I’ve written about my wife, Gwen the Beautiful, and the stroke that left her half blind. What I haven’t written about is the irony of the fact that I’d been going blind for almost 10 years. And we’d planned for Gwen to be my eyes.
My problem was macular degeneration, and all the ophthalmologists I saw told me I was in a bad place. “Take ocular vitamins and minerals,” they said. “Sometimes that keeps it from getting worse.”
But nothing, they said, could repair the damage that’d already been done.
After 1995, my world grew increasingly dark. It was like wearing sunglasses all the time. Driving at night became harder and harder, until finally I gave up. Finding anything in a shadowy cabinet or deep drawer was the next lost cause, followed by many more. To me, television was filled with dark, gritty shows that made Dracula look well lighted.
A common night sound in our neck of the woods was Larry Brody cursing while trying to find the bathroom doorway. I needed a night light just to get to the stairs. Daylight was better, but even shaving in the morning was a problem. I started carrying a flashlight around at all times, shining it in the direction of anything I needed to see.
Gwen and I were prepared for a dark future for me, but not for her. After her stroke, we figured someone was having a big laugh out of how things had turned out. But not us.
Six months ago, however, things started to change. We got a late start driving home from Memphis one day, and when dusk fell we were still an hour away from our mountain. I knew I should stop, but I didn’t. Because I could see.
I saw the white line on the highway. The highway itself. I knew where our truck was and where it was aimed. I got us home without any problem. After that, driving at night stayed just as easy. I didn’t have to worry about running out of daylight anymore.
I could go where I needed, when I needed. Just like anyone else.
And last week my vision did a complete turnaround. Gwen and I were watching television, and, halfway through “Enterprise,” I said, “Boy, look how bright and colorful everything is. But just a second ago it was all so dark.”
I started clicking the remote and marveled at how every show I went to had gotten so bright. Including shows that had always seemed muted before. In Brody World reruns of “Dharma & Greg” showed them living in a shadowy, poorly lighted apartment, but tonight the place gleamed with highlights and sharp contrasts I hadn’t seen anywhere in â€” well, literally in as long as I could remember.
Later, with the TV and the lights off, I was amazed by the fact that I could actually see Gwen lying beside me in the dark. I could see our light-colored cedar walls and the darker furniture against them. I could see my hand. And the bathroom doorway. In fact, the bedroom seemed so light that I got up to make sure the curtains were closed. Even if they weren’t it wouldn’t have mattered. The sky was overcast. No stars. No moon.
I looked back at the room and saw the night light. Aha! I unplugged it, and everything got darker, all right. Almost as dark without the light as it had been â€” for me â€” with it.
No doubt about it. I could see normally. Just like anyone else.
The ophthalmologists at two different Wal-Mart Eye Centers say I no longer have any signs of macular degeneration. It’s gone as though it never was. For the past few days I’ve been running around just looking at things. Putting myself into shadowy places, looking for lost pennies under the bed, and saying, “I see you.”
Last night, Gwen smiled and laughed and told me how happy she was for me. Since the doctors have no explanation for what’s happened we tried to figure it out for ourselves. What It All Means in terms of some Cosmic Grand Plan.
The truth is we’re clueless. The Universe has done what it’s done, and I’m thrilled. But I can say with total conviction that I’d give up my new sight â€” and oh so much more â€” in a second if there was even the slightest chance I could give it to Gwen.
Originally published October 26, 2005