As most of you know, I lost my vision back in the summer of 2010. I lost it due to the collapse of the main artery that supplies the retina to my right eye, which is my only eye. I lost my other eye to a childhood bout with cancer at the ripe old age of five months. I grew up feeling just as adequate as any other kid, mainly because that’s the way I was looked at and treated by my family. I didn’t know any different and tackled just about everything that came my way with the same aggressive passions that any adrenalin filled kid would. I jumped and rolled and hopped and climbed and threw and caught and dove and swam and fished and rode bikes and gathered up a fistful of cuts, dings, abrasions, and bruises, right along with the best of them. I never thought about having a handicap, and certainly never thought that if I indeed did, that it would slow me down in any way. I just never thought about it, until I got into middle school and then everything changed. I was instantly aware that I had one eye, and I was also ferociously aware that I looked different than the other kids did. I had abnormal bone growth around my orbital areas, around my eyes, from the side effects of the radiation that I received as an infant to battle the cancer, and although I had always thought of myself just as good as any other kid, I began feeling inadequate and abnormal, especially around the new kids in the new schools. I had never been self conscious in the past, and although I knew about the non growth of the bones around my eyes, it didn’t matter much, because, you see, I was too busy being a kid. I had way too many things to think about, and too much fun to have. It all seemed like fun to me. The more I did, the more I realized how much there was to do, the more fun I had at doing things, all things, every thing, and I was able to learn quickly and did them all with the same confidence that I learned from my parents and siblings.
In middle school, I started wearing my hair longer and close cut around my eyes to hide the abnormalities, or at least I thought I was hiding them. The ridicule and names and taunting soon followed, and through it all, I was still able to play sports and build up a pretty good base of friends. I couldn’t get away from the fact though, that I considered myself as the ugly duckling. It always saved a place in the corner of my mind to constantly remind me that I was different.
I always had 20/20 vision in my eye, and never needed glasses, although the eye doctors always told me that it would be beneficial for me to wear safety glasses to protect my good eye. I never did though. Glasses just seemed too cumbersome for me in my youth and actually obstructed a certain part of my field of vision, which I hated. I just couldn’t do anything with them on. I had good peripheral vision, but once again, it was from one eye only, and the glasses really hampered my coordination.
Over the years, my eyesight did get worse, and around 2000 it was determined that I should wear corrective lenses. With my abnormal growth, insufficient growth of orbital bone, I could never find a pair that I felt comfortable wearing though, and never did get the prescription filled. I would usually go into a discount store and buy some pairs of the cheap dollar reading glasses, as I was becoming very near sighted, or far sighted. I can never remember which one it is. I could not read things close up. So, whatever that description is, I had it.
The vision got worse and worse through the 2000’s, and I was up to buying glasses with a 4.0 magnification level. Even that left things a tad blurry, but it was manageable. I had to wear them all the time at work to be able to read invoices and computer screens, and eventually was found with a pair hanging around my neck, 24/7.
Of course that all changed in 2010. My glass wearing days were instantly over. My whole life took a left turn that summer, and I was left with basically, no useable vision, other than to maneuver around our house and property. I knew where all the familiar landmarks are and am able to do fairly well getting around at home, but you get me out and about, and I am left to rely on either a sighted guide, or my cane and a friendly voice.
During those first few days of my loss of sight, I was at Tufts in Boston. The first morning there, the nurse came in and helped me to the rest room. I had just woken up from a few hours of sleep. I remember walking through the hall to the rest room, the visions I was seeing were incredible. I was seeing things as if I was looking out through a window pane and it was raining outside. The images were dripping down in front of me, almost as though they might have been hot wax, melting, or something of that nature. It was wicked weird, and very scary. I held one hand on the hallway wall and said, “Holy s#*t, this is freekin weird.” The dripping views soon disappeared and I was sent back into my dull murky waters again. Two mornings later when I was back at home, I experienced similar effects when I woke up and slowly made my way through the living room. The furniture was melting and dripping down in front of me and I couldn’t get over the feeling that this was my vision, dripping away to a place where it would never return from. I only had those experiences those two mornings, and although as weird and scary as they were, I would give anything to be able to have that kind of sight now. If only I knew. If only I could have done something, but, as I also know, there was not anything I could have done then, nor is there anything I can do now, except to accept what I have and move on with it.
Later that summer, my wife and I were sitting out in front of the garage. We were having a lawn sale and it was rather quiet. We were sitting in resin chairs in front of the overhead garage door, when she said, “Look at this and tell me what you see.”
I instantly slipped out a sarcastically rude remark such as, “I can’t see anything, remember?” I still do tend to go into those awful mind swells from time to time.
Anyway, I looked over towards her and tried to see something, anything. I said, “I can’t see anything, sorry.” She said, “Try harder, and keep looking. I’ll hold it right in front of you.”
