by Marty Klein, Woodstock, New York
After 14 years, my wife and I decided to separate. The separation has been respectful and relatively smooth in spite of the normal sadness and pain that surfaces with most separations. She’s back in Florida now, and I’m back in my house in New York. Oh well, here we go again! The feeling is familiar and not one that I am eager to embrace, but embrace it, I must.
Whenever I’ve gone through a separation, it’s always been amplified for me because of blindness. My partners have always had normal vision, so whenever I’ve gone through a parting of the ways, I’ve had to grieve the loss of the friendship. In addition, I’ve had to deal with living alone again as a single blind man. There are benefits, but I must say that the challenges outweigh the good stuff.
One definite advantage to living alone is that I’m better organized that way. I often feel more independent in my home when I’m living alone than when I am living with a partner who has normal vision. When living with a partner, I’m commonly asking them for something that they used but didn’t put back in exactly the place I expected to find it. It seems hard for sighted people to realize that even when you put something back in the vicinity of its normal place, it’s just not good enough because we blind folks can’t see that it’s just a few inches or feet away.
I love my home, and I’m a pretty neat and organized guy. So I really enjoy the benefits of knowing exactly where everything is. It’s totally my refrigerator now, and I know where all foods rest and on which shelves. I know where everything is in the kitchen cabinets, on the shelves in the bathrooms, the kitchen table, the porch, in the back yard and in the shed. This knowing has always given me a stronger sense of confidence in myself and in my life. And if, by chance, I cannot initially find something, I take a breath and almost always remember where I last used it.
On the other hand, I have to plan ahead for so many things and the spontaneity of my life has to take a bit of a back seat. It’s so easy to take for granted the ease of getting in the car and going out to a restaurant or to shop for something on the spur of the moment. That’s how it’s been for me when living with a sighted partner. But now? Now it’s very different. I must organize getting somebody over to come once a week to go over the mail and assist me if I need to mail anything out. I must constantly set up rides to and from activities outside the house. There are benefits here because I get to do lots of outdoor activities with a bunch of different people, and since I like people, it often turns out to be fun. But the constant organizing gets to feel like a bit of a drag at times.
There’s also the real feeling of loneliness that comes up on occasion since there is no one in the house except me and my sweet little cat. And then there’s always the problem of walking on my porch and not seeing the dead mouse that my cat has brought in. I inevitably do find the dead critter, but I’ll leave the details about how I discover the mouse up to your imagination.
Access technology works great with my computer, but every now and then there’s a glitch, and I really miss having a sighted friend around to take a look at the screen. Often it’s just a little click of the mouse, and I’m fine again. But without that person with vision living with me, it often becomes a whole frustrating ordeal.
I’ve often said that privacy plus accessibility equals dignity for people with a disability. Well, I have my privacy, which I really do appreciate. And now I’m in the process of setting up a more consistent plan for getting my needs met regarding accessibility. With this in mind, I guess I’m almost back to the place of reclaiming my dignity.
Still, I am grieving the loss of two very important people. The first and by far the most important of the two is the loss of my best friend and partner. The second, clearly of lesser importance but still significant, is the loss of my sighted ally. It’s good for me to remember how easy it is to become lazy or dependent, relying on a friend to also be that person who assists me whenever I want or need to go out. And I know that in some ways it does put an extra strain on the relationship. With that in mind, I now will cautiously and consciously begin a search for a new partner … and that is clearly déjà vu all over again!