“Can I touch your scar?” she said. High school freshman have anxiety about a lot of things, but I was speechless.
With my father mowing the backyard, his distraction provided my opportunity to pursue my mission. Carefully I scaled the six foot chain link fence to freedom. Successful on my very first attempt, the plan was coming together nicely. I hopped onto my ride and prepared for launch. A brand new 1975 Big Wheel would carry me on the Lion’s Share of the journey to meet up with my girlfriend down the street.
I watched that night’s broadcast of “Little House on the Prairie” along with millions of other viewers, but for me it created an emotional scar that is etched in my memory. That night’s episode was the story where Mary woke up totally blind. Out of all the episodes that could have played on that particular night, it had to be that one. But I’m getting ahead of my story…
I loved the Three Stooges as a kid. I was the dutiful student who got up early, did my homework on Saturday mornings before I could watch my hero, Curly, bounce off walls, walk in circles on the ground, and bark at lifeless objects. So my parents thought when I’d walk into a tree or clothesline, I was just imitating Curly, and they laughed. I did it with such conviction and fearlessness. There wasn’t a pole that I wouldn’t bump into that I didn’t get a laugh from someone.
Leaving early from an Angels game when I was six, my Pop hurried us to get to the car so we could beat the crowd. I walked full force into a parked car and really hurt myself. “Chad, it is getting old. Would you stop already? It isn’t funny anymore,” my father said.
“I wasn’t trying to be funny,” I replied as I picked myself off the ground. “I didn’t see the car.”
“You can’t see that car?” he inquired.
“You can?” I asked.
Children fill in the gaps of their understanding to make sense of the world. I had figured that the reason they didn’t walk into cars, poles, or trees was that they were adults. Some day, I thought, I would reach a level of maturity and be able to see at night too.
My parents scheduled an appointment with an eye specialist. I called out letters on the lighted board, told what numbers or letters were hidden in these bubble pictures, and had a couple of doctors look into my eyes with some device. The doctors explained to my parents that I was Night Blind. Bedside manners and wording with children have come a long way. I had only heard one word and all the pieces of the puzzle were there.
I can still remember how Mary called out, “I’m blind!” in dramatic fashion with her eyes straight in front of her and opened wide to emphasize some sort of stereotypic effect. That night, I filled in the gaps of my misunderstanding. Mary had something happen to her; she woke up the next morning and she was blind. The doctors told my parents something about me being blind but I wasn’t. Without asking anyone, I had concluded that if I didn’t fall asleep, I would not wake up blind like Mary. So I stayed up to the best my little body and mind could muster until sometime in the early morning hours. I woke up with the relief that I was not blind, but the seed had been planted: blindness happens overnight.
The “Little House” storyline really couldn’t have been more damaging from that point. Mary was shipped off to a blind school and got involved with another wide eyed, never blinking guy.
After encouragement from many friends, I began this blog to share my unique perspective on life and the lessons losing one’s sight can bring. Until now, I’ve resisted documenting certain details of my journey from a fully sighted life into a life with blindness. From my perspective, I realize that no matter the experience, the lesson learned Only Makes Me Stronger. The challenges in life Only Make Me Stronger. Whatever life may bring me, I know my reflection on those events Only Make Me Stronger. With this blog,
I will bring you thoughts from experts (Victor Frankl, Malcolm Gladwell, Rick Carson, and many more), as well as perspectives from friends, family, and my guide dog (Perry).
Come with me! Let us find wisdom, explore the possibilities, and keep optimistic. My goal is to spread the maxim that no matter the experience, the opportunity exists to develop coping mechanisms, healthy techniques to avoid known pitfalls, and reframe the experience.