The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
-Psalm 19:1

Do you know that God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash?
-Job 37:15

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A different kind of storm...

Warning to all my weather loving friends: this blog has nothing to do with weather... I just needed to get these thoughts out, and this seemed like the perfect place for it. Feel free to skip this one and check back again tomorrow.

Tonight, I learned some troubling news that has to do with a different type of storm. It deals with my mother... For all of my life, I have lived with a blind mother. It was just my reality, so it was never an issue, but as I write that I realize that there is a common misconception about blindness. So many people think that there are blind people, and then there are sighted people. Not true... visual impairment can be at many varying degrees, resulting from many causes. There are many stages of blindness, and when I was young, my mother was in the early stages. She, at that time was considered legally blind, which loosely translated means that she could not see well, could make out general shapes and colors, but without distinction, similar perhaps to a person with severe nearsightedness without the luxury of correctability. She was born with juvinile macular degeneration (MD)and retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Most people who have either of these eye diseases have one or the other. It is very rare to have both as well as very unfortunate, as one works on the peripheral vision, while the other attacks the central vision. Having both generates a narrow ring of distorted vision... Even more unfortunate is that both of these diseases are progressive, and as time progressed, my mother's vision grew worse... All my life though, she tried to live as a sighted person. Of course, there were the obvious issues... my mother couldn't drive, which made it hard to get us involved in stuff in a town with no public transportation. She had to rely quite a bit on others to get us around and take care of shopping and various other chores. I was adjusted to that reality though. My mother, though blind, lived like a sighted person, and in fact, fooled and awed most people. She got around so well and made such accomedations that I sometimes questioned the extent of her visual impairment. It was really phenomenal, now that I think back. She had systems in place to help her through. We would be her eyes, when it came time to read a menu or directions, or to just desrcibe a scene on television, situations around us. It was second nature to explain things in painted detail. I didn't even realize that I was doing it, most of the time. It was second nature, just a casual part of my reality, but she was able to make those accomedations, and so it was quite natural. People were mostly surprised to learn of her blindness because she didn't fit the stereotypical mold, the dark glasses, cane or seeing eye dog. She actually refused to use those devices, as she considered those crutches, and she could make do without. Unfortunately, over this summer, she started to experience moments where her limited vision would fade in and out, which was disorienting and disturbing to her, but since her mixture of eye disease is so rare, the doctor wasn't certain as to what this might mean. Well, progressively, the fade out times grew longer and longer until eventually during this past week, there was no vision fading back in. My mother has lost total vision in one of her eyes, and the other isn't far behind it. My confident, stubborn mother is now struggling with a new reality... as she can no longer pretend to be sighted. She must now, as difficult as it will be, learn how to live as a blind person. She must now become what she has fought so diligently to overcome. She struggles with this new reality. She has learned that she will have to become the stereotypical blind person with the dark glasses and a cane, and she is not receiving this news well. As I write this I ask you to please include my mother in your thoughts and prayers as she adjusts to her new reality.


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