Our Eyes Don’t Work: Blind Parents of a Sighted Child
By Kristen Witucki
This is the fourth post in our What is Family? blog series in honor of the season. Your favorite bloggers write about what family means to them. Come back tomorrow for the next post in the series.
“Look,” Langston commands, “over there on the wall. Do you see the light up there?”
“No,” I answer, smothering my desire to point out that the wall he refers to is the ceiling, “my eyes don’t work.”
“Oh,” he says and touches my nose, “your nose isn’t blind.”
I remember that my nephews and niece, along with any other little kid I’ve known, always try to offer me a solution to the problem of blindness. “If you open your eyes,” my nephew suggested at age three or four, “they will work.” But Langston doesn’t seem to be looking for a hole in this new kind of logic or a way to break the “eyes don’t work” mantra. After all, he’s babbled at me since he was two months old and has probably communicated with touch since birth. He knows the code switches which allow him as a sighted infant and toddler to communicate with his blind parents. Langston is turning three, and already he is articulating an understanding of our differences.
In conducting due research for this essay, I ask my husband, “Does Langston ever talk to you about being blind?”
“No,” James says in a tone weighted with thought. “No, I don’t think so.”
Naturally, this answer fills me with more questions. Does Langston think that I’m blind but that James can see? Do I talk about blindness too much, or does James talk about it too little? Words, words, words.
We’re in the middle of another brief but epic bedtime battle. I try to remember to give Langston some warning, but I’m tired. “You may play with your farm animals for another minute, and then you’re going to bed.”
“No,” he says, “I want to play.”
But I remain firm, and after a minute, I send him upstairs where his father will change him and brush his teeth so I can take a brief break before I read and sing him to sleep. Langston flees into a bedroom. “Langston!” James calls to him, but he doesn’t answer. “Answer me!” James adds sternly, but Langston exercises the fifth amendment and remains silent. This is his form of rebellion and probably the worst crime he can commit against two blind people at this stage of his life.
For a second, I feel sympathy for him. Is he tired of always answering questions like, “What are you doing?” and “What’s that?” as often as he asks them? Then I smother my sympathy beneath parental loyalty. “I think he went under the bed,” I tell James quietly. “Do you want me to get him?”
“No,” James says and roots him out of there.
Later, we are reading Pat the Bunny together. This book was cute when he was one, but I’m bored with it and remind myself again to hide books I feel he’s outgrown or books I can’t stand reading ONE MORE TIME. The problem is twofold: first, I forget to hide them while he’s asleep, so he finds them again, and secondly, I’m worried that he’s old enough to remember missing books, and I don’t want to sensor his reading material already. But I long for the conflict of Owl Babies or the diversity of the animals in The Big Red Barn or even for him to pick up something brand-new. Langston clings to the bunny book’s predictability with astonishing tenacity.
We come to the page which says, “Judy can look in the mirror. Now YOU look in the mirror.” I guess since I don’t have a daughter, I’m spared contemplating the subliminal messaging which occurs for girls on that page, but I think of it anyway. We’ve only read this book about a hundred times before, and Langston exclaims his usual, “There’s Daston in the mirror!” But tonight he adds, “Mommy, listen in the mirror!”
“How do I listen in the mirror?” I ask him. For a second, I think maybe he’s going to say something poetic and profound or that he’ll offer up a healing solution.
“I mean, look in the mirror!” he amends hastily.
“I can’t look in the mirror,” I remind him. “My eyes don’t work.”
“My eyes work,” he responds, as if he can transfer me a vision of myself with those words.
“Well,” I answer, “who do you see in the mirror?”
“Daston!” he shouts again. “Where does Daston come from?”
“Where do you come from?” I return the question, because sometimes he asks questions to hear himself ask them, but he already knows the answers.
“I come from Mommy and Daddy,” he announces. And for a moment, that’s all that matters.
Kristen Witucki earned her MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her first book, The Transcriber, became part of Gemmamedia’s Open Door series. Her non-fiction has appeared in Huffington Post, Literary Mama and the Momoir Project. She teaches English, creative writing, and Braille. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, her son, and her Seeing Eye dog. Visit her at www.kristenwitucki.com.
To read all of the essays in this series click here.