When I was 23, I bumped into a young student at school. As I was helping her pick up her belongings, I noticed two things about her: She was very beautiful and very blind. I apologized for upsetting her and with great courage asked for her name and her phone number. My curiosity overcame my extreme shyness with the opposite sex and I phoned her to see if she wanted to go out. To my surprise, she said “yes.” I knew next to nothing about how to properly take care of and escort a woman, let alone a blind one! She was of Northern Italian descent with olive complexion, honey brown hair, and green eyes. She was very petite, about five feet tall and maybe 90 pounds. She was born prematurely and only weighed 3 pounds and back in the 1950’s she was a miracle to have survived at all. The overly-rich oxygen concentration in her incubator destroyed her retinas and she told me her blindness was so profound that she could only distinguish lightness and darkness.
Well, my “blind” date turned into a six-month affair. I found her relaxed, patient, flexible, adventurous, non-judgemental, sociable, and most of all – happy. Briefly, I contemplated marriage and got the expected negative feedback from my Father, Mother, and others. “Oh you wouldn’t want to spend the rest of your life with a blind lady, would you? Just think of all the problems it would cause.”
I broke it off with her with great difficulty because I didn’t think I was good enough for her. She deserved someone better. However, my little “blind date” was my introduction to the wonderful and different world of being with a woman and the added challenge of being with one with a profound disability. What I learned from our relationship together was the springboard to the love of my life: my wife of 42 years.
I have not seen my little “blind date” for almost 40 years, don’t know where she’s at, but I think of her often. How I’d like to see her once again briefly and see how her life has been. I learned a lot more from her than she did from me. To wit: A relationship involving someone with a disability, whether slight or profound, takes effort, commitment, and tact. Hmmmm….just like ANY other relationship!