Fear Without Sight

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When you think of your biggest fears, what do you imagine?

I see a tiny street below the skyscraper I’m standing atop; the night sky and tumultuous waves all around me, on a tiny raft; a dark figure-less spirit, a shark, and a creepy clown. Wait, now the shark is dancing around in a clown costume …*whips out a wand* … “Riddikulus!” (Harry Potter anyone?)

Do any of you imagine a scary sound? Something strange felt by your hands? An ominous feeling around you?

I ask because I am an extremely visual person. I don’t know that I could be anymore visually reliant, dependent, or obsessed. This makes it very hard for me as a parent of a child who cannot see (or at least cannot see as most of us do). Trying to think of the way Eleanor experiences things has turned my world completely upside-down. Even the process of trying to imagine how Eleanor perceives is in itself a wholly visual experience, as I imagine visually the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and feelings she experiences, because I associate those things with color, waves of light, and visual memories. Having a blind daughter makes all previously understoodas-scientific-truth empirical knowledge learned through sight completely senseless and worthless. With her, I am relearning how to learn, understand the world, and live within its chaos and perplexities.

This all comes to mind because, I mean, who would have ever imagined that some kid who thinks he’s a dinosaur would run up to and growl LOUDLY at your child? Not this first-time mom. Didn’t expect it when he walked in with his dinosaur figurine that was half the size of his body (obviously there is some sort of brimming obsession if you are willing to lug that thing around), didn’t expect it when he turned away from his grandmother with his hand held in the shape of a tiny T-Rex arm and secretly whispered a cute baby dino growl at me, and definitely didn’t expect it when I made the idiotic mistake of mimicking said actions with my own version of a TriCERAtops (’cause that’s what I’d be.) Yeah … that was an open invitation to a repressed dinosaur addict. I don’t think anything could have kept him from running across the room and giving us a dose of his uninhibited version of the rainy scene in Jurassic Park.

Eleanor, of course, instantly started bawling. And my heart sank. And then, I was baffled. I couldn’t think of any way to reassure her. I advanced toward the thought, but quickly realized that I couldn’t simply point to the kid and say, “Looksee! It’s just a boy. Just a silly boy being silly. See he’s just pretending!” No. No, to her the scary loud roar will remain a mystery. A strange, unexpected occurrence that she may or may not continue to associate with the already frightening experience of going to the numerous doctors offices and hospitals we frequent. A flash of images flood my mind. I see her as an older child screaming in fear, crying, confused, lost. My body tenses, and I hold her tightly. How will I ever keep her safe, reassure her? Will she learn to trust others, herself, life’s unexpected and unprecedented events?

When we got home, I sat her down to play, and she didn’t hold her head in sorrow or seem struck with fear, she simply turned on her music, wiggled her feet and hands, and moved her head as if it were the embodiment of the dance of a conductor:; she swayed perfectly to the rhythm, completely immersed in song.

Today, Eleanor had a needle poked into her thigh, her eyes squeezed open by a strange-smelling man, and a dinosaur roar in her face. And none of it permanently phased her.

I know she’ll be okay.

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One comment

  1. Erin McGuire

    This is beautiful. I love your comment about relearning how to learn. You are such an inspiration, even for someone who doesn’t have any children. Your strong will to educate yourself and to soak up every inch of each day is wonderful! You are lucky to have such an awesome baby, and she’s lucky to have you guys :))

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