a month or so ago, my grandma’s good friend barbara became blind pretty much overnight. her family rallied to find a good new living situation for her, since she all of the sudden wasn’t able to live safely on her own in her apartment. a “foster home” was found near one of her daughters, which meant that she would be moving to washington. her vision loss and her move probably all happened within a two-week period.
i was a frequent guest at meals at the retirement lodge where my grandma lives, sitting with her and barbara and their friend shirley. barbara has been such a support to my grandma through my health tribulations, and has been a very kind member of my booster club.
barbara is also whip-smart and pretty darn sassy. i had to bring my a-game when i sat at that table.
my mom and i made plans to visit barbara the day before she moved. i thought about something to bring her. flowers weren’t right, not only because she was moving the next day but also because she just went blind. i decided that if i were bringing her flowers, i would bring her the ugliest good-smelling flowers that i could find. thinking about that made me a little less nervous. i had heard that barbara was really making the best of things, but i was still worried that i would say something awkward. i ended up bringing her the scarf i had crocheted with yarn that a friend of mine made. it felt wonderful and i knew that the story behind it – it’s pretty amazing that i can crochet – would matter to barbara.
i shouldn’t have been nervous. barbara was so pleased about the scarf, and she and her daughter (down to help with the move) told stories and laughed. barbara happily showed off the talking watch that my grandma and shirley gave her as a going away present. we talked about how quickly things like telling the time can change.
my mom told us about the article she read in reader’s digest way back when. a young boy was at the grocery store and said to his mother in a loud voice, “that man only has one arm!” his mother shushed him and was horrified. the man said, “it’s ok, lady. i know that i only have one arm.”
barbara knows that she’s blind.
a few days ago i was out on a walk. a woman passed me and asked me what time it was. i told her and then she asked, “what happened?” i told her that i had a stroke about a year and a half ago. we started to walk again, and she said, “thank you for telling me.” i said, “thank you for asking.” and i meant it. when i first started walking out in public, i was embarrassed because i knew that people were looking at me and thinking to themselves, “there’s something wrong with her.” i got over it by forcing myself to walk in very public places. one amazing thing that happened was that people i knew would get in touch with me if they had spotted me out in the wild. early on, the mom of a former student emailed me to say that she’d seen me out walking. she said it was a beautiful sight. i’ll never forget that kindness. it completely reframed what i think about when i’m out in public. i remember that “team kriste” is driving by, cheering me on.
i also forgave myself for looking like something is wrong with me, because something is wrong with me. i had a stroke, and i’m an amazing walker all things considered. so when somebody just asks me instead of staring at me, i’m happy for the chance to explain. it doesn’t embarrass me.
i know that i walk with a cane. and it’s usually a pretty rad one.