I can tell this bottle of red Gatorade is Fruit Punch, even before I open it. Do you know how I know? I read the label.
Let me repeat that: I read the label.
I pointed my face and the bottle toward one another and the small white letters came into focus.
New Glasses, New Hobby
I have totally been reading all the small print in my house.
After my surgeries, I was in near-total-blackness – but every day the circle of light in front of me got a little bigger. Unfortunately, because of the bruising and swelling and scarring – my glasses were useless. I was “blurry blind” as well as “darkness blind” (I don’t know the real terms).
Thanksgiving came, and with it: Turkey. A lack of vision was not going to deprive me of Turkey Dinner, and turkey sandwiches, and turkey soup, and turkey pudding and turkey shakes, and turkey IVs and turkey subcutaneous implants, and turkey suppositories ( …and then there’s the gravy pipe!)
My wife (not a cook) had to read the recipe cards and pour measurements for me to cook. It was an experience, and the food turned out just fine, but I felt kinda helpless and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t making dinner because I wasn’t doing everything all alone in the kitchen. (Control Freak Much?)
A week after TurkeyDay, I got my glasses. At first it was dizzying. I wasn’t sure i liked it. I felt very tall. Then I saw my wife.
It was the first time I saw her face clearly in months. It lasted ten seconds before I welled up and the tears made everything blurry again.
By the end of the day, the muscles on the sides of my eyes were sore. When I first left the eyeglass shop, it felt like I was stretching them because I was out of practice when it came to looking right and left (but I didn’t let that keep me from doing it).
I spent the day looking at the skyline, the passers-by, and my wife.
That night I grabbed a Gatorade, looked at the label, and instead of just seeing a splotch on the label – I saw the words “Lemon Lime”.
I just kept reading it over and over. “Lemon Lime”.
Holy Shit! What’s that!??!
A week or so ago I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror and I made a discovery. Apparently, I have TWO ears.
Two of them.
My tunnel vision had been so severe that I had only been able to see my second ear at a distance. Getting closer to the mirror made my ear disappear past the edge of my vision. Yet, there it was, plain as day.
I swerved my head back and forth, counting my ears.
One, two. Two ears. Two of them. Do you want me to count them again? Because I can. See? There they are. There’s one… and look! There’s the other one!!
The Aforementioned Ear: Just sitting there, all ear-like.
I’ve been looking through a circle in a square so long, the increase in left/right vision feels like I traded my old beat-up peepers in for some snazzy Widescreen Eyeballs.
Actually, it feels like I’m holding my hands up in front of me, like a director “framing” the action.
It’s not the “return to normal” I was hoping for, but it’s better than anyone was willing to predict six months ago. Plus, it’s like a movie every time I leave the house.
White Cane + Non-Dark Glasses = Confusion
Last night, while doing some Christmas shopping, I wore my dark glasses. I still need to use the white cane when I’m out (I can’t see my feet or the ground in front of me), but when I’m wearing my regular glasses people don’t know how to react.
They stare at my face, then my cane, then my face. You can see how much trouble they’re having resolving what they are witnessing. I wonder if they think I’m only blind from the waist down (or something).
I put on the dark glasses to avoid the hassle, but couldn’t help feeing like a stereotype.
I also felt like I was both a “sore thumb” and invisible at the same time. Half the time I felt like everyone was watching me and judging me as “faking” being blind because I was “obviously looking around”. The other half of the time I was keenly aware that no one was talking to me.
OK, not “no one”, but there was a definite decrease in the amount of small-talk I usually engage in while I’m out and about and there was a lot of scurrying away from my immediate area by my fellow shoppers. In every store people were packed like sardines, except near me. It was like I had a force-field (or body odor).
I’m telling myself it was my imagination. It’s not like this summer in a Texas Wal-Mart. I didn’t hear anyone talking about me.
People were talking about you?
Yeah, a couple of Wal-Mart employees. I had just entered the soda aisle. First I heard the whisper, and then I heard the comment.
…which, by the way, made no sense.
Well, what he said made sense. It just didn’t make sense that he thought I couldn’t hear him. I was standing RIGHT THERE.
At least the first guy whispered. The second guy just started talking about me like he saw the white cane and dark glasses and then thought to himself: Deaf Guy!
Clue: If I’m close enough to hear your friend whispering about me, I’m close enough to hear you speak in a normal volume.
Back to Last Night
Maybe I should walk around like this all day.
By far the most stares I got last night was at Fry’s Electronics. First going up and down the Blu-Ray aisle, picking out movies, and then going to the Video Game section.
When I got there, I purposefully walked into my friend who was already there – repeatedly bumping into her while repeating “Oh, excuse me, pardon me, excuse me, oh I’m so sorry, oh my bad…”
There was a small giggle from the audience and then the show was over. The shoppers moved on.
After I stopped being neurotic about the lookie-loos (no longer caring when people were staring), my night improved. At dinner, when I poured water all over myself (because I didn’t see the waiter refill my glass), I was able to laugh without embarrassment and fully enjoy my friends laughing at/with me.
Boy, I’ve missed that sound.
One other thing
Why do people assume I lost IQ points with my vision? Is that a popular misconception about blind people or do I just look like a dimmer bulb than most?
I think I need to re-read that Blind Myth article again and/or start growing a thicker skin.
If one more person speaks to me in a sing-songy voice like I’m an infant or the victim of severe head trauma then I’m going to smack them with my cane. I’ll drool on myself and babble while I’m doing it. I don’t want to get arrested.
For what it’s worth: Blind people are not mentally deficient, uneducated or deaf. They can understand adult explanations at a normal volume.
(For more tips on dealing with blindies, read this article.)
Happy New Year
So that was the story of my 2009. I’m blinder than I was originally expecting, but not as blind as I almost could have been. How will 2010 be able to top it?