In December of 2020, I got a call from Katy Read of the Star Tribune, asking if I would like to participate in a project where one younger and one older writer would get together and have the younger writer do weekly interviews with the senior writer so that we could tell our stories, memoir style to see what would happen. The entire project was more than successful!
We were in the middle of COVID, and I was suddenly without a job in the senior building where I lived and worked, and neighbors were passing away rapidly. Some from, I think, some from the sudden isolation and fear. What began as a little writing project turned into a friendship and mother-daughter relationship with my mentor, Mecca, and we are closer today than ever. I call her my bonus daughter, and we continue to learn from each other.
During 2020 and part of 2021, I was stricken with what I refer to as the gastrointestinal crazies, and it was touch and go for a bit, but thankfully, I pulled through and was instantly beset with a new set of health challenges. One of these was my hidden inability to see well. I’d managed to fudge for many years, squinting and straining because my health insurance was stretched to its limit from the hospital bills. So I figured, like many, this was a temporary thing brought on by whatever else was going on in my body.
I talked with a few people in my building and found I was not alone with my diagnoses of macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. When you get the bundle, you get the bundle, so I busied myself helping others get in touch with organizations like Hadley and encouraging them to look into some resources they never thought of. I did not limit myself to those with sight problems. I went ahead and contacted those with hearing loss as well.
Katy Read somehow found this out and asked if she could do a phone interview with me about what it feels like to lose sight (I am low-visioned but not blind) at an advanced age and what I would be doing next. It was not until I saw the headliner for my story “Losing Her Sight, Minnesota Woman Helps Others Who are Losing Theirs” that it was smack in the middle of the Inspire section of the Sunday paper. I was happy and not so happy.
During our interview, I stressed how much faith in God plays a factor in my everyday life. Good or bad, convenient or not, things happen to us all, and after a while, we learn to not only thrive within these challenges but use them in a way that strengthens us and inspires others around us. I genuinely believe this challenge is simply part of my unique life’s journey. God has given me a way to look into a kaleidoscope rather than my usual limited lens and has caused me to deepen my faith in Him and focus (pun intended) on the spiritual strength I have gained within each of these challenges.
Do I have “bummer” days when I am shaky when going up or down a curb? My right eye is just as good as gone, so my left eye does all the work. It makes me feel unsteady and shaky, but I soldier on, and I find more ways to learn and teach others about where I am right now in life and how God has never left me.
I have come into contact with many who still write and publish books and are blind. I listen to audiobooks written by low-visioned and blind writers such as Beth Finke and Frank Bruni. They are blind and low-visioned and have written best sellers. They work as commentators for NPR, and Beth (her creativity and talent SO take me) is a teacher of memoir writing for SENIORS in Chicago and navigates that city (my place of birth) with great confidence. I write with the writers at Hadley’s Writers Circle.
I am still with the Senior Scribblers out of Franklin, Massachusetts; every week, we collaborate on a book of our memoirs and broadcast it on an actual radio station once a month! My life is fuller than it has ever been! I am so thankful. I have a few pity parties, but they do not last long. When people ask,” How is your eyesight?” I stifle the urge to say, “My eyes are at the cleaners. When I pick them up this weekend, they’ll be good as new.” I know, not funny, but it is a private joke between God and me! I am blessed with faith to face tomorrow and a sense of humor to keep me going!