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Seeing Through Blindness: Part 1

SEEING THROUGH BLINDNESS: Part 1—Candace Cole-McCrea                  Page 1

During my childhood and young adult years, I was continually troubled by hypoglycemia.  By 1970, it was severe enough to affect my eyes.  I visited the Army hospital where my husband was stationed.  The doctor prescribed some drops for my eyes, warning me to awaken and take them very early in the morning, then to go back to sleep, because the drops would make my sight blurry for a few hours.

I filled the prescription and began the daily early morning practice.  Three days later, when the alarm went off, I lay there crying.  My husband had never seen me crying over something medical, couldn’t understand my not wanting to use the medication.  I tried to explain the time during which my eyes were blurry was getting longer and longer and that, I was having to lay in bed for hours after he went to work, still unable to see.

He coaxed me to put the drops in my eyes.  I did.  Then he stood watching me cry, and, I guess, because I could no longer see him clearly, he studied the bottle and box container that held it.  The next thing I heard was an incoherent scream of fury. He ran from the bedroom, grabbing his clothes as he ran out the door.   I didn’t know what had happened and lay there all morning with blurry vision.

In early afternoon, he returned, still in a fury, and rushed me off to Mass Eye and Ear, a world famous facility in Boston, for the treatment of eye and ear disorders.  I learned that the Army doctor had prescribed .10 percent drops for my eyes but the pharmacist had filled the prescription at 10.0 percent.  I had an emergency appointment at Mass Eye and Ear, a medical speciality center in Boston.   I was told that my eyes were damaged beyond repair, that the optic nerves were burned,  that I was now legally blind and the situation would get worse due to inflammation.  There was nothing they could do.

For the next couple of days, I tried to see everything up close that I could still see.  I wanted to remember everything for the rest of my life.  It got harder and harder to see.  My eyes hurt so much to even try.  Light became extremely painful.  I  could not be consoled.  My husband was enraged. (I can’t even imagine what he was going through).  When he returned to work,  I was frantic and hysterical.  I had always felt that my life wasn’t too bad even though my legs didn’t work well, because I had my eyes and my hands, so I could still do a lot of things—still contribute to the world of others around me.  Now I was losing my sight.  I grieved and feared.  I did not know how to be a crippled blind woman in a society that would see no value in my life.  I had never heard of people so disabled that lived lives of meaning and value.  I grieved.



Seeing Through Blindness: Part 1—Candace Cole-McCrea            Page 2

I telephoned my brother, Rick.  He heard me crying and asked what was wrong.  My response, which I recall exactly, as if it were today, was, “Eric, I’m blind”.  There was silence on the other end of the phone.  No quick joke.  No nothing.   Silence.  Then more silence.  Then more silence.  Then it hit me.  My brother’s jokes were a way of defending himself from my pain and what I had just thrown at him cut so deeply that he could not adapt and defend. There was no joke, not even any words…only silence.  The shell of self pity cracked.  My brother’s pain broke through my  indulgence of self.   For the first time in weeks, I felt for someone outside of myself.  I felt for my brother.

“Eric, I will be ok,” I stated emphatically.  “I will be ok.  I will learn how to live with this.  I can do it.  I will be ok.  I know I will.  Don’t worry.  I can handle this and keep living.  I will be ok.”  I kept trying to defuse the heartbreak of my brother.  Still silence.  I tried again.  “I will be ok.  There are lots of other blind people.  I will be ok.”

Miraculously, in trying to ease his pain, to see from his perspective, to feel his emotions,  Strength and will blew back into my heart and soul as if infused directly from a higher realm.  Tears and self- pity ended and I was reborn.  Through caring more for him than for myself, I was released from my own hell, even while still physically blinded and crippled.

I  began to learn to live again.   Over time,  I learned to sew, knit, crochet, clean house again.  I found joys in sounds and smells and touch, though some of life was very hard.  As time went on, I lost photographic memories of what I held most dear.  I could no longer remember exactly what sky looked like, its colors, tones, hues.  I could not remember leaves blowing in the wind.  I could not remember the panorama of the sea.   I could not remember how anything looked that I could not touch.  I could not remember colors.  My world shrank smaller and smaller  which separated me more and more from people around me.

 I was also on crutches often.   When I went anywhere, I heard people talking about the poor cripple who was blind.  My marriage became a more  dangerous  relationship of escalated rage and violence towards me, rather than a marriage based on companionship and joy . For me, it was a life of terror; for him a life of rage.  He had been cheated out a having an obedient servant-wife.

Yet the worse grief of all was still there trying to consume me.  While I could enjoy hearing my toddler son playing, while I could hold him and love him, I could not see him across the room, doing things that toddlers do.  I grieved not seeing  the treasures of moments that parents are blessed to experience.    I wanted to experience my son.  I wanted my husband’s love.  I wanted to see. 

Seeing through Blindness: Part 1—Candace Cole-McCrea                Page 3

I found myself alone in my little family, my extended family, my community, and society at large.   I was too wounded and that made others  uncomfortable.  I was alone.  I was crippled and blind and regularly locked in an upstairs bedroom so no one would have to see me.  Battering, which had begun early in my marriage, became much more frequent. 

Then life got even harder.  Slowly I lost photographic memories of what I held most dear.  I could not remember exactly what the sky looked like, its colors, tones, hues.  I could not remember leaves blowing in the wind.  I could not remember the panorama of the sea.  I could not remember how anything looked that I could not touch.   I could not remember colors.  My world shrank smaller and smaller and I became more and more lost and separated from the world around me.  It nearly drove me mad with grief…with isolation.  More and more of life I could not share with others because I could not even remember…