I am shocked! Why isn’t Little little, I wonder as one morning we are standing in the kitchen and her pudgy outline magically appears before my eyes. As in yes, literally. She wasn’t really there when I glanced a second before, but she is now.
I’m not sure what has clicked in with my brain, but it does this a lot.
Last night I didn’t have kitchen benches when I collected my plate, but when I returned it five minutes later, they had materialised from nowhere.
And let us not mention my startlement when I walked into the bathroom three days ago only to find my husband standing in the shower. I was so used to him being a voice, that when I saw the contrasting colour between him and the wall, my first thought was oh, my God, there is a man in my shower don’t tell my husband! I even brought my hand to my mouth as a reflex. As I automatically began to call out to him, thinking he was down stairs, and this was an intruder.
It takes weeks for me to get used to seeing him.
At first, he appears as a set of stripes. Otherwise known as legs. Stripes that make a triangle shape when they walk. I can’t stop looking at him.
Triangle triangle triangle triangle as he strides across the room.
My earliest visual memories are of the legs of my loved ones. My grandpa in his grey pants. my grandma in her floral dresses. My mother in her flared jeans. my aunts… Therefore it doesn’t surprise me when this is the first thing I see of him, or of Little that very first day. As my brain is learning to see and identify people, places, and objects all over again.
of course, it makes sense it would follow those same physiological and neurological snail trails to the treasured land of milk and honey.
I try to see his face, but it doesn’t compute. Maybe there are too many details, and they are just too small. Or maybe it is that I love him so much that seeing his face is impossible because I am blinded by the vision of his heart and soul.
I am fascinated, and it is all I can do not to follow him around like a puppy dog and just look and look and look.
Although sometimes I secretly do. And not so secretly do.
I try to place the shapes into position in order to make a whole person. But the stripes distract me every time.
Sometimes I get the block of his body, or the small square of his face, but I don’t or can’t put the entirety of him together and reconcile it as my husband.
Because in my head, my husband is so much more than this two-dimensional figure in front of me, that I don’t understand how this can even be a representation of him. Let alone for our beautiful amazing daughter. The daughter we created, and who is a combination of all our bestness…
None of it makes sense, and my mind is constantly twirling in a bid to try and wrap itself around the barrage of new images.
Such as my shadow, the lights on the ceiling, the flowers on the side path, my fingers. I mean did you know I have fingers? Although I don’t see them as fingers, just these funny things that move and create more stripes if I put them up in front of my eyes…
Just like Little does, I can spend five minutes examining a leaf, or a silver spoon, or the tap outside our house.
It is like being two years old all over again. So talk about perfect timing. I mean I don’t even have to pretend to be engrossed in the same things as my toddler. Because I absolutely am.
This isn’t interested and enchanted because she is, this is interested and enchanted because things are oh so interesting and enchanting.
I lay on my belly and play with the reflection of the kitchen light on the ugly cork floor, just as I did when I was small.
I look at the poker dots on the ground with intrigue, as I translate the vision into what I think it should be based on all the other pieces of information and context I have at the time. In other words, spots on the ground are usually autumn leaves. While spots on the sides are often flowers.
But heaven only knows what that bright yellowy or maybe it is black or orange or I don’t know thing on the tennis court is every afternoon. I think it must be a bird – maybe a peacock or something, but it doesn’t sound like a bird. So really, that one is still a mystery.
I ask Michael, but he doesn’t know what I am talking about.
I try and think what else could be on a tennis court, but I can’t come up with anything. But then a bird doesn’t make sense, because I don’t see birds. Do I? I don’t think I see birds. What does a bird look like anyway?
For days this puzzles me, until eventually I have to put it down in favour of a different problem to solve. Such as how to cook with low vision again.
And although I cannot differentiate the coloured chalk, I am beginning to be able to define the brightly coloured blocks.
The colours come back slowly, and seemingly of their own accord.
