“April is the cruelest month,” writes the poet Eliot, and April hit me with another round of vision loss. “RP is blindness at its cruelest; it is the slow death of vision,” writes my friend Beth Finke who, with eyesight taken by diabetic retinopathy, has felt her share of cruelty.
That this little death comes with spring compounds its irony. Spring — rebirth, rejuvenation, renaissance. At first, I sought to pass it off as sunlight glare but it’s everywhere, inside and out. It’s that thick silver fog, that layer of gossamer, glistening and reflecting but not permitting me to penetrate the scene, to distinguish figure from ground, to discern the right path from a dead end.
Orienting to sidewalks and buildings, stairs and furnishings is now more by touch than by visual contrast. And, as orientation precedes mobility, getting underway involves an educated guess. Once moving, where I had perceived my landscape of big, gray blobs from a distance, I now find people and things nose-to-nose or, as with our Nissan Rogue, nose-to-hatchback.
The ability to adapt is vast but now I sense its limits. The prospect of losing light perception has me rethinking my aversion to the minimally restorative sci-fi goggles, hard-wired to a belt-clipped battery pack, hard-wired through a hole in my skull to a point mid-brain. If that’s the best thing going today, I’ll wear it proudly until a syringe full of fully DNA-encoded, microscopic stem cells can be implanted during a fifteen-minute out-patient procedure from which I drive home.
Today, my RP prayer is, “Please leave me with what sight I have.” Leave me with shadows and light: a dark wood rocking chair against a white wall, my black Lab standing on a snowbank, the opened door down the long hallway. These clues solve the mystery for me now. Please, leave me with what I have today, while I again absorb the truths I have learned from life with RP: what the body loses, the spirit restores; what the body denies, the spirit accepts; what the body withdraws, the spirit expands.
Footnote: T. S. Eliot, “The Waste Land,”