I hate wearing glasses. Since I am near-sighted and my near-sightedness is getting considerably closer, I should wear them more, especially when I am driving. But I hate the feeling of something sitting on my face and framing my vision. I lose them often because they just get in the way.
My visual struggles got in the way big time last week — once on land and once on the water.
Last week, my daughter and I were handing out flyers on Love Lane in Mattituck for our Canine Companion event. While in one of the shops, we ran out of flyers. When we walked back up the street to get more flyers, I saw an eager look on my daughter’s face and I knew she wanted to bring them back to the store by herself.
Raising a child with developmental disabilities is always a balancing act and a lesson in discernment. It can be really tough to know when to hold on tighter and when to let go — even when you know they may fall. This time I let go.
I reminded my daughter where the store was and that I would watch her the whole way. It was only a few hundred feet. When she got in front of the shop she turned and looked at the other side of the street. I called to her and reminded her to turn around and enter the store right beside her. She pointed and nodded her head and disappeared into what I thought was the door of the shop.
I stood there and waited for her to come out, as I talked to someone on the corner. Then, the woman who was waiting for the flyers walked out to the street and motioned to me that she was still waiting. I told her that my daughter was in the store. The woman shook her head no and then I picked up my pace. When I arrived in front of the store, we discovered that my daughter was no where to be seen and all the rest of the stores were closed.
We both called her name loudly and looked around. For a moment, I considered calling the police until at last I heard a faint reply from the parking lot behind the store. We ran behind, only to discover that my daughter had gotten confused and lost her way. She also did not know how to get back to the sidewalk or to the storefront.
My heart sunk when the realization hit. My almost-18-year-old daughter who was a child with disabilities is becoming an adult with disabilities who will require assistance for the rest of her life. The other lesson I learned is I need to wear my glasses. Really, if I had my glasses on, I could have seen more clearly that she was in fact standing in front of the alley, not the door of the store, where she needed to go.
This event was a healthy dose of perspective, even without my glasses.
A few days later we went canoeing on an inlet in Peconic, that connects to the Long Island Sound. We went around 5 p.m., just before high tide; the water was calm and the sky was lovely. Towards the end, the tide started coming in and we found ourselves paddling against the current. I was in the front of the canoe, my daughter and a friend were in the middle and my husband was in the rear. We were moving between sand bars and rocky areas where the water level was changing with the strong tide. I wasn’t wearing my glasses (because they would fall off) and I steered us right into a rock. The canoe tipped and my daughter and I quickly were pulled under, being swept back into the inlet. I held on to her with all my strength as a dug my legs into the rocks beneath to hold us back. Finally I was able to toss us up onto the shore. Thankfully, though we were a little beat up, we were all safe. We found ourselves laughing at our adventure.
Later, we realized that my daughter lost her glasses in the current.
Are you seeing a theme here? I didn’t – at least not yet. It took me a few days.
The next few days were difficult. This was the week I had been dreading: many meetings with lots of professionals to transition my daughter into adult services. We began the process of guardianship and numerous other details to ensure that she has what she needs and we have the support we need to continue to care for her in our own home.
I got hold of the eye doctor. My daughter was overdue for an exam and needed new glasses anyway. But the process is more complicated when you have neurological issues. In the week ahead, we will see the low vision specialist and go through a series of tests in addition to the regular vision testing.
When I opened my bible to this reading, I laughed out loud. Jesus was chatting with his disciples and said,
“You look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” (Matthew 13:13)
As this difficult week unfolded, I realized that my vision needed to change. I literally need new glasses and contacts or at least wear the ones I have! And my amazing little girl with disabilities will still be amazing as an adult with disabilities. True, the hopes that I once held that she would outgrow this disease are slowly dwindling away. But behind them there is new hope, if I choose to look at it with new eyes.
If I choose to see it, getting lost on one street opens new avenues to learn new skills. Getting swept away into the current of fear and negative thinking can further strengthen my resolve to get back on solid ground. The scratches, bump and bruises along the way are reminders to see with new eyes, the hope that lies ahead. It’s not easy, but we will get there.
The end of that chapter from the gospel of Matthew expresses hope for a new perspective for those who would believe:
“Blessed are your eyes, because they see what others long to see.” (Matthew 13:16)
God grant us eyes to see with new vision, the hope we have in store.
Eileen Benthal is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a B.A. in Theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at FreeIndeedFreelance.com.