Whispers: Chapter 16| November 9, 2016
i, welcome to the neighborhood!”
There’s just a touch of smugness in my voice — I’m not the newbie anymore.
“Uh, we met by the Chanukah party, right? Nice to see you again.”
Whoops. Chanukah was before eye surgery. My “new” neighbor was literally a blur back then. I walked back up my driveway, blushing, not in the mood of trying to explain that I’m not totally absentminded.
Self-confidence flooded back through me as I unlocked the door of my car. Driving, to me, signifies independence: I’m finally able to do what I want, when I want. I ducked as I get into the car, only mildly bruising my head — a year after surgery, I still frequently forget that I am now two inches taller. I pull out and pick up speed, euphoria coloring the world pink. I’ve done the impossible, achieved what only my husband had believed I could do — I am a sighted, functioning adult.
Ten minutes later, I pulled into the community center and followed the signs to the home management program.
Until now, I’d smilingly accepted visitors’ compliments on my perfectly clean and organized home, happily failing to inform them that it’s all hubby’s doing. But now it was time to take my independence to its final level and take care of my own kitchen. A lifetime of not being able to see the crumbs left me woefully unprepared for the task. I walked into a classroom full of women twice my age, most of whom had homes full of children.
“So, what stops you from achieving your homemaking goals?” the instructor asked.
“I’m so tired from running after the kids,” one woman volunteered. My response: “Uh, I don’t know what crumbs look like.” I had the attention of the whole room.
“Would you mind to explain?” the teacher delicately asked.
“Sure. I was legally blind most of my life and then I discovered this eye surgery…and so now I can see, but I’m not entirely sure how to do the seeing thing…”
The class moved on to time management. “I don’t have any time left for cleaning, by the time I finish juggling supper, homework, and bedtime,” one lady complained and was rewarded with sympathetic nods and grunts of agreement.
“What’s holding me back? Well, I don’t have kids or a job at the moment, so technically I have all day…but I find it hard to stand for too long, because I had back surgery and it’s still healing…”
Gaping mouths. “You sound like you’ve had an interesting life,” the instructor said, giving me a look that was a cross between astonishment and pity. Welcome to my life. We weren’t that fully-assisted special needs couple nor could we ever be the typical large frum household.
On the way home, the world seemed a whole lot darker. Would I ever fit in somewhere? Would I always be an oddity? Could I ever be fully independent? Would we always be “that” couple on the block — the one people shake their head at and mutter “nebach” under their breaths? Telling or not telling people, both had disadvantages. My husband, with his more obvious disability, gets more pitying comments, but I tend to get more strange looks, when my vision or something else betray me into making a social mistake.
I step into my house, take a deep breath, and greet my husband with a smile. Over supper, my thoughts about pity pour out. Hubby, as always, knows how to clean up the mess in my mind. “Some people are able to appreciate that having a challenge and overcoming it makes me stronger and more able than them. Others, unfortunately, stop at the pity. The only thing you can do is be the change you want to see in the world.’
I still wasn’t sure what a crumb officially looks like, but since I won the lottery on cleaning-abled men, for now it’s all good.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 516)
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