album Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey (2004)

It’s Your Life” by Cedric Burnside Project, from the album Hear Me when I Say (2013)

She Smiled Sweetly” by The Rolling Stones, from the album Between the Buttons (1967)

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The Omnipotent…The Fallible…The Sighted

My friend, Sadie, and I have aced this shopping trip: I dig out my Costco card while Sadie drives.  We hit the parking lot before the doors open so we avoid the stampede.  I take Sadie’s arm and I hand her my shopping list and she finds the stuff for me.  Today, at the top of the list, is Super Chunky Peanut Butter.  I used to be a Smooth guy but I’ve changed my peanut butter ways.

“I can’t find Super Chunky,” says Sadie as we cruise the peanut butter aisle.

So I say, “Well, it was there last time” while I’m thinking, “What the hell’s wrong with you?  You’ve got two good eyes and you still can’t see?”

“I’m looking,” says Sadie.  “Jif Smooth…Skippy Smooth…Peter Pan Smooth.  Maybe Super Chunky sold out.”

“Looks like lots of people are trending toward Super Chunky.”

“Or else they’ve moved it,” says Sadie.  “They’re always moving items in this store.  Just when I get a bead on something I like—POOF!—it’s gone.”

“Shame on them,” I say.  “They oughta make a GPS app that finds peanut butter.”

“I’m sorry I can’t find Super Chunky for you,” says Sadie.  She really sounds sad and I know she’s dealing with heartache beyond Super Chunky.  She came here today to buy a Shark Handi-Vac like the one I bought last time and which Sadie borrowed and really liked but today there’s no Sharks on the shelf.  I like mine because it picks up dog and cat fur my animals share with my furniture.  Sadie has no pets though she wants a dog but now, with no little Shark of her own, she’s stuck with her stupid goldfish.  And sweeping up toaster crumbs by hand.  So I say to Sadie, “I’ll lend you my Shark Handi-Vac anytime you want” but I know that won’t ease her pain.

Sadie and I trudge to check out, to find the shortest line, the line without the big old guy with the air conditioner, eighty rolls of Charmin and the last Shark Handi-Vac off the shelf.  And when it’s our turn, I know that super cheerful cashier won’t be chirping, “Did you find everything you were looking for today?” because she’s shellshocked from shoppers snapping, “No, I did not!  And it’s all your fault!”

As Sadie and I push the cart toward her car we can’t find, I mull over what this shopping trip has taught me.  I’ve learned that sighted people are just like the rest of us.  Well, no they’re notthey can see.  But they can’t see everything, especially when everything isn’t there anymore.  I’ve learned that even sighted people can’t read fine print, like what’s written on the little paper inside the Tylenol box—even when they remember where they’ve left those reading glasses they call “cheaters.”  I’ve learned that sighted people just do the best with what they have—same as blind people.

Sadie spots her car and, as we ride homeward, I come to terms with my own disappointment.  No Super Chunky?  No problem!  When Sadie drops me off, after I insist we share custody of the Shark Handi-Vac, I’ll sit at my kitchen counter, pick the peanuts out of the Costco Trail Mix, throw them into the blender, grind them up, jam them into my jar of Skippy Smooth, grab my big spoon and dig into my Jeff Super Chunky Peanut Butter!

Playlist:

Tell Me What You See” by The Beatles, from the album Help! (1965)

Take a Look at Yourself” by Paul Revere & The Raiders, from the album Midnight Ride (1966)

Losing My Religion” by REM, from the album Out of Time (1991)

Right On Time” by Tedeschi Trucks Band, from the album Let Me Get By (2016)

Can You Follow?” by Jack Bruce, from the album Harmony Row (1971)

Lost and Found” by the Kinks, from the album Think Visual (1986)

Lost in the Supermarket” by The Clash, from the album Sandanista! (1980)

Empty Pages” by Traffic, from the album John Barleycorn Must Die (1970)

Laugh about It” by Tedeschi Trucks Band, from the album Let Me Get By (2016)

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If I Could See for Just One Day

Here’s what I would do if I could see again.  For one glorious spring day, I’d be a bleacher bum wearing Cubbie Blue.  I’d toss a Frisbee at Oak Street Beach and watch my big black dog splash through silver surf.  I’d catch white line fever and run yellow lights on my sleek red bicycle.  I’d paint my front door purple, then get impressed by Impressionists hanging around the Art Institute.

