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How to torture the blind

I hope I won’t be giving you pointers if you are (God forgive) into that twisted sort of cruelty like the person in the movie “Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte.”

And please don’t read this if you have ever pulled the wings off dragonflies or tied a tin can to a dog’s tail. Most of these kinds of torture are perpetuated by well-meaning, adoring children. Then there is the unintentional torture for people like me by friends and house cleaners.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have cried and cursed trying to restore my environment to something not nightmarish after a self-sacrificing person has just been there to “help” me. Tears stream down my face as I struggle breathlessly to reopen windows hopelessly stuck shut or, worse, try, try and try to replug anything electric, like toasters and coffee grinders. I asked my 97-year-old sister, who is also blind, what the most efficient torture was for her and she said, “Move something 2 inches.”

When you have macular degeneration, people are apt to accuse you of pretending to be blind. They say things like, “Didn’t you see that?” or “Look at this!” or the worst, “Please sign here.”

One person in my family who really tried to grasp my fate is my little 3-year-old Lucy. She put her hands over her eyes and said, “Grammy are you blind like this?” I spread her delicate little fingers apart and said, “Not quite darling, more like this.”

After many years of living with this maddening kind of blindness we grow accustomed to the dark, as Emily Dickenson put it, and adapt to getting around pretty well with our moving peek-hole sight. We catch glimpses out of the corner of our eyes. As my sister put it, “We can see anything, except what we look at.”

One needs to break the habit of looking at people in the face, for only a white blur appears when you meet someone face to face. If you live closely around people you can catch glimpses of them enough to recognize them. However, on the first few meetings it is impossible to grasp what anyone looks like. At best, this agonizing attempt to find out who the hell they are annoys them and, at worst, sends away possible friends.

When you are old it is necessary for those who love you to clear away the clutter of your life. Your life’s work fades into oblivion and all things pass as “the flower that once has blown for ever dies” by Omar Khayyam.

Help us hold on to the tiny bit of dignity we have left in which nothing changes and you can reach out your hand for your tea cup ... and find it still there.

Phyl Kerns is a member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.




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