Over the years I've found that writing about the informal aspects of being a part- or full-time 'Blindy' is an odd way to pass the time. It often presents 'challenges' (what we used to call 'problems').
While I prefer the lighter side, it’s understandable that some folk take it seriously. It’s a unique experience and a test of perseverance and tolerance for everyone concerned. As regular readers know, I like to poke around the issue and share my 'narrative' (what we used to call ‘opinion’). I do this to remind myself that while things ain't what they used to be, the world’s still capable of dishing up the odd giggle. As retinitis pigmentosa (RP) niggled away at me, instances of tongue-in-cheek stoicism get a bit tougher to dig up, though the half-invented stuff must make more interesting reading than a paragraph on my daily battle with remote controls.
Years ago, I used to do a regular balance sheet on the state of my vision, which involved an annual trip to the optometrist for a lens upgrade, followed by a web surf for the latest piece of electronic wizardry that would keep the dreaded 'total loss' at bay for as long as possible. Those were the dream days of half denial, nursing the hope that while the specialists agreed I had RP, they could be overstating the effect. However, it turned out to be all they claimed and after a while I settled into reality. I'm not altogether sure how I'd react now if a cure did come along – blindness tends to become habit forming and I've got a bit too lazy for in-depth searches for the details and causes that don't seem that important now the thing's a constant companion. Sure, it’s mildly interesting, but the result's already in the bag and at my age I reckon it doesn't pay to clog up the thought passages unnecessarily – it makes life easier if you keep things light. As my father once said, "If misery's inevitable, poke fun at it; it beats worrying."
Deafness, dexterity and deciphering
I'm writing this in the middle of a level-4 lockdown and it seems that along with the visual stocktake it’s a good time to rummage around in the attic as well. Other challenges have crept up lately – hearing aids have been to be added to the battery-powered armoury now deemed essential to my waking hours – which could creep in and rattle the old sangfroid. It’s like teenage angst all over again, but I'm not going there. I reckon these challenges just need a bit more planning than daily A-to-B navigation.
The first problem is that these technologies have all got different charging ports, so leaving them in a drawer leads to the joy of unravelling electronic spaghetti. It makes more sense to leave the things plugged in. The second problem is that there are only so many wall sockets in the house, so will life as I know it end if I run out of charging points? My newly acquired lateral thinking instructs me that negative thoughts lead to negative actions, so bedside lamps and television are to be sacrificed to make way for the new necessities.
The hearing aids are a fresh challenge and according to the audiologist, adjusting the sound level is a simple business: you just press the knobby thing on top of the bit that hangs around your ear and up goes the volume. She may well be right for those who enjoy full flexibility in their fingers, but due to recent nerve damage, mine are about as responsive as frozen Cheerios.
I can, however, still thump the keyboard reasonably well, albeit slowly, though the final draft sometimes looks more in need of a translator than a proofreader. Currently it looks like I could be running out of essential bits even as I write this, although taste and smell are still operating fine. Since they're stationary attributes I should be pretty safe as long as I don't move around too much.
We're tackling the hearing problem with a (yet another) small remote control. It’s a simple little thing with plus and minus buttons. Thus far it’s trial and (mainly) error, hovering between ruptured ear drums from overuse of the plus button and a constant litany of 'Pardon?'. But I'm getting there, so please stay with me.
The other event of note was a call from an old friend to say his daughter-in-law had recently been diagnosed with RP. It hit me for the first time how tough it must be for someone relatively young to get the news. It wasn't like that for me, since I had the luxury of being eased into the reality of it over time. I wasn't comfortable being asked for advice; my attitude is only tailored to get me by. Although I'd love to be able to write something broad like 'A Simple Guide for Coping with Sight Loss', I can't stay serious long enough to go down that path. The best advice I could offer to the daughter-in-law was a gem from the late Gordon Sanderson from our first conversation on my potential sight loss: "Your best tool is patience." That's better than anything I can come up with!
Born in the UK, our ‘white-caner’ columnist, retired Dunedin antiques dealer Trevor Plumbly was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa more than 20 years ago and now lives in Auckland.