I confess, I am on Facebook. I love it, and hate. I have never been comfortable with sharing feelings and emotions, and let us not even go to horrifying physical ailments, yet many people find it irresistible to share these things on the net. Newsflash, your real friends already know that stuff about you, and do not need to be reminded. The up side is you do get to reconnect with people from your past, learn about where their lives led them, good or bad. It also opens a person up to meeting new friends, and joining groups with similar experiences to your own. One group I joined is a Stargardt’s group. People from everywhere who are dealing with the same genetic condition that I have. I am always amazed by how similar our stories are. One experience is finally surrendering to “the cane.”
It sounds so easy, I mean it’s just a tool to help you, right? What is the big deal? Well those things are only said by the people who have sight (Bless your Little Hearts.) In my early 40’s I began noticing my “blind spots” and I began doing all I could to disguise that I was seeing less. That means I faked it. I learned how to cheat eye tests, pretended to read papers handed to me, stopped going out after dark because that was the worst time for me, began memorizing floor plans and distances, finding land marks every where to help me. When I failed at the masquerade, which began happening much more often, I would just make a joke and act like it was no big deal, “Just getting old I guess.” I let my world get smaller. I didn’t want to be that blind guy. I would not give in.
I had my reasons, we all do. I would not be able to keep my job. I would be left with no income. Retirement is still years away. What little savings I had were pitiful. My wife. My Children. My mortgage. My insurance. I was convinced my relationships with friends would change. I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t want to be treated different. I would be a burden, always dependent on others. All this and more plays over and over in your head like an endless roller-coaster. I somehow convinced myself that if I fought hard enough it would stop. Not get better, just stop where it was, and I could live with that with all my little tricks and lies.
One day I was driving down to the corner. Without knowing it, my truck went off the road and I was in a field. That was my rock bottom moment. My driving days were over. It was too hard to do. Too many close calls, and now I couldn’t even see the road. Without being able to drive, the job I had was no longer possible. I was lucky to have not hurt other people up to this point, but I realized it would be only a matter of time. I was tripping over everything, I had cuts and bruises everywhere. Too many people were asking me too many questions. I was consumed with hiding instead of trying to live. The idea that I could beat this thing now seemed crazy, useless, and selfish. I needed help. I needed to learn. I hate change, but this time I couldn’t stop it.
So you can look at it two ways. I either gave up, or did what I had too. I walk with a cane. I am out, and it is obvious. No more hiding it. No more tricks. That damned cane identifies me, I am Visually Impaired. It is the first thing others see when they look at me. I can sense the attitude sighted people have towards me. I can feel people looking at me, it’s a blind thing. Complete strangers ask to help me, I don’t need help, I need to do it myself. I get asked stupid questions. People talk louder at me as if talking louder will help me to see. I’m blind, not deaf.
There is an up side to using that tool called a cane. My world is not so small. My training taught me that I can walk out my door and find where I need to go. I get to go to the front of the line at airports, pissing off all the people standing in line. That always puts a smile on my face. Walmart (Satan-ville) door guards never ask to see my receipt. When I am walking somewhere, people move out of my way. People don’t seem upset if I can’t remember their name, I just say “I don’t recognize your voice.” The strangers I meet seem less likely to argue with me no matter how hard I try to trigger them. Without my cane none of this would happen.
Sometimes I hate it, and sometimes I love it. Either way that red and white tool is now a part of me, and I take it everywhere. When I think back now about how long I fought it, how long I faked it, how long I lied, it seems so unproductive. The disease I have is a one way road. It might take a while to get to ya, but it only leads to one place, there is no treatment, no cure. I would have been much better off to prepare for the inevitable. I should have accepted my fate and put my energy into making my situation better. Locutus of Borg (Yes I am a Star Trek Geek) said it best, “RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”