I was diagnosed with early onset macular degeneration a few years ago. I knew there was a chance of excess fluid developing, which would lead to blindness. I knew to watch for wavy lines when I read. I read every single day. There were no wavy lines heralding the onslaught of vision ending fluid. Without seeing those wavy lines, I was safe. Or so I thought.
One day, I couldn’t read the clock at the pool. Another day, as was driving, I noticed blurriness when I looked in the distance. I thought I needed to clean my contact. It was optimistic thinking. The vision specialist has determined that scar tissues has covered my retina, blocking my vision. Surgery is possible, though there are many complicating factors and the risks are high.
I am told I will need to make adaptations. They don’t know that I have been making adaptations for several years. I try not to drive at night. I need a lot of light, always. I’ve traded out lamps and light fixtures for ones with more lights. I collect 150 watt light bulbs like a hoarder. I have learned to enjoy audio books and podcasts. I use the microphone to dictate texts on my phone though it makes a mess of my words, auto correcting nonsensically. I enlarge the print to read on my electronic devices. My I Pad, with its lit screen, is my new best friend.
There is such irony in this. I have big, beautiful blue eyes. Everyone has always said my eyes are my best feature. Strangers comment on the shade of blue. My friend’s husband called me ” Blue Eyes” for years, though I never knew if it was a term of endearment or he just couldn’t remember my name. My eyes were once the source of cheesy pick up lines, ” I could just sink into those baby blues and lose myself.” Now, I am the one losing myself.
I don’t know what it is like to be blind. I am terrified of not being able to read. I don’t want to lose my ability to drive, with the lack of freedom that will entail. I can’t imagine not being able to see flowers, or the lake, or the capital building when it is beautifully lit at night. Will I be able to see my future grandchildren’s faces as I snuggle them close, or will I need to be content to smell their sweet baby smell and hold their tiny, sticky fingers?
I still have sight in my right eye. Until one day, I won’t. It could be tomorrow, or next year, or in five years. The fluid will come, filling my macula like a dam that overflows, flooding the channels and the nearby land. Or scar tissue will do its damage, as it already did in the other eye.
I don’t know how to be blind. How will I browse and download audio books? Will I learn to ride the bus? Can I still swim laps if I can’t follow the blue line at the bottom of the lane? What about using a white cane? Will I get a service dog, maybe a Golden Retriever? I swore I would never get another dog after putting down our beloved Golden, Molly.
Perhaps I will slip into weltschmerz, a feeling of grief and melancholy suffered by those who realize that reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. I learned the word from Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, a television show, which like other television shows, I will one day no longer be able to see. I have plans and dreams left unfulfilled, will losing my vision result in my life falling short of my expectations? My ancestors are German, am I destined to embody this most pessimistic German feeling?
How do you get ready to be blind? There are probably classes and support groups. I’ve never needed to know. If there is anything that having three college degrees has taught me is that I am a great learner. My sister e-mailed me, ” …..I have complete confidence that you will research it, consider all options, ask the right questions, review the pros/cons and do the right thing in the end. Then I know that you will share the lessons you took from the experience on your blog, helping give perspective to others. A negative can become a positive. ” She knows me better than I thought.
She is right of course, that is exactly what I will do. When in doubt, research. It is the academic’s specialty. I am good at it. I may be of German descent, but weltschmerz is not like me. I am smiling through my tears.
I may not be able to change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust the sails.