I’d venture into the unfamiliar: down to scuba dive, up in a glider.  I’d find peace in the familiar: gaze upon the face of my beloved, catch the light in her laughing eyes and see the strength I hear in her voice.

I like to think that I’d be grateful for one day of vision.  I don’t want to resent it as a miserly expression of someone’s sense of charity.  I’d prefer to remain gracious.

I’d set aside time to spy on myself: watch how I do things and figure out how to do things better.  I’ve never seen me as a blind person.  I’m curious what it looks like to be me, how I put my problem-solving skills to practice.  If I saw my blind self from a sighted perspective, how would I look?  Pathetic?  Persistent?  I live in a sighted world.  I’d like to know how other people see me.  Maybe I’d understand both sides better.

I like to think that wishing is not wasting time, refusing to accept life as it is or seeking to escape.  I refute the suggestion that wishing for the unlikely will only make me sad or bitter or both.

And when the clock strikes midnight, let me be grateful for what I have.  Let me strive to make better that which I possess.  Let me not resent those who have what I lack.  Let me find peace and bring that peace to others with the same or different struggles.

[A version of this story was posted as a Jalapenos blog on June 13, 2011]

Playlist:

(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman” by The Kinks, from the album Low Budget (1979)

When You Wish Upon a Star” from the Disney film Pinocchio (1940)

Silver Raven” by Gene Clark, from the album No Other (1974)

The Bends” by Radiohead, from the album The Bends (1995)

Sad and Deep as You” by Dave Mason, from the album Alone Together (1970)

Listen to My Song” by Love, from the album Out Here (1969)

Forty Thousand Headmen” by Traffic, from the album Traffic (1969)

Just a Song” by Dave Mason, from the album Alone Together (1970)

Not Dark Yet” by Bob Dylan, from the album Time out of Mind (1997)

Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland, from the film The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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I Am Lucky to Be Blind Today

Yvette Mimieux has died at age eighty.  She portrayed the blonde ingenue in the 1960 thriller, The Time Machine.  Mademoiselle Mimieux intrigued me then and time travel intrigues me still.  If I could, I’d hop into my ’57 TimeTripper and scat with Ella Fitzgerald, smash an air guitar with The Who Live at Leeds and bebop with Darlene Love at her Concert of Love.  I’d swoon as Gershwin conducts Rhapsody in Blue, Beethoven debuts The Fifth and Bach cranks out Toccata and Fugue in D minor on a booming pipe organ somewhere in Germany.  If I could, I’d do all this time travel alongside Yvette Mimieux.  

Musing about time travel leads me to wonder what it would have been like to be blind a long time ago. From what I hear, blind people like me got no respect in olden days.  A hundred years ago, we’d have been S. O. L.  Two hundred years ago, we might have been locked away.  Five hundred years ago, we might have been set adrift on the River Styx.

When I was sighted, I studied photography and I remain haunted by a black and white image taken by Steichen or Stieglitz of a shabby woman with opaque eyes and a cardboard sign around her neck that reads “BLIND.”  Prop her against a building, put a tin cup in her hand and call it charity.  Or, for the fortunate few, train them in chair caning or piano tuning.  For most blind people, a white cane and Braille were the limit of public human services.  And miracle workers like Annie Sullivan were so scarce they were elevated to sainthood.

So, I’m lucky I am blind today rather than yesteryear.  I have a guide dog and a white cane for which I receive orientation and mobility instruction.  I have Talking Books, audio described movies and speech-enhanced Playboy magazines.  I have GPS, Victor Reader Streams, refreshable Braille, an iPhone, computer screen-reading software, video magnifiers, my Pen Friend labeler, a bar code reader, artificial intelligence and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The future looks bright, so bright I’ve got to wear shades!  Time to hop off the oldies road show and swing the lever to fast forward, where possibilities are limitless and dreams come true.  I want to look ahead to a cure for blindness, an attitude of acceptance toward all people with disabilities, tolerance and even compassion for those with different struggles and, stretching my luck to the extreme, the 2022 World Series champion Chicago White Sox!

