At 28 my mother was completely blind. I was 11 and my brother was 6. The year before, as she was losing her sight, if my dad wasn’t able to get off work to take her to a clinic appointment, it became my job. We lived in Boston, so the good thing was that public transportation was convenient.
For a little girl, I had a big job. To get my Mom to the clinic safely, not letting her trip on a stair, bump into anything or have any accidents. I didn’t always count the stairs correctly or keep her from bumping into something, but I did the best that I could.
What I disliked the most was people staring at us. I hated it… however, we were always offered a seat on the train or bus.
I became my mother’s new set of eyes. Reading her the mail, the stories in magazines that she liked…many of the same ones I watched her read when she could see. I wrote all of her letters, business and the ones to friends.
One of my favorite things was going to the Hallmark store and reading different cards to her until she found something she liked. I became a connoisseur of greeting cards. Sometimes I think that my passion for writing was ignited from my reading and writing for her.
When my mother went blind she was offered classes to help her adapt to her new way of life. I remember a woman coming to teach her braille, a system of writing for the blind consisting of raised dots that can be interpreted by touch. Mom, for reasons I don’t remember, didn’t continue with that. She didn’t want to have a see and eye dog or learn to use a cane.
My mother, however, never stopped taking care of our home. She continued to cook, clean, wash and iron clothes, and people still commented on how good she looked. Nails, hair, clothes…never lost a beat! She also became my dad’s secretary when he started his own business.
With my mother’s blindness came safety proofing the house; making sure there was nothing on the floor she could trip over. Cabinets had to be shut so she didn’t bang her head or bump her leg. It was important to not rearrange things unless she did it because touch and familiarity was critical for her… and cleaning…well she checked you’re cleaning by running her hands over the surface of what you cleaned, if she felt dirt or grit on it …you, were in trouble. You’d be surprised at how clean a surface looks until you run your hand across it. Try it sometime.
It’s amazing how God increases tenfold the senses you do have, when one is lost. My mother could hear a bug pee on cotton, smell you a mile away… and count her money, coins and bills. She developed a method for everything.
When clothes shopping, she would describe what she wanted and tell you the colors she was looking for. The rest was touch…the feel of a fabric, the cut, the placement of the buttons or zipper. The details please…just the details. If she wanted to see you, she’d asked to feel your face…she would cup your face in her hands and then gently and slowly glide her fingers over your face, taking in each detail… the shape of your nose, fullness of your cheeks, thickness of your lips, your ears, the texture of your hair, and your voice. Together, like a puzzle, they created her picture.
My mother has long passed away, funny…I still find myself conscious of open cabinets and doors, be it my home or anyone else’s, and I still run my hand across things after I clean.
My fear as a young person was that I would be blind by thirty… thankfully, thirty came and went.
I sometimes wonder…if I had to lose one of my senses, which would it be? I love the smiles I see on my grandchildren’s faces when they greet me, and the awesomeness of watching the sunrise over the ocean. I look forward to hearing the birds sing as I do my morning walk and feel the crisp spring breeze on my cheeks, the smell of homemade oatmeal cookies in the oven make my day and an evening of drinking ginger tea with a good book is soothing.
There is nothing I’d want to give up, so… I just keeping thanking God every day that my senses are all intact. I honor them.