So 10 years ago today, I started losing my eyesight.
This is kind of a weird thing to observe, as part of me is sad of course. Yet, there is this sense of time, and personal accomplishment.
Look. This wasn’t an easy decade. But in the end, I feel like I came out the other side of things stronger and better; resilient and capable of things unimaginable before my affliction.
So like I did a decade ago, I spent this December 19th watching “The Fellowship of the Ring.” When those first spiraling spots set in motion before my left eye, I wondered if I would ever be able to experience a motion picture in the same way again. Over that time, I had to adapt and learn how to observe things differently. I had to use other senses, trust my ears and instincts and let go of that which I could not control. But in the end, all this time later, I still love the scene at the edge of Khazad-dûm, when Gandalf yells, “You shall not pass!” I find the sound design epic beyond words. And I find Samwise Gamgee to be overtly bisexual at the very least.
When my eye failed (My left eye. My right eye was bad when I was born, so I was screwed.), I really worried about losing more than the ability to see. I worried about losing the ability to spell. To keep up with technology. I worried about forgetting how my kids looked. I worried about losing my sense of direction. I worried about my ability to follow my beloved motorsports. I mean, it was really scary. The first time I went to Disney with the family scared the living shit out of me. What happens if I lose them in the crowd? What do I do on a roller coaster? Will I know what’s coming up around the next bend?
Well, I really didn’t need to worry TOO much. Spelling is an ingrained part of our lexicon, I’ve discovered, a part of our mental construct of language itself. Technology – oh my beloved technology – has changed in terms of portability and touch screens and such, but it also allows me to do things like type this blog with text to speech and magnification aids. I am still the family navigator, having guided The Zhen’s on vacations through intense metropolitan areas like New York and San Francisco without GPS, without a problem. And I use a cane in crowds so people understand that I am visually impaired, not drunk. All the while, adopting the philosophy of the ruder people are, the blinder I become… (whack! Sorry, was that your shin?)
I do miss driving. Even more than reading. I would give anything to feel the exhilaration of downshifting at speed. Not to mention the independence of being mobile…
My children have grown and I’ve watched their baseball games through a monocular magnifier, heard their wonderful concerts through undistracted ears and been blown away by the confidence and maturity they’ve displayed in the face of their dad’s eye problems. I know it has been a hindrance from time to time, having to be my “eyes” (“How much time is left on the clock? What down is it?”), but I know it has given them a perspective, a sense of empathy, that couldn’t have been imparted by anecdote alone. They’ve lived it. And I think we’ve all been the better for it in some ways.
And then there’s my wife. My marriage. In the middle of life, here we were trucking along, raising a family and building a “normal” life. It would have been predictably easy for a family, for a marriage, to crumple under the pressure of this sort of thing. But my wife is a rock. Solid. Loyal, Unwavering in commitment to family and to me. I couldn’t have asked for anything better in life. I’ve made dumb decisions over the course of it all, but talking to the redhead was definitely not one of them. She is my light; my eyes.
I am beyond lucky.
Today, in 2011, I can still watch cars race and probably tell you who’s going to need a track bar adjustment at the next pit stop. I can still spell hippopotamus. I will get an iPad to record my next album remotely, at various South Florida locales.
I really never thought I would make it through the Mines of Moria. But here I am, at the base of Mt. Doom, still standing… awaiting my next adventure.