Playlist:

O Lucky Man” by Alan Price, from the soundtrack O Lucky Man (1973)

With a Little Bit of Luck” by Lerner and Lowe, sung by Stanley Holloway in  the musical My Fair Lady (1956)

That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls around Heaven All Day)” sung by Frankie Laine, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra (1949), then by Pat Boone, Laverne Baker, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Darin, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Bill Medley, George Benson, Big Mama Thornton, Willie Nelson, Jerry Garcia Band, Johnny Cash, kd lang, Brian Wilson, Kenny Chesley, Chris Isaak, Bob Dylan and Asleep at the Wheel

Born under a Bad Sign” by Albert King, Cream and others

Lucky Man” by The Steve Miller Band, from the album Sailor (1968)

A Lucky Guy” by Rickie Lee Jones, from the album Pirates (1981)

Luck Be a Lady” sung by Marlon Brando in  the musical Guys and Dolls  (1950), covered by Frank Sinatra (1963), Barbra Streisand and as a Frank Sinatra/Chrissie Hynde duet (1994)

Lucky in Love” by Mick Jagger, from the album She’s the Boss (1985)

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It’s Not the End of the World…and I Can’t See It from Here Anyway

From the day I first heard the term RP applied to me, I’ve been counseled to retain hope, to be optimistic that research is not only promising but effective in restoring eyesight to the blind.  That promise has not materialized.

Hope fades over time and most of my time lies in the rear view mirror.  So, it’s neither fatalism nor pessimism but realism that dictates the conclusion that my eyesight will not be restored during this lifetime.  I don’t like that prognosis…but I accept it.  What’s left for me is to practice the wisdom that I can best help myself by helping others.  I resolve to feed hope for those who come after, those who are now beginning, or tomorrow will begin, this shared experience.  

I find, as I lose loved ones and things I love, that I have never felt so much so deeply all at once.  Yet, far from feeling overwhelmed by grief and sorrow, the deeper I feel, the deeper I love.

Toward the end of his life, illustrator Maurice Sendak said, “I cry a lot because I miss people.  I cry a lot because they die and I can’t stop them.  They leave me and I love them more.  I’m finding out as I’m aging that I’m in love with the world.”  Essayist John Green added, “To fall in love with the world isn’t to overlook or ignore suffering.  When my breastbone starts to hurt and my throat tightens and tears well in my eyes, I want to look away from feeling.  I want to deflect with irony or anything else that will keep me from feeling directly.  We all know how loving ends but I want to fall in love with the world anyway, to let it crack me open.  I want to feel what there is to feel while I am here.”  Maurice Sendak concluded with these words: “Live your life.  Live your life.”  

And that’s the best I, and any of us, can do.

Playlist

“The Golden Age” by Cracker, from the album The Golden Age (1996)

White Line Fever” by Merle Haggard, from the album Down Every Road 1962-1994

Fall on Me” by REM, from the album Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)

This Year” by The Mountain Goats, from the album The Sunset Tree (2005)

I Believe” by REM, from the album Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)

We Live Again” by Beck, from the album Mutations (1998)

Old Man” by Love (vocals by Bryan MacLean), from the album Forever Changes (1967)

Oh Maria” by Beck, from the album Mutations (1998)

Let It Be” by The Beatles, from the album Let It Be (1970)

Little One” by Beck, from the album Sea Change (2002)

The World Keeps Going ‘Round” by The Kinks, from the album Kinks Kontroversy (1965)

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” by REM, from the album Document (1987)

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Progress

I have a retinal degenerative disease.  It’s called RP.  I’ve had it for thirty-six years.  To medical practitioners, RP means Retinitis Pigmentosa.  To me, RP means Ruthlessly Progressive.  If vision loss is progressive, am I progressing through vision loss?  Wiktionary says progress is movement toward an improved or desired state.  I consider the state I’m in neither improved nor desired.

