Oh Say Can You See (Literally)


Zenobia Silas-Carson

Now that I no longer work at the business office at the other end of our hallway, I do not have the opportunity to see many of my neighbors. I still live in the building but no longer hold the boxful of titles I so cheerfully accepted.

My passion for working with my peers has appeared in all my seasons of life. My love for people causes me to seek out information and resources that might be helpful but hidden from public knowledge. I am what you might call a “digger” when it comes to finding help. My sleuthing tendencies lead me beyond the surface answers, and my Jessica Fletcher nose leads me to challenge beyond “magic beans” solutions.

Two weeks ago, I ran into my friend John at his mailbox. We have a bank of them for each other ninety units in our building.  It is here that most conversations occur. Some are short greetings with casual comments about the weather new rules imposed by management. Men usually are the blunt talkers.

Women, however, sniff around the edges of the conversations of others, waiting for openings to interject the latest gossip or talk about grocery store bargains.  Some are sitting in the straight-backed and uncomfortable chairs provided by corporate. Some are waiting for taxis or medical transportation.

Many, like me, are awaiting grocery deliveries. Others are the unofficial monitors of the general traffic. They are the looky Lous of the building. If you are moving in or out or carried out by stretcher, they are there to keep score and have firsthand knowledge of whatever is happening. Walter Winchell himself could not have been more accurate.

Seeing John always brings a smile to my face. He is a painful loner who, before COVID19, worked a regular job at a significant transit company. He is sixty-ish, and two years ago, he began to give his heart to a woman here on the first floor. They traveled to Duluth together and had so much fun. She passed away in her apartment, and John closed ranks on the world again. Each evening I closed my office, John would bring me the worst jokes ever known to man, and we would laugh aloud together.

I began to figure out that he is a person who works and lives with minor outside influences. I immediately added his name to our Gifts for Seniors Christmas program. This program allowed activity directors to “shop” in a massive warehouse for those isolated seniors with no family connections during the holidays. It was my pleasure to make sure that a woman who cooks and delivers delicious meals for the residents, to make sure John always got one.

On Christmas Eve, as I delivered to the precious people on my list, I made sure John got a pair of slippers, warm socks, and his favorite, a plaid flannel shirt. He always asked, “Where does this stuff come from?” and I would feign ignorance and reply, “Santa Claus.”

In March of last year, John came down with COVID10 and decided to self-quarantine. Our site manager urged him to go to the hospital, but he refused and stayed inside. So I called him from the office to see if there was anything I could do.

I had a store called Zenobia’s Community Store, where I kept everything in order. Bread, milk, canned goods donated by various organizations, bandages, dental stuff, incontinence supplies, breakfast items, and much more. All at no cost to the resident. It was open twice per week and it worked on the honor system.

John asked if I could please bring him food. I agreed right away. Every other evening, I got milk, bacon, eggs, bread for toasting or sandwiches, fruit, and cans of soup and beef stew to help him build up what the virus was trying to destroy. I wore gloves and a mask each time and tapped on his door to let him know his goodies were there. He would peek out and wave at me weakly.

After he was well, he gave me $300 to restock the store. When I was no longer in the office, I no longer saw him regularly. Like other residents, when we saw each other, he did not know what to say because the mystery of my sudden leaving had been told, retold, and rehashed with little accuracy. I do not bother trying to fix it. I am better off at home.

So while getting the mail, John disclosed to me that his sight is failing. I stood listening to him, and when he finished, I told him of my current journey with malfunctioning eyes that did not respond to either laser or injections. John let me know that he is so afraid. Well, he is not the kind of person you can hug, so he said little else and returned to the elevator to make his way home.

I went home and thought of ways I might be able to help John. I know how frightening this new journey with “iffy” eyes can be. Still, I am determined to keep my blood pressure low and my spirits high because I do not believe in every diagnosis or the severe money it takes to return to the eye guy every two weeks for injections that are not working. “Cataracts,” they say, but “before we can do surgery, there will be months of injections.”  Hmmm.

So, I began working up a folder of resources for John. In his packet, I gave him several places to start. Locations I am researching and reaching out to for myself. This, too, is part of taking care of each other as seniors and finding those resources that others might not know how to find. Everyone does not have access to a computer.

The “suddenlies” of senior life do not need to hit us like a line of disasters. Instead, we can call them a daisy chain or a constellation of challenges.

If you or someone you know has trouble with macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy or low vision caused by anything, here are some excellent places to begin. There are so many people willing and ready to help on the other end of these lines.  Go ahead. Do not be afraid! This is just a drop in the bucket of life, and you do not have to place it on a list leading to your end. This is just the beginning of the rest of your life!

Here are a few places to begin your INSIGHTFUL journey. Remember, this is just a glitch in your life. We have survived worse things. Oh, and I did not forget those with hearing challenges. The next article will include those. These are not just superficial places to weaken our resolve to be healed and whole but places to gain support for this sight thing so we will not feel so alone.

National Library Service For The Blind  – Listen, you do not have to be BLIND to receive this service. Low vision and partial sight are still eligible.

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

American Foundation for the Blind,  Again, you do not have to be blind.

If you can’t find a chapter in your city and state, I will look for you or for someone you love!   GOD BLESS YOU!









  1. Joyce L Shafer says

    Zenobia, this is so good! I’ve already sent it to someone who would benefit. Thank you and God bless you!

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