gerry-reading.jpg

A couple of years ago, I met Gerry (one of the many friends I made hanging out in the Accessibility Resource Centre my last year of university). Since Gerry recruited me to coach goalball, he and I have spent many goalball and Starbucks related hours together, and I’ve also gotten to know his kids. Today, Gerry shares his perspective on parenting with his eyes closed, and what it’s like to be a dad who is blind.

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Being a parent has its challenges. Add to that the fact that you can’t see what your children are up to and it gets more interesting, especially when they realize that if they are quiet dad won’t know what they are doing. Since I am able to work from home, I have the opportunity to keep the kids on track most days. My wife does an awesome job also, but her work is out of the home.

gerry reading

So what is it like for a blind dad on a daily basis? I guess it is probably the same for any other parent who has their sight. You wake up early hoping for a few minutes of quiet time before the caos of getting ready for school begins. And then it begins…wake up the kids and get them ready and out the door in time to catch the bus, or else they are stuck taking transit with me and that is not a fun time. Fortunately my kids are pretty good at picking out what to wear for school, I just hope they have matching socks. I know mine don’t always match, but I am not usually looking at my feet anyway.

Once the kids are gone, there is a calm about the house…at least for about 8 hours. I turn into house husband doing dishes laundry and other chores around the house. Yes I do laundry! Our laundry hamper is divided so that you can put your clothes in the right section. If you don’t then I am not help responsible if something comes out a different color. So far so good, or at least no one has said anything. I will also take some time and work for a few hours as well, the bills don’t pay themselves.

There are always a few people amazed by what I can do. I have even had people wonder how I took the bus with one small child and then two children, and also a guide dog. Yes it might have been a bit of a production getting on and off the bus, but I didn’t really care. Why should I have to stay at home just because I can’t see where the hell I am going. But that is a rant for another time.

Well it is almost time for the peace and quiet to end. Now I just need to decide what to make for supper and then get the kids ready for when my wife picks us up for skating lessons.

Yes I may be blind but my day is just as busy as another parent and homemaker.

Don’t start with me. You may have to put up with people like me every single day, but you are not putting up with me every single day. Which means, whoever pissed you off, or made you lose your personality way back when . . . they weren’t me, so you can re-gain your personality and your sense of humour for the five minutes you are with me because I am obviously making the effort.

This is a catch all. It includes all the testing people at my ophthalmologist’s office. It includes every grumpy receptionurse I’ve had to phone to book an appointment. It includes grumpy ladies at the ophthalmologist’s office who don’t seem to understand that i have a life and I work and go to class and yes, maybe I will have to reschedule my yearly ophthalmology appointment three times so that it doesn’t screw up my day/week/etc.

And now, it includes Eye Testing Dolores from today [I hope she is not reading this. If she is, hello Eye Testing Dolores! I hope you are well. Please turn that frown upside down when we meet again next year. I will draw you a picture of rainbows and cupcakes].

Eye Testing Dolores was not a happy camper today. She did not appreciate my light approach to eye testing. Look, lady, you are not twenty years old, with uncorrectable visual impairment in the left eye and ridiculously corrected in the right eye. You are not here because, by no fault of your own, you were born 10 weeks premature and have retinopathy of prematurity. You are not living with this thing every day, and, you are not here because you got hit in the face with a basketball and now need new glasses. It is your choice to work here, so please, do not make me feel like it is my fault that I can’t complete your tests in the first shot, or the third, but I can still actually SEE everything you want me to see. It is just that your flickery box is very distracting and I forget to look at the square, and I have never in my twenty years done all of these stupid tests.

Also, I am the patient, and I [read: my mom] am the one paying you, so honestly, get off your high horse and please refrain from telling me to put my phone away. Because you are not my mom.

After all the stupid eye tests were done, I briefly waited in the waiting room thinger until New Eye Doctor came out. Stupid eye tests took place after the ridiculously long form about my visual/medical history in which I had to indicate all of my father’s eye issues, put all my medications onto little lines, and check the OTHER: box and indicate retinopathy of prematurity, as well as give them my e-mail address for some unknown reason.

your eyes deserve an optometrist poster

and awesome doctors . . .

FInally New Eye Doctor called me in. I am a fan of this guy. The appointment was nothing spectacular, but it turns out my vision has actually improved, albeit marginally. It has only improved slightly, but I have gone form a -18.25 prescription to a -18. New Eye Doctor basically said I am so far gone that this will not make a huge difference (not in those exact words), but kind of cool none-the-less. I’m chalking it up to testing variance, but hey, sweet.  Plus, he had a sense of humour and laughed on multiple occasions.

