A DIFFERENT VIEW - Help is there, but first you have to want it

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"I don't need any help; I am doing fine," the husband said.

Turning to walk out the door, he cracked his head on the door jam.

"So I bump into things, but so do many with good eyesight," he said to his wife while rubbing at the pain on his head. "Besides, what good will some training do for me? I'm not blind."

"Just yesterday," she responded, "you mentioned how you wished you could see the screen on your monitor. The computer used to be important to you and now it sits gathering dust. I read of a software program where even those completely blind can use the computer just like everyone else.

"Why don't we at least check into this," she added. "Blindness need not rob you of so much life."

But the man was not yet ready to listen. Instead, he walked out to sit in a folding chair on the back deck and pretended everything was OK.

Why are we afraid to admit our eyesight is fading? Why do we fear letting others know we can't see very well, that we are legally blind? What stigma forces us to react to blindness like this?

I call it "The Dark Ages Syndrome," the time when being blind was worse than a death sentence, when blind meant you just sat in a chair and felt sorry for yourself while family waited on you.

Though none may want to admit it, many sighted folk still view the blind in the same way - that is until we, the blind, change their minds. The more we, the blind, do for ourselves the sooner the sighted world will be forced to acknowledge that blindness need not be a "death sentence."

Every time I hear of a person who is legally blind but denies it, I remember myself. This memory makes me want to help other blind people find the good in life.

So I encourage, or maybe I push, those who find their eyesight fading to get whatever help they can to learn how to remain active. This activity may be cooking or baking; how about a loaf of fresh-baked bread?

Maybe it is caring for a garden or even for just one special potted plant.

Maybe it is just knowing that when you dress in the morning your clothes will at least partly match.

The computer is such a strong tool these days for business, keeping in touch with friends and for pleasure. Going blind is no reason to stop using the computer. I write my columns on one. True, specialized software for the blind is not cheap, but might it just be worth it to enjoy life?

Edith Bishel Center for the Blind in Kennewick is a good place to start when seeking aids and help for the blind. They even come to the person's house to assist in ways to make daily life better as well as giving mobility training with the white cane. The center has a wide display of aids to help those with fading eyesight manage life - magnifying glasses, talking watches and clocks, canes and many more devices.

Washington State Department of Services for the Blind is another place, and though money is tight - as in so many cases - still this agency is there to help.

As a partner to a guide dog I would be remiss if I didn't include a word about these wonderful animals. When I enter my doctor's waiting room and my guide Randy finds his place backed under my chair, I am thrilled to hear so many comments about him.

True, there is more responsibility with a guide dog than a white cane you can lean in a corner and forget when not needed, but there is also much love and devotion a dog gives back. I am not saying one aid is better than the other, just get out and use one of them or, better yet, both.

Knowing the relief my family and friends found when I at last admitted to myself and got the help I needed, I will not cease to try to encourage others to get help. The soft easy chair is fine on stormy days or to relax in the evening but not for keeping full all day.

So back to the conversation at the beginning of this column - if it sounds familiar to you, what are you stalling for? Don't ignore help provided for you; get up and seek life.

Get out and live.

Ernie Jones, a registered nurse who retired due to vision loss, can be reached at 529-9252 or at theolcrow@charter.net.

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