Monday, July 4, 2011

Amazing Grace, How Sweet The Sound

Was blind, but now I see.

I walk arm in arm with my sons. At an age where it is considered uncool to hold your mother's hand, arm, hand my two do not hesitate. As we walk we talk. "Did you hold Nanna's hand when you were our age, Mum?"

"Yes" I answer, then begin to laugh.


And so I tell them. My mother had severe sight issues from my first memory. She, her best friend and my Grandmother had sat for hours in her terrace house childhood home and watched the welders work below in the factory next door. Back then it was not common knowledge that such unprotected viewing would cause permanent and irreversible damage. My mother was the worst affected of the three.

That term... bottle top glasses? Well, those were hers. So thick that her beautiful brown eyes were distorted behind them.

As a teenager in the 1930's she loved going to the beach. It was even more appealing as she could use her sunglasses to hide her vision issues from the coolness of a teenage world. Yes, even back then people with perceived weaknesses were teased, it did not help that she was not only stunning but chronically shy.

As she grew older her sight grew worse. By the time I was a teenager my mother had been considered legally blind for quite a few years.

I grew up walking arm in arm with my mother. I never developed teenage embarrassment, for I knew when we walked together if she did not have hold of my elbow she would trip, fall, be hurt. To the casual observer it merely looked as if our arms were linked in affection (as they were). They did not hear the running commentary between us...
"Kerb, Mum."
Copyright Madmother - 1986
"Ramp, Mum."
"Car coming."

Now to the reason I laughed. As I grew older we always joked I was escorting her nicely limited Mastercard across the road. Once I graduated and hit my middle 20's the joke was switched to her escorting MY Mastercard across the road as the limit was higher than hers.

This was the story I told my children yesterday.

"Wow Mum. You have more than one credit card so we both have to escort you and your purse across the street then!" This from my impish younger. The older just laughed. And both tightly linked their arms a little harder through mine.

I lived my whole life with a loving mother who was sight compromised. Now my very best friend is facing the same. Her children are six and nine (nearly), and she is now classed as legally blind. Retinitis Pigmentosa. A genetic eye condition that causes the light-sensitive retina, located at the back of the eye, to degenerate slowly and progressively.

She is beautiful, positive and a wonderful joy to be around. She cannot see kerbs or stairs or the joy in her children's faces if they are not right next to her.

Like my Mum, she has days when it gets to her, when her dreams of the future are clouded and dim. But, again, like Wise Woman, these are rare.She does not want pity, she wants life. We tend to joke about it, though there are times when laughter does not help.

When she told me of her diagnosis I could tell she was over the pity party others had been throwing for her.

"Okay, so not good?"

"Nope. Didn't want to tell you before, didn't want our friendship balance to be compromised with you feeling sorry for me."

"You just didn't want to tell me all those times we went out and got blind you really were!"

When she stopped laughing...

"Oh hell, I knew I should have told you before the others..."

"Hey, don't worry, at least I have someone to give Mum's talking books to when she's gone."

"Oh, you are bad, seriously bad. Thank you."

See, both these women in my life were alike. Determined, positive, strong. For all my years with my mother I am now able to support, console, listen, arse-kick, and just understand what my friend is going through. And when things get hard I remind her of the 90 year old still managing to do her tax on exel. On a REALLY big computer screen, yes. On the biggest font you can imagine, yes. On the highest view limit available, yes. But still determined and capable. Right up to the end. If you make your mind up you can do anything... it just may be that you have to approach it a different way from before.

Copyright Madmother - May 2011
Oh, and as my friend's credit card limit is higher than mine, I just might have to escort her carefully across busy roads for years to come.


Sarah Mac said...

That really is a truly inspiring story and the message that you can do anything, you may just have to use a different approach is true of so many things in life.

Anonymous said...

Oh T, You know that this made me cry.I am really struggling at the moment.Thankyou for making me smile.Love Belinda.

E. said...

Great post about two great women. And your wonderful caring boys too.

Determined, postiive and strong. What great attributes to have. You have them too.

Anonymous said...

And as your credit card limit is higher than mine I'll help you cross the road. Hang on a minute, I already do - at school anyway. lol Cathy.