Orange and yellow are still tricky, as are blues purples and greens. But red is red, and I swear to God that red wasn’t red before. So maybe these aren’t the same blocks we used to play with before the operation. Because surely if they were this brightly coloured and contrasting, I would have seen them. I would have known…. How did I not know? And tennis balls. Oh, my God tennis balls are so bright. I cannot believe they are actually that bright. They make me laugh every time I see one. Partly because I see it in the first place, and partly because they’re just so happy.
Speaking of which, I cannot believe how big the lights are in our loungeroom. And to think I was convinced they didn’t exist. Who put those there, I am asking Michael most nights as I watch them grow. I am sure the roof is falling, and each night they get a little closer to my comfortable lounge island.
Everything is bigger and less spacious than I thought, and it is throwing my balance and awareness for a loop.
I mean the echoes haven’t changed, but the visual doesn’t match up with my perception and other senses. I don’t know how to puzzle it all together into a coherent picture.
Seeing is hard work.
I feel simultaneously chlostraphobic and enthralled with the entire situation.
For example, clouds aren’t clouds, they are traffic in the sky. And actually, they sort of annoy me, because it makes everything too busy.
Sometimes I look to the sky because I need a reprieve from the overload. There are just so many things to look at. How do sighties do it?
I simply don’t have the physical or mental endurance for this caper, I sometimes think in my more tired moments. But I know that all I need is time. Time, rest, and to be gentle with myself. This recovery can be as languid as it likes as far as I am concerned.
My brain oscillates between thinking it can see absolutely everything to seeing nothing. And I never quite know when or what I am going to get.
The exhaustion is real. And although I expect it, I hadn’t really expected it well I did, but I had forgotten how it feels. I had blocked it out as a non-factor, because the exhaustion of not seeing was just so much more. More more more… Oh God impossibly more! Secretly I had thought getting the blue sky back would solve all my problems like a magic spell, or happily ever after phrase at the end of one of those fairy tale books I still refuse to read Little.
In the rosy coloured glass corner of my mind, I thought that having sight would mean having energy. But I have forgotten what having sight was like. And by sight, of course I mean I will never catch a ball type sight, unless it is by accident. I will never read the eye chart type sight, unless I climb up on the ophthalmologist’s desk to examine it on the wall. I will never sign my name on the dotted line neatly type sight without someone else’s intervention. I will never read a paperback type sight, unless it is in electronic form. I will never recognise my best friend walking down the street type sight even if she does tell me what she is wearing. I will never see just how pretty Little’s eyes are, let alone those of my husband type sight. I will never see my toes type sight unless I bring them to my nose. I will still forget where I put my wine glass type sight. I will smell the florst before I see the florest type sight. I will hear that car before I see it type sight. I will still need help picking a nail polish colour type sight. And I still won’t ice a cake with any more finesse type sight. However having said all that, I will make this look easy type sight, and nobody will ever truly know how much I can do with my miracle.
I had forgotten about that particular type of tiredness, which comes from low vision eyestrain. And although of course I welcome it, and relish it, I am still no less sidelined by it.
By 2:00pm most afternoons, I need a nap. And although I wake, up eager every morning to see if the crack between the blinds is any crisper than it was the day before. I am simultaneously scared and anxious that not only will it have disappeared back into the shadows, or that there is just so much to see that I won’t be able to take it all in throughout the day and my brain might explode.
Getting up with baby girl is almost impossible, as I need a quiet hour with a cup of tea and nothing moving in order to get used to this new reality.
Michael of course picks up the slack, and although I know he is suffering from a lack of sleep, I simply can’t consider how my state of being is impacting on him right now.
I am still healing, and I still feel so fragile in body, brain, and belonging.
But as strange as this strange new world is, I have to confess that oh my God, it is just so much easier than what I was experiencing before the operation.
For me, that little bit of contrast makes all the difference.
It may not seem like much to some, but it is massive to me.
I am still recovering from the ocean. And with each passing day, I wonder if I have pushed it too hard too early.
At the time I had thought it the right thing to do, and that I was ready, but given my low energy and cognitive ability for the week, I have to wonder am I inadvertently doing more damage? Are there things I should be doing differently?
