October is Blindness Awareness Month.
So, what does that mean? Blindness … awareness? It means to know; to be more conscious. How can we be more conscious of blindness? I’ll share with you what I have come to know.
When the ophthalmologist first shined light into Ellie’s eyes and she had no response, the light in my heart went out just as quickly as he clicked his and put it back in his pocket. I was devastated. I thought — she’d never, we’d never, it’s all over — that’s honestly what I thought.
I imagined blind beggars along street sides. Memories flashed of clouded-blue eyes, unkempt hair, and missing teeth. I mentally replayed Helen Keller jokes — I myself giggled at as a high-schooler — now mocking my own ignorance. I imagined my baby reaching into the dark, and as an adult reaching into that same dark unknown … with fear.
Looking back I feel shame. I was ignorant. I feel the same way remembering how shocked and amazed I was when a friend told me she knew a completely independent lawyer who was blind. And when I learned of blind men and women with PhDs, and Dr., and Rev. at the front or ends of their names. But in feeling embarrassment and guilt, I have to realize that life … just works like that. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to feel silly, and awkward, and to feel like (for lack of a more appropriate word) an idiot from time to time. I will go as far as to say that it is good for us. It means we don’t know everything, and that we’re still open to learning. And that is important, especially when it comes to learning how alike we all truly are.
(We see daily how easy that — what connects us even when we may seem different — is to forget.)
To our dismay, but also lucky for us, our experience takes us down paths of unknowns and drives us deeper into them. We find ourselves stuck, lost, unsure, road-blocked, maybe even “searching in the dark.“ But eventually, we find a way out and we emerge from that darkness unscathed. Fearless. Empowered. Aware.
The fact of the matter is that after nearly three years of growing with this child, it is me — not her — who had to eventually crawl out of the muck of it. That supposed awful “darkness” had only affected me. It was I who felt grief, depression, longing, attachment to my own fantasies about how being a parent, having a kid, and … being a person was “supposed to be.”
I had to let go of all of that. I had to drop the story lines. And it was … easy. Because look what she’s been up to at age two:
These days, I gently remind myself: “This is her life. Right now, this is her childhood.” And I smile as I listen to her hum as she plays in her room.
Remember yours, Sarah?
Summers outdoors lying in the sun, swimming, humming to the tune of cicadas. Winters stomping in the snow, watching the Christmas lights beneath the tree, the smell of cinnamon and pine. The scratchy feel of my dad’s beard against my cheek, and the never-ever-to-be-replaced-feel of my mom’s hand on my forehead.
This is hers, too.
Her joy, her sadness, her love, her anger, her curiosity, her stubbornness, her intelligence, her sassiness, her uncanny sense of humor — and one day — the dreams she will have and attain for her life, her career, her family are all very … human.
This is what blindness awareness means to me: the experience of sight is not the pinnacle of human existence. Love is.