When we think about February, we think about bouquets of flowers, boxes of chocolate, Valentine’s Day cards, and the love and romance these tokens commemorate. However, romantic relationships represent just one piece of an entire mosaic of relationships that we all experience, and that we should take the time to discuss, to ponder, to celebrate, and perhaps, to improve or reconsider. There are the relationships we have with our spouses and partners, with our parents and children, with sisters, brothers and cousins, with roommates and classmates, co-workers, bosses and subordinates, with the people with whom we do business, with whom we ride to work or school, and the list goes on and on. Every one of these relationships is unique; some good, some bad, and most, somewhere in between. Some empower and encourage us; others leave us exhausted and frustrated.
And then there are the ways that blindness and low vision weave themselves into the fabric of all our relationships. After all, most, if not all, of us have experienced a relationship that was impacted in some way by blindness or low vision. Sometimes, those impacts were small and unimportant; sometimes, they were disproportionate and huge.
As human beings, we are wired to be social creatures. This means that the quality of our relationships is essential to how we experience the world, to how we get along with each other and ourselves, and to the extent to which we are happy.
So as a way of bringing some warmth to us all, and in light of the critical importance that relationships have on all our lives, the ACB Board of Publications chose the theme “The Crossroads Between Blindness, Low Vision and Relationships” for the February E-Forum.
One of the first relationships we form in life is the one we have with our siblings. We play together, learn and grow together, and sometimes even fight with each other.
For Pete’s Sake
Don’t tell my brother this, but Peter makes me smile when I think about him. He is dependable, organized and extremely confident. Out of five children, I’m the only blind person, but ever since we were kids, Peter never treated me differently than anyone sighted. Now that we’re adults, he still maintains those character traits. He’s a wonderful sounding board when I’m feeling frustrated dealing with the world, or when I sputter to him about how unfair things are sometimes for me to get even small things accomplished without it turning into an ordeal!
He is logical and a great problem-solver, and always has a calming effect on me. He pushes me to expand my comfort zone and speak up for myself because by doing so, I might be helping someone else who is having the same problem. He never raises his voice, but when I hear him say “Jeanne Louise,” I know he really wants me to listen. It’s comforting to know that he always has my back and I will always have his. I am so thankful for him and he truly is a beacon of light in my life. Oh well, I guess the secret is out now!
— Jeanne Donovan, Haverhill, Mass.
Spouses and Partners
My Spouse – Our Changes
Of the many relationships I enjoy, this one is very important to me and comes right after my faith. My 30-year marriage to Patrick fulfills me the most. One of the things that drew me to him was his willingness to help others. He’s been an unofficial volunteer at ACB conventions, helping others get where they needed to go. We’ve shared ups and downs, trips, blind bowling tournaments – and the Wisconsin Lions Camp where we met. We are grateful for each other and remember to say “thank you” frequently. Showing appreciation is a good way to keep a relationship healthy – also saying “I’m sorry” when warranted.
Recently Pat mentioned this to me. I’ve always had less vision than him and he recognized how living with someone impacts a relationship. It can be helpful finding something – especially now that arthritis makes it harder for me to crawl on the floor! He’s observed through the years the different ways that totally blind people adjust. He enjoys calling pins for blind bowlers, for example. Other disabilities can impact a relationship, too. My husband has had epilepsy since he was young, but I only witnessed one small seizure he had about 25 years ago, when we had a number of major issues going on with family/friends in our lives. He forgot to take his meds for several days. This can also affect our relationships or understanding of what others live with.
In the past year I’ve had more health issues and have not traveled as much – including the 2018 ACB convention. I now have lung issues which are late effects from extensive chemo treatments years ago. So, I use oxygen as needed, and my hubby has become a caregiver to a certain extent. Thankfully I can still volunteer, cook, spend time with family and friends, etc. He’s so helpful when needed, which I truly appreciate.
There have been articles in the Forum about caregiving, which can change a relationship. It’s important for me to do as much as possible for myself, as depending too much on him can make it difficult for my husband. I don’t want him to become burdened or frustrated. Sometimes a person does need help. That’s part of a relationship - and it works both ways. We spend some time apart; it’s good for both of us to share with others as needed. There’s give and take, just as there is with any relationship.
— Kathy Brockman