I have been so careful in following the ophthalmologist’s advice, and then some. But will it be enough?
Most of the time I cannot string a sentence together, let alone have a coherent conversation with anyone.
I cannot imagine being ready to go back to work, although I know it is going to have to happen sooner rather than later.
But at the moment, even the thought scares me.
My house is still so unfamiliar, let alone the dwelling of another.
I still can’t poor myself a cup of tea without spilling it everywhere, or brush my hair properly.
I forget words, objects, spaces, and faces.
I cannot concentrate on more than one thing at a time, and even that one is often difficult.
. Little! You’re not little, I suddenly think as I try to process the colidascope of information assaulting my brain.
A bolt of deep longing and betrayal shoots through me as I take in the little girl before me.
But where is my baby, I ask the universe.
My mama brain clearly thinks that if I am seeing my daughter for the first time, she should be a tiny newborn baby regardless of the fact that we have had her for over two years now. So the physical actual literal visual isn’t adding up with the evolutionary reaction I am currently experiencing.
It all unfolds so quickly, that if I blink I will miss it. However now I have felt it, I cannot unfeel it. I feel as though I have missed out on something really important. Something really really important. Something I will not get back.
Little isn’t even a toddler; she is a fully formed person. Her movements are oh so grown up, even if she is miniature in stature.
But Little, you’re supposed to be little, I say to her as she stacks her plastic plates into her very own big girl kitchen cupboard, as we unstack the dishwasher, as is our ritual.
She is oblivious to my transformation, and continues with her game.
Oh My God, but you’re so beautiful, I say in the next second. And before I know it, I am ringing her Godmother, to ask her why she didn’t tell me just how beautiful Little is…
I look and I look and I look in a bid to create meaning within her face.
Sighties are always talking about faces and how much they matter. But as much as I try to understand what I am supposed to make it mean, I cannot. I don’t need to see her beautiful face to love, know, or want her. I don’t need to see her face to understand when she is happy, sad, or other. I know her heart, her hand, and her honey sweet personality all without seeing her. But people keep telling me as though her face is supposed to mean something important. Something I have not been privy to before, but apparently I am or I will be now. But I don’t understand. For weeks, I try to teach myself this mysterious whatever, but none of it makes sense. What am I looking for?
I look and I look and I look to create myself within her. Because aren’t I supposed to be in there?
The only problem is, I don’t know what I look like either. Therefore how do I know what to look for.
What I do no, is that a figure has recently appeared in the mirror, and she scares the shit out of me every time I catch a glimpse.
I am constantly checking over my shoulder to see if someone else is in the room, as I am not used to having company.
If I had my way, I would have had all the mirrors taken down in the house years ago. I mean what was the point in having them if I couldn’t judge the shit out of myself every time I walked passed and caught a visual. But as it was, I had to settle for giving away my stand alone full length mirror and jewellery cabinet instead.
But now, I cannot believe how pretty the body in the mirror is; I will always love you because I am just so glad to see you, I say to her every time we cross paths. Because oh my God I am just so glad to see her. Me. Her… no me! It feels impossible to judge her, because I am just so happy to have her back. She is beautiful. I cannot believe how beautiful I am.
I have always secretly worried I am hideous, but this new outline I am receiving is phenomenal. As in holy wow Michael Darcy, you are one lucky man.
I am just so appreciative of my body, and its return to my line of sight.
I am relieved to see I do in fact exist, and didn’t disappear the way I had feared along with my vision.
It cracks Michael up every time he catches me playing in front of the mirror with that same lack of self-consciousness that only a toddler has. Sometimes Little joins me, and sometimes I do it in secret.
I totally get you Little. I totally do.
I wish everyone could experience this kind of unconditional self-love and freedom, I think every time I luxuriate in the moment.
How privileged I am to be working my way through these developments, but with the experience and articulation as an adult.
Nobody gets this, I think to myself at least once a day. Nobody gets to come back from this…