18 Feb 2012

Santa Maria Del Traje

This story is for Bee, who I know will understand and appreciate the sentiments…

Being vision-impaired is a ‘funny’ thing sometimes. Because I cannot rely on my poor ailing eyes to see, other senses have jumped to my rescue (and those of my family) as invaluable tools of the blind-trade. Eyes do what they can – but my hearing, sense of touch, taste and smell, memory and intuition, complete the survival tool kit.
I have noticed how sighted people are a little lazy when it comes to remembering details like phone numbers or web addresses or even where they last put something down – because of course, they can simply look for it again. But I cannot afford such a luxury -  the frustration is too great. My dear friend, Ms Memory, is always ready to record details and file them in folders and subfolders that reside somewhere in my brain – a filing cabinet full of trivial and important notes written in a hurry but filed impeccably by Ms Memory. Without her skill to retrieve data at a moment’s notice, I don’t think I would function so confidently in a sighted-world.  
I am forever touching things to remember them, wherever I go, to make sense of the blurry things in front of me - sometimes annoyingly so. In a queue, at a market stall, in an office supply,  at a fruit stand, among fragile homeware products and while standing idly at shop counters. Often it is my children that say “Mum! Stop touching everything!” I feel like a naughty child trying to understand a myriad of things all around me, and I find it amazing how gracefully my fingers can locate items without knocking them onto hard tiled floors.
At home, the ‘hand police’ patrol the domestic precinct and often come across misplaced objects – mostly my partner’s – so Ms Memory jots it down. Yep, his wallet in the washing basket…guitar capo in the bookcase, because, guess what? Without fail, I know he will ask,
“Have you seen my…?”
This common phrase in our home amuses me. Yes, the blind lady will find your misplaced item, dearest - shoes – glasses – keys – camera lens – laptop (a game usually played in haste on the way out of the door to a gig or before a weekend getaway).
The other thing that keeps me happily chugging along without full sight is being organised – very organised! There is a place for EVERYTHING. This saves precious time, energy and helps to steer clear of deep frustration and feelings of inadequacy. People may not appreciate how important it is not to move or change the way a blind person arranges their work space or home. I have crumpled to the floor in a pool of tears on several occasions, defeated by despair at having to give up the search for a simple kitchen utensil put away by a ‘helpful’ person. My dear friends reading this will now wonder if it is a reference to them? Relax – this was a few years ago – I have trained most people in my inner circle to understand the reason for my bossiness to leave things alone (especially the settings on my laptop). Now if they asked me if they could tidy up grubby stains on the cream walls? Not a problem - go for it!   
Being methodical, tidy and organised brings reliability. I prefer to allow time when  preparing to go out into the big wide world of unexpected obstacles. Calm order allows me to fully concentrate as I march with cane in hand, sweeping a clear path in front, body language clearly stating to oncoming human-traffic, ‘keep out of my way, I’m on a mission’. If, however, I am asked to fly by the seat of my unprepared, unironed pants, as sometimes naturally happens, particularly when caught up with Hurricane-Harry – life becomes…interesting…
“Have you seen my laptop? I’ve got to be at the gig in fifteen minutes,” he says.
Without time to look properly, he leaves the house and within ten minutes my mobile phone rings. What has he forgotten now? 
“I’ve left my suit behind!”
Why am I not surprised? He gabbles about where he put it, in the hall, intending to take it but so many things to remember… Calmly, I reassure him I will catch a tram, in the rain, and bring it to him, ok?
So, wielding trusty white cane, holding beloved umbrella purchased in the south of France, and carrying heavy suit wrapped in special covering:
on a tram…into the city…in the rain...went Santa Maria del Traje! 
(Spanish for Saint Mary of the Suit!)

©  Maribel Steel 2012


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