Well, I kept looking and searching and trying to make out something, anything at all. I can not see anything in my direct line of sight, and to the left. Everything in this area is black as night. I have a crescent moon shaped area to the right of my center vision where what little I can see is clearer than any other area in my field of vision. They call it, “temporal vision”, and it is common among those who have suffered strokes or blood flow supply to the retina being cut off for an extended period of time. I continued searching, trying to concentrate on this area of sight, when, all of a sudden, there it was. There was a brown and black, and yes, a white thing in front of me. I continued to scan left, then right, then up and down as I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. What could it be? What on earth was I getting snippets of? What the hell could it possibly be?
I continued to move back and forth along the image as she continued to urge me on. Finally, after a few seconds, I put all of the pieces together. I started crying. It was a picture of our Bubby. Our beagle boy. Our little poop-a-doo Bubbzes.
I cried as I saw his photo. I remembered the picture, having taken it myself just a few months prior. It was my little Popo, and he was looking at me.
We had our beagle Fletcher, our Bubby, put down earlier that spring, and with that special place in my heart that he was still clinging tightly to, seeing him like that, searching and trying and scanning and straining to see what it was, well, to finally realize that it was him, I lost it. I started crying like a blind man with a picture of a beagle in front of him.
I had two or three other times that summer and fall when things would pop into sight for a few seconds. I saw my son’s features one day at a beach in Stockton Springs. I looked up, and suddenly, there he was, but he looked like a charcoal painting.
I saw my grandson one day, standing on a bridge. My wife had picked him up and brought him over to me. I looked and looked until I could see his eyes squinting in the sun. He smiled, and I, of course, started crying.
I was able to see a young girl by the name of Yancy Rivera that fall. She was standing on a staircase in front of me at the Carroll Center in Newton. I turned my head and there she was. I saw her every feature. Her face, her body, all of her. I saw it, even but briefly, and it was incredible. She smiled when I said, “Yancy, I just saw you!” She was there, and then she was gone.
And the best of all, late that summer, out back by the dog pen. I was walking along the rope that my wife put up for me to guide me to the pen door when she said, “Hey, look over here and see if you can see me.” I walked over to her with the sun on my back. She said, “Look and see if you can see me. Tell me what I am doing.” So I did. I scanned and searched and looked back and forth. I could see her silhouette, but nothing else. I scanned and scanned and then scanned some more until, wait a minute, hold on a sec, umm.
She came into view. She was there, in the sunlight, smiling, and I could see all of her. Her eyes, her nose, her mouth, and her smiling teeth. It was all there, and it was just like I remembered. I grabbed her and hugged her as we both started to cry. It was a gift from the heavens above, and I will never forget it. The image is burned in my mind. She looked the same to me as the first time I laid eyes on her back in 1979. She looked just the same, and as I hugged her, I felt closer to her, at that time, than any other time in my life.
I hold on to that image to this day. Whenever she is in the room, near me, talking to me, I remember that picture in my mind.
My vision has been going through some major changes these past few months. When I suffered the original strokes back in 2010, I was instantly thrown into a psychedelic arrangement of kaleidoscopes and tumbling checker boards that actually scared the crap out of me. The squares of the checker boards were independent, with lines running through them that were like the natural grains of a wooden board, but they ran in a checkerboard pattern, one in this direction, and the next one in that direction. I really can’t describe it in text the way I want to, so please forgive me. These mind bending displays lasted for the duration of the strokes, usually fifteen minutes or so, until my blood flow returned back to normal and the retina resumed normal function. Unfortunately, after several of these strokes, the vision ended up not returning.
These last few months, I have been having the same wild, wacky images appearing in front of me early in the morning before I get out of bed. I have noticed, with these episodes, my sight is getting worse, slowly but surely. The colors that I usually could see, are growing dull and faded. The sunshine isn’t as bright, and the shine of the chrome doesn’t shimmer as it used to. I know that it’s only a matter of time before I am not able to depend on any part of my vision for any help with my mobility. It’s inevitable, and I know it. I hang on to the dimmed, muddled sight I still have, and pray that I am able to hang on to it until my time here on this big blue spinning marble is over. I am grateful for the visions of my past, and am even more grateful for the sight I still have to this day.
The blues and reds and yellows and oranges are but, for the most part, faded away into the murky seas of my visions past. I can still taste their colors and hold tightly to the feelings that they still remind me of.
I don’t know if there is ever going to be a procedure that would restore some of my vision, but I know that some day soon; I will be able to see again, if not in this world, then surely one that is waiting for me. I have learned a new way to see these days, and it has shown me more about me than anything I had ever known or seen possibly could have. I am able to see things, from the inside, out, and it has introduced me to a whole new perspective that I have never known. A new insight, through all of the blinding obstacles of my sighted past.
I continue to tell you about the incredibly amazingly wonderfully inspirational folks that I have met these past two years. Without their help and guidance, I would not be able to see at all. I would be an angry, frustrated, spiteful billy of a goat, alone and scared, in a room with no windows and one locked door. I would be in a place that I’d rather never be. I’d be a different person with a different outlook on a different life.
I think it would probably be beneficial for me to stay right on the path I’m on for a spell and see what happens.
I’m getting a little hungry. I think I’ll go warm up a bowl of homemade turkey, vegetable and rice soup. Man! I love left-overs!
Ok, who moved the chocolate chip cookies?