As I progress, I bargain.  I swear I’ll be a good boy if you just leave me with what I have.  I’ll quit smoking; I’ll take up smoking.  I’ll wear sunglasses or a baseball cap; I’ll wear wrap-around shades and a sombrero.  I’ll stop being a mouth-breather.  I’ll avoid walking under ladders and I’ll beat that black cat to cross the path.  Yet each time I’ve learned to cope with what I have, the fog thickens.  With thickening progress, faith and hope dim along with everything else out there.

I’d like to be immersed in the belief that I retain vision without eyesight.  Yet I struggle to get beyond the notion that how happy I am depends on how much I see.  Hindsight reveals that I wrote similar lines ten, twelve, twenty years ago.  Have I made no progress?  Has any part of me progressed other than my vision loss? 

My progressive vision loss has reached its end stage.  End stage of anything implies a poor prognosis.  As cancer overtook her, my wife said, “I keep waiting to feel better…but that’s not happening.”  Unlike cancer, RP isn’t going to kill me…unless a faux pas puts me in the path of an unseen city bus.

RP won’t kill me…but it isn’t getting better either.  I never expected it would get better without some biological, technological, pharmacological miracle.  I’m still waiting, wishing, hoping for that miracle.  I am Really Patient.  I just wasn’t prepared for this much progress.

Playlist:

“Come a Long Way” by Michelle Shocked, from the album Arkansas River (1992)

The Magnificent Seven” by The Clash, from the album Sandanista! (1980)

Spiderweb” by Joan Osborn, from the album Relish (1995)

Still There’ll Be More” by Procol Harum, from the album Home (1970)

The State I’m In” by The Band, from the album The Last Waltz (1978)

Ghosts” by Jesse Winchester, from the album A Reasonable Amount of Trouble (2014)

Sadly Beautiful” by The Replacements, from the album All Shook Down (1990)

One Stage Before” by Al Stewart, from the album Year of the Cat (1976)

I See the Light” by Cracker, from the album Cracker (1992)

Pilgrims Progress” by Procol Harum, from the album A Salty Dog (1969)

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End Stage

I have reached end-stage RP.  At this stage, the doctor asks, “How many fingers am I holding up?” and I reply, “Eleven” and wait for someone to laugh.  I’ve reached the end of the road traveled since that night in 1985, when I pulled into my driveway, found myself on my neighbor’s front lawn and asked, “Who moved my driveway?”

End-stage RP implies light sensitivity only.  While I regard the light I still see a blessing, I consider the road I’ve traveled torture.  Either way, I perceive a power greater than myself at work, a power to which the tortured implore, “Why me?” while the blessed inquire, “Why not me?”

The essayist John Green rebuts the symbolization of diseases as battles to be won or manifestations of character flaws.  Rather,, illness is simply to be lived with as well as one can.  I did not become blind as the butt of a cosmic joke.  Nor as karmic punishment for lacking vision.  Nor as a lesson that rewards had come too easily and, henceforth, I’d need to overcome higher obstacles.  No, blindness came genetically, biologically.  In the end stage, why blindness happens is futile conjecturerandom acts or God’s Will lead to the same place.

That place is my living room, where I am surrounded by what I no longer see but whose presence I hear, feel, taste and smell.  I know there is a sound system, a dresser, a music chair in which I am ensconced and seven miniature paintings.  I used to see those items in minute detail, then as dark objects against the white wall.  Now they’ve disappeared—except for the LED beacon atop the floor lamp.  This is the reality of end-stage RP.

More than an inventory of goods, I feel something metaphysical here—faith that unseen objects are not simply there to fill space but are there to fill my spirit.  I am nourished with the companionship of friends, beautiful music, my faithful dog, a cat in my lap, tonic with lime.  This is what I make of the nature of the place I have reached—end-stage RP.

Playlist:

Forever Changes by Love (1967)

Forever Changes is the third and final album by the LA-based band featuring its original lineup.

Many people would choose as their Desert Island Album from that era,  Sgt. Peppers, Blonde on Blonde or Pet Sounds but My #1 remains Forever Changes.

Among its accolades, it was listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005).

