From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers
By Janet Perez Eckles
"You know when you have found your prince because you not only have a smile on your face but in your heart as well."
"Are you ready?" Dad whispered. Dressed in pure white, I nodded, put my trembling arm through his, and glanced at the crowd in the pews.
The church echoed with the guests' whispers. A soft melody came from the piano while my bridegroom, Gene, waited for me at the altar. The music changed -- my sign to begin the walk down the aisle.
My steps were slow, but my heart beat fast as I joined my prince.
"For better or for worse... "
I repeated those words. Back then, they were just words because my focus was on the thrill of my dream coming true.
But nine years later, my world darkened with the reality of the "worse."
"What I can see is a clear deterioration of the retina," the ophthalmologist had said. "You both need to prepare." He paused. "With this retinal disease, no one knows how long you'll have your sight."
Gene held me tight as we walked out of the doctor's office.
"The doctor is wrong. It won't happen. I can see just fine," I reasoned.
But then, after a while, my field of vision began to close in -- way too rapidly. Each day became a test of the amount of sight I still had left. One week, I could see the furniture around me -- the next, I could only perceive portions of some items.
It's okay, I told myself, I can still see what's important -- our three little boys' faces. But nothing changed the reality. We found no surgery, medications or natural treatments to halt the progression of the disease.
I tossed at night. Would Gene still love me? If I were to go blind, how would that affect our future, our marriage, our intimacy?
I tried to brush off those thoughts. But the months that followed ushered in what I had dreaded. One day, as I sat in the passenger seat of the car, with my three little sons in the back seat, I realized I couldn't see the road or the familiar buildings. My whole world was covered by a dark veil.
When we got home, I began to adjust to living my life without sight. I groped my way through accomplishing the basic chores for our sons, for Gene and for myself. Gene's constant support and patience brought glimpses of light into my darkness.
"I'll stop by the store and pick up what we need," he'd say matter-of-factly. "And then I'll get Jason to his Boy Scout meeting."
He took over many chores I could no longer perform, and I took a different place in our marriage. I wasn't in charge of the schedule anymore; I was dependent on his availability and time to take over the driving, pay the bills, and help our sons with their homework.
Navigating through the kitchen became my first priority. Many spilled juices, bumps into open cabinet doors, and burned fingers on hot pots were all necessary steps to my new life without sight.
One evening, I scooped a spoonful of spaghetti sauce. "Okay, are you ready?" I asked, lifting the spoon toward Gene. "What do you think?"
I waited. It was my first attempt to fix a full meal since my blindness, and his approval was vital.
"The best," he said.
Was it really, or was that his way of encouraging me? It didn't matter; he always found a way to lift my mood, to cheer me on and to overlook my mistakes.
"A bit of bleach will take care of this," he said one day when I insisted he tell me what he was doing.
"My T-shirts are a little pink," he said.
"Okay, no more red clothes with white."
Learning and adjusting filled the days and years that swept by, turning the pages of our lives together. Some were stained with the pain of losing our youngest son... Others were wrinkled with adjustments to unexpected financial setbacks... And the pages of my blindness were carefully taped together.
But each page tells of a man who chose to turn the worst for him into the best for me.
The sweet aroma of his cologne surrounds me with delight as he prays for my day before leaving for work.
Through the years, he's read dozens of books to me. One day, I interrupted him, "Don't you wish I could do something for you for a change?"
He kissed my lips. "You do for me more than I do for you," he said. "We make a good team just the way we are, and we'll make it to the end."
Now, I look out the window of life, and smile at the fresh and lush scenery. In my mind, I see the beauty of his commitment. I used to grope my way around, but now I take his hand, and my steps don't hesitate anymore; they're secure and confident.
Rather than tears, I now celebrate our days together. Gene saw beyond the ugliness of my blindness and, with his love, turned me into a queen.