Partially Sighted But Fully Grateful

by Kevin Burton

  My visual acuity, at 20 over 200, is right on the borderline for what is considered to be legally blind.

   This leads to some confusion. The way I come to see things may look awkward to some. I am sure some think, “Is this guy blind, blind drunk, or just crazy?”

   I say to people, “If you want to know how much I can see, drop a dollar on the floor.” That’s funny, but not terribly helpful.

   My own father never really figured out what I could see or couldn’t see. He had some idea, but often had to ask.

   I remember being in the backyard with him one day. Pointing, he said, “Can you see that?”

   “You mean that skunk?” I said and yes I could see it, sort of. I knew it was an animal and the only animal I knew of with that high-contrast black-and-white coloring that I could see at a distance, was a skunk.

    But I didn’t really “see” a skunk” I saw black and white movement. If it had been a squirrel or any other small animal I would never have been able to distinguish it.   

   When I was young and attending the Ohio State School for the Blind, they called people like me “high partials,” meaning we had a high level of partial vision. Don’t know if people use that term anymore.

   So that’s the way it is being a high partial. You take in as much data as you can visually and fill in the rest from experience or by context or however you can.

   Let’s say I am typing in a place without full lighting.  Let’s say I need to type a phone number. Looking at the number keys above the letters, I find the 7.  It’s a skinny number and not rounded, like the 5, 6, 8 and 9 surrounding it. If I have the 7, I know where to go for the others.  I don’t really “see” the six, but don’t need to.

   Some restaurants present a challenge.  If I walk into Wendy’s, well I know the menu at Wendy’s. But let’s say I’m in some regional chain restaurant I’ve never heard of. I can’t read the menu high on the wall above the heads of the cashiers. So I just order as best I can.

  “I’ll have a cheeseburger plain, heavy on the plain please, with fries and a diet coke.”

   “You mean a number three,’ the cashier says.

   “Well, if you say so, absolutely, a number three. Bring it on!”

   I’m sure these people keep an eye on me until I am safely out the door.

   My wife says that I see what I want to see. She says I have selective vision.  That malady isn’t diagnosed by an ophthalmologist, but an obstetrician. Once you get that Y chromosome and become a male, the selective vision comes automatically.

   She says studies have shown this to be true.

   Well I don’t know about that, but I do know I appreciate what vision I have more than many sighted people, who take theirs for granted.

   I can see the faces of my wife and other loved ones. I can see a yellow, red and orange sunset as the day fades to night.

   When the Chiefs won the Super Bowl I sat across the room from the big screen TV and used a monocular to get a good view of the action. I use the same monocular to see if the flag is down on the mailbox and I can check the mail.  After I get the mail I use a handheld magnifier to read it.

   Though I cannot see well enough to drive, I do contribute by providing my wife with excellent driving advice. These are the little things that make for a happy home. My blindness doesn’t stop me from helping, where I can.

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