Track listing (all songs by Arthur Lee except where noted):

  1. Alone Again Or (Bryan MacLean) – 3:15
  2.   A House Is Not a Motel – 3:25
  3.   Andmoreagain – 3:15
  4.   The Daily Planet – 3:25
  5.   Old Man (Bryan MacLean) – 2:57
  6.   The Red Telephone – 4:45
  7.   Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale – 3:30
  8.   Live and Let Live – 5:24
  9.   The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This – 3:00
  10.  Bummer in the Summer – 2:20
  11.  You Set the Scene – 6:49

Arthur Lee – primary vocals and guitar

Bryan MacLean – vocals and guitar

Johnny Echols – lead electric guitar

Ken Forssi – bass

Michael Stuart Ware – drums

Strings and horns arranged by David Angell and Arthur Lee

Musicians on “Alone Again Or” and “The Daily Planet” were Arthur Lee and members of “The Wrecking Crew: Billy Strange, guitar; Hal Blaine, drums; Carol Kaye, bass and Don Randi, who played keyboards throughout the album.

Produced by Bruce Botnick and Arthur Lee at Sunset Sound Studios, LA,  for Elektra Records

A live version, The Forever Changes Concert, was recorded in London in 2003 with Arthur Lee and supporting musicians.

Posted in Adapting, Blindness | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Animal Control

Practicing the art of blind pedicure, I cut my toe instead of my toenail.  My faux pas precludes fancy footwork; forced lassitude makes me cranky.  Couchbound, I await a house call from podiatry.  I listen to The Winter of Our Discontent through earbuds necessary because my Talking Book player hasn’t spoken since I dropped it in a nail salon in Chicago eight years ago.  Then and there, here and now, toenails mean trouble. It’s quiet inside…too quiet.  It’s cold and Covid-laden outside.  Migratory geese are muttering out there, plopped atop snow, the squadron-cum-squatters.  “Your rent’s due Friday,” I mutter back at them.  That’s when the doorbell rings. 

“Mr.…uh…Flo…uh…” intones a male voice which rises an octave and halts against a question mark.

“Yes, yes, that’s me.  And this is my guide dog, Tundra, that’s T U N D R A.  Boy, am I glad to see you, so to speak.  Step into the front room where the light is good.  I’ll show you my damaged foot.”

“I’d like to begin with the dog, sir,” says our visitor.

“The dog?  Well, Tundra is troubled by nail trimming as well.  It takes two people, a leash and a Kong stuffed with peanut butter to get her to submit.  But, if you say she’s up first, I’ll fetch the peanut butter.”

“Sir, your dog has been observed eating goose droppings off the sidewalk.”

“She eats it, I step in it.  It’s the food chain for her, it’s blindness for me.  What’s that got to do with my foot?”

“I’m from Animal Control, sir.”

“Oh, man…does that mean you’re not gonna look at my foot?”

“’Fraid not, sir.  As for the dog, eating goose droppings suggests she’s not being fed at home.”

“I disagree.  Eating goose poop suggests she’s a food-driven Lab powerless over goose poop.  You should see what I have to do to keep her out of the cat box.  Got any notion what Double-Clumping Cat Litter would do en route through a dog’s GI tract?”

“I see you have a Cheshire cat as well,” says our visitor.

“That be Mulligan the Maine Coon cat,” I reply.

“Your cat is huge, sir.  Perhaps a trifle obese.  Does the cat eat the dog’s food?”

“No.  I feed him treats to distract him from escaping when Tundra and I go for walks.  You see, Mulligan hears the Call of the Wild and I don’t want him to end up the lunch special at The Coyote Café.   My strategy has proven effective, though he’s put on a pound or two.”

“He looks surly,” says our visitor.

“You’d look surly, too,” I reply, “if someone wants to take your food away.  But wait, there’s more.  Mulligan has a brother named Hopalong.  Hopalong has an Imaginary Friend, whom I’ve named Swanson, and with whom Hopalong plays.  When they get into it, Hopalong runs around like a crazy person and trumpets like a charging elephant.”

“That must be very entertaining for you, sir.”

“Yes.  Hopalong and I compliment one another.  He sees things that aren’t there and I don’t see things that are there.”

“Well, sir, you are certainly amidst a three-ring circus.”  The doorbell rings again.  “Shall I get that, sir?”

