This being Mother’s Day, I’d like to share some memories with you. This is Part 1.
How do you explain blindness to a two-year-old? You don’t. You don’t need to. As a mother of a son and a daughter and a grandmother of five granddaughters, I have some memories pertaining to my blindness I’d like to share with you.
I don’t recall explaining why I couldn’t see to either of my children. Because they grew up with a mother with very limited sight(as a result of retinitis pigmentosa), that was the normal for them. One parent couldn’t see so well, and the other could see just fine. So when it came to reading notes from school , teaching them how to ride a bike, or driving, it was their dad who took care of that. When it came time for changing a diaper, kissing a booboo or making dinner, that was my department, and blindness was not an issue. It wasn’t even a consideration. I have my husband’s positive attitude to thank for that.
One of my favorite stories to tell is about how Steve, as a 3-year-old, would make sure I knew where he was at all times. when he was outside playing, I followed him around, so I could keep an ear on him. “I’m over here Mommy,” he would call.” “Now I’m over here,” he would shout as he ran to the next toy or piece of playground equipment. It was I who took him to swimming lessons, although I didn’t know how to swim myself,. But I could hold him in the water and encourage him to blow bubbles or jump off the side of the pool while I held onto him, just like all the other mothers. It was I who pulled him in the wagon on the sidewalks around our neighborhood, with my very limited vision. Although my sighted husband read to him, I looked at the books with him as he placed my hands on the pictures. When he came home from kindergarten with a picture he had drawn, he would instruct me on where to touch it, and then I’d ask him to tell me about the picture.
When Kara came along, he adopted the very important role of being a big brother. We lived in a split-level house, and when we were upstairs, and Kara was in her little walking contraption called a Hula-coop, Steve would lie on the floor at the top of the steps and proclaim, “I’ll betect her Mommy.”
As a little girl, Kara learned from her brother that when she showed something to me, she needed to put it in my hand and that pointing to something or shaking your head wasn’t going to work. Her vocabulary, like Steve’s was more advanced than her peers, because they both grew up learning to use words at all times. They both learned to read at an early age, because by the time they were of school age, I had been asking them to help me read the labels on canned goods. I particularly remember asking Kara to help me pick out a can of chicken noodle soup. At that time, I hadn’t yet learned how to be a blind person and mark my cans with braille. “What letters do you see on this can?” I would ask four-year-old Kara.
“Well, there’s a stick that goes up and down with a hat on it. Then there’s a circle.” Okay, that must be tomato soup, and we’d go on to the next can. “This one has a half of a circle, and then the next one is two sticks with a line in the middle.” Aha. the chicken noodle soup.