The woman sitting diagonally across from me at the table suddenly takes control of the conversation. I swivel my head a few degrees to the left, almost robotically, and nod at each point she makes. It looks like eye contact.
My close friend leans into my left ear and whispers, “pre-cracked Lobster at 12 o’clock, whipped potatoes at 3, some crappy looking vegetable at 6, bread at 9. There’s water to your left, wine to your right. Oh and here’s your napkin.” Holding this map carefully placed in my mind, I continue very intense conversation at the table. My mind, like my legs halfway through a marathon, starts to ache. I don’t know it, but I turn out to be the most graceful eater at the table. I am put together. My shirt is crisp. My jacket embraces my shoulders as if it was placed there by a tailor. To the dismay of my beautiful wife, my English is now almost completely free of my French accent. I try. I practice. I commit.
The woman to my right trips as she gets up from the table but somehow regains her footing before a tumble. She tripped on a cane. She asks, “who’s is this?” I don’t know what she is referencing. I can’t tell the question is directed at me. My friend answers, “it’s Charles’ cane.” There’s a noticeable pause. Actually, quite a long pause. Then she replies, “why does he need it?”
And then I smile. Dear God I smile.
She doesn’t know. She didn’t have a clue. Then, like a balloon losing air, my pride falls to guilt. Why do I try so hard to not appear blind? That’s what I’m doing, right? The eye contact, the plate, placing my cane far under the table. I get such pleasure out of fitting into a world built for those with site. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.
This is hard for me so I wanted to share it with people that might be able to relate. My friends are strong. My friends are fitter than your friends. There, I said it. They run marathons, they participate in triathlons, they make the national news for finishing an Ironman. However, like me, some cannot see.
So yes, it makes me proud when people don’t realize I’m blind. But yes, I feel guilty admitting it and cannot find the balance between these two emotions.
Can anyone relate? It would help me to hear your opinion.
I do have the exact same feelings.This text could have been written by me.
Oh I fully relate to what you are saying, I am deafblind and when I told someone this, I got asked where my hearing aids were, not every deaf person wears them. I also get asked why I need my cane….hmm ever seen me faceplant on something when I haven’t used it??
Charles, I know of you through Dustin, on your team. I don’t expect I’ll ever experience what you’ve described, but I do have an opinion. It is, what ever amount of guilt you may have, is dwarfed by your courage. Keep running!