I'll See You in My Dreams



When you can see for the first 34 years of your life and then become totally blind, your memories and imagination often kick in and serve up a visual landscape in your head.

Let’s be clear. I didn’t go to bed on April 9th and wake up on April 10th blind. When I was 17, I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative disease of the retina. And when you’re 17 and told you are going blind, you ignore it. I was told that I would slowly lose my sight and it was questionable whether I would retain any usable vision long term. I didn’t. By my early 30s, everything was dark, save for a dim glimmer of light in my right eye.

It became all about getting stuff done by other means. Gradually I adjusted to my environment – I got some orientation and mobility tips from the Lighthouse for the Blind (why isn’t it the Darkhouse? Too dark?), acquired cooking skills from a blind girlfriend, and started traveling with a guide-dog so I could move through the world with a bit more zip in my step.

It’s all about adapting. Work arounds. Doing things differently. You actually get used to it; blindness just becomes part of you. It’s not a lack of sight that’s a problem, but a lack of access to visual information.

Nevertheless, I’m not a super-blink – I do miss being able to see.

Now it’s my memory and imagination that serve up sight.

After being totally blind for a while, I took delight in dreaming because I could see in my dreams. The images were sometimes familiar and sometimes fabrication, like a fictitious character in a novel. Even though going blind didn’t improve the plot lines of my dreams – they’re still obscure and opaque – it’s the visuals I focus on and so enjoy.

And there are times when I dream in color. Color is certainly a major part of the visual landscape and losing it is something more than just losing your sight. Color pricks the emotions, offering dimension and depth beyond the paint brushed onto a black and white image in front of you. So too, when people describe a scene in real time, I tend to rapidly imagine and fold in the people and the local environs being described, perhaps like sighted folks do when hearing a story on public radio or listening to an audio book. My imagination rolls like a film with images, actions, nuance…and technicolor!

Ah! To sleep: perchance to see!

Steve Gladstone 

The Blind Dude