Shall we go quietly into that good night? What is it about night that we find both so appealing and frightening? The dark holds mystery and fascination but we are always safe in the awareness that darkness is only temporary, daylight will return, or we can exit the darkened room but what happens when darkness doesn’t go away? The blind know the answer, but like all else the truth is relevant to personal experience. The blind deal with darkness in the same ways seeing people do and with the same mix of emotions. What is it really to be blind? A friend of my wife’s recently lost her sight. Hers was a genetic malfunction that could have been corrected had she only had the money to catch it early. But was it really money that kept her away or was it perhaps her fear? Fear is after all a powerful force. Perhaps it is the most powerful force of all.
Recently I discovered my mother may be going blind and it is her own fault, the fault of personal negligence. In a few months my first born child will enter the world. I am not prepared for this, anymore than any new father can be prepared for what may come. I need my mother to guide me, to help me, to show me where I make mistakes and how to correct them. I need her to be the grandmother. But what I need most of all is for her to see the face of her grandchild. Will she? I simply don’t know. You see, my mother is a wonderful woman; kind, gentle, caring, devoted to her family. She is a simple woman, but that simplicity is one of nurturing. A good mother you see doesn’t need very much. But she has one profound weakness. Her fears rule over her. On one hand she recognized this enough to ensure that I was not governed by my fears. As a child she took me to the dentist just so I could get used to the sounds and smells so as to not be afraid of them like so many people. As a girl she was strapped to a chair and had a tooth forcibly removed without anesthetic. Her fears are not entirely ungrounded.
I was never kept away from the doctor. I was taught never to take the doctors word for anything simply because he was a doctor and that I should always be the final arbiter of my medical care but also that when I find a doctor I can trust I should trust in his abilities. My mother’s fears are born of watching doctors convince her own mother all her life that medication, any medication is the best cure all for what ails a woman. From the 1950’s to the day she died a year ago her mother sought solace in a bottle. Not a bottle of whiskey but a bottle of pills. Is there really a difference between which daemons we embrace? In the end they are all the same. My mother taught me the lesson she could never learn and for that I am thankful. But I am also angry at her. Damnit! I need her; I need her to be whole for my child and for me and for my wife.
I adore my mother. I am a mammas boy through and through but at times I also hate her for what she lets happen to herself because of her fears. My whole family allows fear to govern their actions. My grandfather embraced a Christianity that did not allow for the sheer joy of life because he was afraid to fall into what he perceived to be sin. I have an aunt whose life is one of secrets and subterfuge against the man she married. It is after all fear that leads to secrets. My father was so afraid of becoming his mother that he retreated into books so he would not have to define himself. It is better to be anonymous.
I am from my family but I can not be, will not be and have never been of my family. I set myself apart as a young child. I learned to conceal my southern accent, to hide where my roots came from, to create a new sort of life I could belong to. I suppose my own fears are not so very far away. I stripped myself of all that made me and found a way to remake myself. All of this sounds like I hate my family. I don’t. I love them but I suppose in a way I do hate them a little bit. I think this is normal. How can you be close to someone without hating them just a little bit for what they take away from you? I know this because no one is more important to me than my wife. I live for her and would die for her but because she has taken so much of what I used to be there are times I hate her. Or perhaps it is better to say that I hate what I had to give up in order to find how much I really had to gain.
My wife’s friend lost her sight. My mother might lose her sight. My family lost sight of so many things and a part of me hates them for it. And yet I must thank them. Through their blindness I learned to really see