“My name is Dr. Toland.  I am the podiatrist.  And you are Mr.…Flo…uh…?”

“I’m in here!” I shout toward the front door.

“I was just leaving,” announces our initial visitor.  “Thank you for your time, Mr.…Flo…uh.  Say, Dr. Toland, do you do dog’s toenails as well?”

From the front room, I call, “Thank you for doing your job with animal Control, sir.  Now, be mindful of your footing on the snow and ice and goose poop.”

Dr. Toland the podiatrist removes his shoes and steps into the front room.  “Now, Mr. Nail Stylist, show me what you’ve done to that foot!”

Playlist:

Here Come the People in Gray” by The Kinks, from the album Muswell Hillbillies (1971)

Locked Away” by Keith Richards, from the album Talk Is Cheap (1988)

The Hard Way” by The Kinks, from the album Schoolboys in Disgrace (1975, studio) and One for the Road (1980, live)

Animal Zoo” by Spirit, from the album Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970)

Animal Farm” by The Kinks, from the album Village Green Preservation Society (1968)

Just as Strange” by Tedeschi Trucks Band, from the album Revelator (2011)

Phenomenal Cat” by The Kinks, from the album Village Green Preservation Society (1968)

Taxman” by The Beatles, from the album Revolver (1966)

Apeman” by The Kinks, from the album Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround (1970)

Bibliography:

John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)

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People Who Don’t Know Me Say I Handle Blindness Well…Those Who Know Me Know Better

My mother called me her “hero.”  She said she was “proud” of me for succeeding in spite of my, well, my “difficulties.”  Blog readers have commented that I’m “inspiring.”  In response, I humbly maintain that I’ve worked hard to cope with blindness; to be affirmed for my effort has been gratifying.  Still, I’m troubled that my mother and my readers may have glimpsed only what I’ve chosen to revealthe hilarious outtakes, the “Greatest Hits” of my blindness repertoire.

Living with blindness is a struggle.  For each triumph, there is sorrow.  For each instance of confidence, there are scenes of bewilderment.  I want to portray both sides.  I want to present myself honestly.  I want what I write to reflect how I truly feel.  I want to present to people, sighted and blind, a true picture, not what I want that picture to look like.  My mission is to tell my story of trying to live a normal life, trying to hang a picture or place the Band-Aid on top of the cut.

There are days I wear blindness like a loose garment; there are days blindness binds me like a straitjacket.  Part of being honest means there are days when I hate blindness.  There, I’ve said it—I’ve used that four-letter word.  It’s taken time, but I’ve learned that I can hate my blindness but not hate myself for being blind.  Through troubled water, I’ve denied and bargained.  I’ve felt angry and depressed.  And by admitting and accepting imperfection, I’ve come to  accept myself.  But it hasn’t been smooth sailing.

Some blind people say they would not want to regain their sight.  They say they’ve learned patience and tolerance.  They say they’ve learned to live life from both sides of the visual field.  I respect their perspective and share their gains.  But my truth is this: I have lived half my life with normal eyesight and half with diminishing eyesight and, I must say, I preferred the sighted half.

Living with blindness requires the resilience and stamina to overcome obstacles.  Overcome is an inspiring verb but to be overcome is debilitating.  Celebrating and sharing the joy of good days keeps us hopeful.  Honoring and expressing the pain of bad days keeps us human.  And it takes both sides to see the whole picture.

Playlist:

Mama Said (There’d Be Days Like This)” by The Shirelles (1961)

I Whistle a Happy Tune” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I (1951)

Fearless” by Pink Floyd, from the album Meddle (1971)

Not Dark Yet” by Bob Dylan, from the album Time Out of Mind (1997)

Over My Head” by Ray Davies, from the album Other Peoples’ Lives (2006)

Stranger in a Strange Land” by Leon Russell, from the album Leon Russell and the Shelter People (1971)

Joseph’s Coat” by Quicksilver Messenger Service, from the album Shady Grove (1969)

Someday” by Cracker, from the album Cracker (1992)

I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty, from the album Full Moon Fever (1989)

Climb Every Mountain” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music (1965)

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