Well, as the reality of the last bit of my eyesight saying bye bye is setting in, I guess it's time to eat those words, along with a side of crow, eh? Because, truth be told, I AM scared, which is very hard to admit.
Let me explain this by telling you a story, eh? Umm, I was born a po' gal inna log cabin in Mississi - oops, wrong story, heehee!
All kidding aside, I was born prematurely and almost died at birth. One of the things done in an effort to save my life was to place me in an incubator with lots of oxygen - too much, as it turned out - I lost almost all of my sight.
At age 4, I had my first eye surgery and soon afterward, got my first pair of glasses. At 5, I got my first contact lenses. My doctor, Harold Davis, was a pioneer in fitting very young children with contact lenses; at the time, I was one of the youngest children ever fitted with them.
By age 19, all the docs said that glasses and contacts were no longer of any use to me. It was also at this time that I was diagnosed with glaucoma, given several ronds of various eyedrops, surgeries, and finally, trained to use a white cane.
Though all ths, I boasted that it would be nothing if I went blind because I couldn't miss what I never truly had. To this day, I cannot begin to imagine what it is to see normally. I had to learn by touching that grass was made of individual blades and that trees had individual branches and leaves. I do not know what my face looks like, nor that of my friends'. I cannot tell if people are smiling or scowling at me. Friends are recognized by their "blurs", which, for me, is a combination of their general shape, size, skin and hair color, the way they move, the sound of their wheelchairs or canes and sometimes, a bright piece of clothing that they may wear often.
Still, I never let anything stop me from doing what I want. I travel fearlessly by myself all around the country by bus, train and plane. On the street, I use landmarks as my guides; If I am lost, I'll ask any blur on the street for directions - including, at times, a light post, building pillar, or a tall garbage can - no, really, that HAS happened many times!
I do all kinds of stuff - cook, take pictures, write, teach, play musical instruments, sew, and - my favorite pasttime - read. Indeed, I get around so well that there are those who knew me for a long time, but didn't realize that I had low vision. I'd ditched the white cane years before after being attacked on the street several times, and trained myself to get around without it.
Now that my vision is saying goodbye, so long, auf wiedersehen, good night, I'm feeling rather uneasy, afraid that I might lose the thing I treasure most - my independence - especially since I'm back to using my wheelchair for long distances. How am I going to handle a wheelchair AND a white cane? What about my self-image? I've always cultivated this image of confidence and coolness, walking or sitting tall in my wheelchair with its cool, distinctive colors, so that when people started conversations with me, it was about regular stuff or "I love your wheelchair - do you race?", or "I love your hair, it's so beautiful!"
Scared as I am, though, I got this. I. Got. This. I have a plan in motion to help me keep my independence and coolness! Working with my rehab counselor, we're planning mobility instruction using my wheelchair. When the time comes, I want to apply for a guide dog, hopefully, a large, intimidating breed, so that those with dastardly, dirty deeds on their minds will think three or four times before approaching me! I'll take a cooking class for the blind, take self defense courses, get electronic audio books and learn about tagging my clothes so that I don't look like a fashion disaster when I go out the door. I'll learn to shop by myself so that I don't have to depend on anyone but myself.
Yeah, I got this - totally!