I Don’t Think of You as Blind

When I define who I am, blindness is pretty far down the list.  First come husband, son, brother, writer, reader, music lover and social worker. In these roles, I try to be loving and kind, thoughtful and thorough, patient and tolerant.

But among significant life events, losing my eyesight has had the most profound impact. I lost, then, after retraining, regained my career.   I haven’t driven a car in twenty-five years. I live in a large city and depend on public transit.  I am less adventuresome, preferring familiar environs.  I feel the loss of visual things which used to give me pleasure, like taking photos and watching ball games.

At times, blindness becomes my most obvious and dramatic characteristic.  If I try without success to find someone to read me a handwritten letter or I begin to cross Ashland Avenue against the light, blindness becomes vexing or downright dangerous.  I can proceed no further nor reach safety until I find a workaround.  But even as blindness inserts obstacles, I identify and internalize how blindness has enhanced my patience, ingenuity and problem-solving.

My wife has had two episodes with cancer.  Yet I do not think of her primarily as a cancer victim or a cancer survivor as defined by a pink T-shirt manifesto.  Cancer is part of her just as curly hair and a soothing voice.  Blindness is part of me just as male-pattern baldness and a singing voice tending toward flats.  Cancer and blindness are but two brush strokes in our portrait; they are not our portrait.  They are one frame of reference through which we think, feel and make decisions.  Where a stranger says, “Funny, you don’t look blind,” a friend says, “I don’t think of you as blind.”  The closer we come, the more we see, in ourselves and in one another.

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6 Responses to I Don’t Think of You as Blind

  1. Kent Flodin says:

    Well said, brother.

  2. Perfect! Couldn’t have said it better.

  3. Roger James says:

    Very good.

  4. bethfinke says:

    I am sometimes tempted to reply, “Funny, I don’t think of you is able bodied.”

    Sent from my iPhone, aren’t you impressed?

    >

  5. Susy Clark says:

    Beautiful.

  6. Andrea says:

    Your words capture and express my feelings and experiences perfectly. Thanks, Jeff!

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