Archive for the December 2005 Category


top of sing no sad songs

When it became obvious that my sight would be permanently impaired, Judy and I faced a small concern about how to announce it to our friends and people whom we deal with in various functions in a business sense. We had no intention of sending out cards announcing my blindness, but on the other hand, it donned on us that we should at least tell friends what had happened.

The matter more or less came to a head by a note received by Judy which was nothing less than a sympathy card. When we left for Philadelphia prior to the trabeculectomy, an operation at the end of October, I had been scheduled to have a teeth cleaning at the local dentist. Judy called the dentist’s office to cancel that appointment, the thought being that we would reinstate it when we returned. We have now been back for the better part of a month, and we have had other things to do and have failed to reinstate that appointment.

The dentist’s staff must have concluded that I had died. For further proof, there was an obituary published in the Star Ledger reporting the death of a person, believe this or not, named Edward E. Carr. He was a World War II soldier, was a POW and many of the details that applied to him also would have applied to me. Apparently the staff at the dentist’s office concluded that I was that fellow who had gone to be an angel. Judy received a card with all kinds of sympathy and promised that the prayers of the dental staff would be with us and God would guide us with his hands.

Now this became serious business, so we had to tell some people that I had lost my sight and not my life. As a matter of fact, for more than 70 years I have been expecting blindness.

When I entered Clayton High School in January of 1936, I went to the library and looked up the meaning of the word glaucoma. I found that it was an incurable disease and was passed from one generation to another through heredity. For the last 70 years, I have been expecting that glaucoma would result in some sort of blindness if I lived long enough. I not only lived long enough, but I have outlived my father and my brothers and so while I was trying to outlive glaucoma, it snuck up on me and did its damage this Fall. The fact that the glaucoma took a bite out of me at age 83 doesn’t make it any easier to swallow, but I look at it as a natural chain in the course of my life.

My father lost his sight somewhere in his mid-sixties. My brother lost his sight somewhere in his mid-seventies and I had been very fortunate to have kept some sort of sight into my 84th year. So I guess if you look at it in some respects, I am a very fortunate fellow.

So sing no sad songs for this old reprobate geezer. If there are sad songs to be sung, please save them for the kindergarten children who are also afflicted by blindness as a result of glaucoma. Save those sad songs for a 40 year old nurse we met at Wills, who has two young children whom she hopes to see graduate and perhaps marry before her sight is lost. Glaucoma is an insidious disease that seems to defy a cure. So if there are sad songs to be sung, save them for the children and the women with two children whom she wishes to see graduate from school and marry. I have had 83 years of mostly pleasant memories that I can call upon, so I consider myself as ahead of the game.

In the final analysis, my blindness has something to do with my father. He spent the last 12 or 13 years of his life in total blindness as a result of glaucoma. He was a religious man and he was an exceedingly proud man. It was his view that it would be beneath the dignity of Jesus to lift his blindness. It must have been that he assumed that Jesus had imposed this burden for some purpose that he did not know. In any case, my father never ever asked to be relieved of his burden. He simply bore it as decently as he could. He often referred to it as a “bloody nu-san-nance.” I know that nu-san-nance is not the right pronunciation of nuisance, but in his country way, my father made his point quite clear. In any event, it would dishonor my father if I were ever to whimper about blindness that I have held off for the better part of 84 years.

Blindness at this stage is something to be accepted philosophically. I’ve had a good run at life. My work is done, my memoirs are written in nearly 200 essays, so there is not much left for me to say. I am married to a lovely woman who has guided me through this experience. All things being equal, I am not happy that blindness has descended on me, but it is my intention to do the very best I can to live with it, even to overcome it. And maybe giggle once in a while at my mistakes such as trying to crawl out the tile wall in the shower instead of the glass doors.

I am the same person I was before total blindness decided to afflict me. For example, I enjoy the company of males who like to needle me. Gregorio at the food market doesn’t mince words. The other day, he told me “Eat this.” So I ate it. Then he said, “Eat this”, so I ate that. Gregorio started off almost crying when he saw my condition for the first time. Gregorio has now returned to his usual manner of treating me like the peasant that I am.

Yesterday, Judy and I went to a restaurant where the co-owner, Mario DeMarco, learned fully of my condition. While we were waiting for our order to be completed, Mario offered coffee or some other drink to help pass the time. When we demurred, Mario thought some more and then he said with his impish needle, “Hey man, want to watch some television?”

Someday I’ll think of a proper response and I’ll lay it on Mario for that remark. There is an Irish author named William Butler Yeats. In one of his works, Yeats has this line,

“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.”

William Butler Yeats, The Municipal Gallery Revisited

Those friends have sustained me through their words of encouragement and indeed their needling me as blindness has progressed. I greatly appreciate that. And as for sad songs, there are people who really need and deserve them. I hope that this short message informs you of what has happened and presents my outlook as a positive one.

In the meantime, Judy and I send this year end greeting with the hope that you are staying well and also staying strong. Warm regards from both of us.

December 14, 2005
Essay 174
bottom of sing no sad songs


Kevin’s commentary: Hopefully Pop enjoys the pictures at the top and bottom of this essay; I went to a lot of trouble to add them. Honestly though I actually made this mistake as recently as 2010, when I had returned from a trip to China. I had had a rather unfortunate encounter with some Chinese police, and they made me delete all the pictures that I had taken of the political protest that I had been (poorly) photographing. I recovered the images off the drive later, and when I was talking to Pop about it, at one point I said “I’d love to show you the pictures that I got back!”

Now of course my brother and mother were in the room at the time and they burst out laughing at me. Clearly Pop would not have had much use for the pictures, but I stand my sentiment that I did WANT to show him, regardless.

Pop has dealt with his blindness, in my opinion, as well as could be expected. And true to form, he’s put up with everything without much complaint. This of course is not the Shepherd way; we do not suffer in silence. If my dad, for instance, went blind then there would probably be daily bitching about it, just for the sake of bitching.

This is the 2nd essay in a series on blindness.
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