DOCTOR: Do you have any questions?

ME: Yeah, why do I get to look at the fancy Apple display and you have to work on a crappy Windows laptop?

This was completely true, and it made him laugh. Apparently his colleagues wanted to go Windows and he wanted to go Mac, so they compromised-ish. I think he lost the deal, poor guy.

Now the hard part began, picking glasses. In contrast to Glasses Lady Who Only Wants To Talk To The Person Who Can See [aka my mom] on Tuesday, who really pissed me off. As soon as she took my glasses from me and I couldn’t see, she started talking to my mom instead of me. Woman, just because I can’t see, doesn’t mean I can’t hear. Thank God I couldn’t see her enough to be able to remember her.  Awesome Glasses Lady is ordering some frames in for me to try out [because apparently my face is too small for a bunch of the ones in store, and I can basically only fit some of the children’s glasses. Honestly.]  So once those are in, I get to go back adventuring in Glasses Land, the one specifically for people who need glasses stronger than the normal glasses stores can make–I kid you not.

And maybe I should take Eye Testing Dolores a happy picture just in case I run into her when I go to buy glasses.

So this morning at work, I got hit in the face with a basketball.  I mean, really, that is actually [kind of] awesome, because how many other jobs can you legit get hit in the face with a basketball and be like “Yeah, I was working”.

Really, this is to be expected.  Free play with 43 kids in the gym is absolute chaos, and of course, I threw myself in the middle of it.  I have grown  more adept in a lot of fundamental movement skills myself this year in Movement Ed class, and as always, I like to play. So I was playing catch with a kid and a basketball.

The issue being is that in all this chaos and basketball torpedoing . . . I have a pretty expensive necessity that I barely think about on my face at all times.  Glasses are important, people.  So as the kid took a spin shot of some sort throwing the ball to meI managed to catch the ball . . . with my hands and my face.

It only took me twenty-plus years to kill a pair of glasses. I often wonder how it didn’t happen sooner, because honestly, I have worn glasses since I was eight months old. But today the pair I’ve had for about two years got creamed so bad that they are in a state of temporary repair . . . but are basically on death’s door.

As soon as the ball hit the face, I knew the glasses had an issue. I was at first hoping simply that the impact of the ball on the glasses on the face had just, you know, injured my face. People, when you have the equivalent of what I have learned to be $900 [with no street value] attached to your face, you hope for injuries. The kid apologized. “Did I break your glasses?”
“No worries, bud. I caught it with my face, but give me a minute to see what’s going on.”

Wandered across the gym to my coworker with the glasses still on my face feeling funny. Got her to inspect the glasses because I am pretty dysfunctional visually without the glasses going on. She and I both think it’s probably just the nose pads have bent, which is like, no big deal.

I get off work about a half hour later, and tweet my mom [and the rest of the world].

Get to school and go to my mom’s office, who hasn’t even read my tweet. “So i got hit in the face with a basketball at work this morning, and my glasses are broken and need to be dealt with.”

It’s convenient having your mom working at your school. No sooner do I say it than are we heading out of the office to go to the special glasses store. I have special glasses. They are -18s which means, essentially, i have bad eyes. We get to the special glasses store and they take my glasses and leave me unable to do much except attempt to send coherent tweets from my phone with the screen four centimetres away from my face and play with the mirror.

Apparently it is not just a bent nose-pad. It is a broken frame.  It’s taken me twenty years to break a pair of glasses, and apparently when I made it happen, it happened hardcore. The glasses are now soldered together as a temporary measure but it won’t hold forever. Plus it doesn’t look totally fabulous, but it’s not bad enough to be super noticeable unless you look hard or I tell you. So you all know, so now when you see me you can be like “HEY LOOK ITS THE SILVERY SPOTS ON YOUR BROWN GLASSES.”  I go Thursday for a vision test and to pick out new glasses. This is the issue with having to go to the special glasses store, is that it is literally the only place in the city I can buy glasses, so my choice is expensive and limited. No two-for-one deals for me.

So anyway, the temp solder deal? No fun gym stuff until the new glasses happen. The glasses lady told me basically if I get hit in the face again, the glasses are done-for. And I don’t have a backup at $900 a pop [to reiterate: no two for one deals], and therefore, I cannot afford for these things to be done-for or I literally cannot function.  So I had to go back to school and not be able to participate in Movement Ed. And if we do free play in the gym on Thursday at work, I can’t play in there either.

Honestly, this is a bad thing when your whole life literally revolves around playing in the gym.

[it is a tough life, I tell you]