The eight-hour cancer surgery went well, and Gayle was in recovery when she began to experience headaches and limited vision. “A short time later,” in her own words, “I experienced blackness in my vision and…that’s when the lights went out; I was left in total darkness!”
A severe drop in blood pressure had caused optic nerve damage, and Gayle Diltz was left completely blind.
I was reading The Little House That Cares, a book about people who are blind. Some suddenly became blind and some were born blind.
As I wrote in a previous blog, the question haunted me. How do you learn to read Braille or walk with a cane if blindness overtakes you quickly, as it did with a couple of the people in the book? I stood up from reading and closed my eyes. I tried to walk into the kitchen to get a drink of water, but I couldn’t do it. I immediately got disoriented and nervous.
It gave me an idea though. I would buy some of those eye patches and make myself blind for a day – or an afternoon. I really wanted to see what it would be like.
So now, here I was, standing at the stove making lunch with patches on my eyes. I could hear a slight change as the soup began to bubble, and it definitely felt warm when I carefully waved my hand over the top of the pot. This was really scary! How would you know if it was going to boil over? What if you couldn’t find the handle to turn off the stove? And how in the world could you clean up the mess?
I know it can be done. Gayle Diltz and others told about taking classes at the VIPS center in Modesto. They learned how to cook, sew, and even iron. They also teach you to use the computer, learn Braille, walk with a cane, and many other skills.
Right now I was feeling insanely insecure about pouring my soup into a bowl and carrying it to the table. I wasn’t even completely secure about bringing the spoon to my mouth.
John didn’t help me, but he was always nearby. He did use a felt pen to give me beautiful wide eyes with lovely long lashes. He had insisted I do my experiment when he was home. (I guess he didn’t want me to drive to the Post Office with patches on my eyes.)
After lunch I managed to wrap the books I was shipping that day. John drove me to the Post Office. As we walked, I held his arm above the elbow, just as Ron Freitas had shown me. I wore dark glasses, so the patches didn’t show, but I’m afraid my apprehensive shuffle did attract a little attention. Mitzi, at the window of the post office, was not a clerk I know very well. She was too polite to say anything, but John said she kept staring at me in the most quizzical way!
When we got home a group of people were gathered on my neighbor’s porch having a few beers. They fell silent, staring as John helped me out of the car. “Is she alright?” They all thought I was hurt, or that I’d had a few too many beers myself.
I sometimes see a certain blind man walking down the street when I’m out for my walk. He walks with a natural gait and seems to know exactly where he’s going. He even seems to know exactly where I am when we pass each other and say hello. Amazing. I think of Ron playing guitar, giving me a tour of his home, and demonstrating the Braille writer. I think of Gayle learning to cook, sew and iron.
My admiration knows no bounds!
Sometimes I feel like I could never learn all those things if I became blind. It scares me to death! But then I center my thoughts and think of the VIPS and all the other people who probably thought they could never learn. And most of all, I remember the fact that God gives boundless grace, wisdom and strength to those who need it – and He does so at exactly the time it is needed.
January 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm
What a brave experiment! I have a couple of blind friends from church and they can do so much you barely think of their physical challenge. It’s amazing how quickly something we take for granted can be taken from us as it was with Gayle. By the way, I think the lady at the Post Office must have been admiring your lovely felt-marker eyes visible under the dark glasses . . . 😉