In pain, laying face down on a massage bed that had very little padding especially after having to be on it constantly for one full month. I couldn’t sleep, I wasn’t able to go to school so instead I read audiobooks. I remember I read Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol in a full 24-hour stint when I couldn’t sleep, the voices were mesmerizing and I appreciated it in my deterring state. I remember feeling so tired but not being able to sleep on my stomach which I had to for the terms of the operation, and sometimes it would hurt so bad that I would just stand and stare at my feet instead of lay–but laying was what I did. I gained a lot of weight.
The Christmas tree went up, and as many people now know the massage bed was positioned beside the tree so I could hold onto it with my hands. I couldn’t see the ornament, I couldn’t watch the tv, my family had positioned a mirror under my face that faced the tv so I could watch it upside down, but this was before Netflix so we rented a lot of dvds from Blockbuster and borrowed many a-seasons of tv shows. I was quite partial to Three’s Company, which I loved.
There was one evening my mom was chatting away in the kitchen and I was trying to read the audiobook of the Shawshan Redemption (it sucked) and I fell asleep, and I remember waking up and hoping that sleep would never be so hard again, but alas I am stuck with occasional insomnia due to various reasons, sometimes eye related, most of the time I just worry too much.
One of my great uncles sent me a full box of original Broadway soundtracks and that is when I learned every word to Fiddler on the Roof, Bye Bye Birdy, Hello Dolly and Cabaret without ever having seen any of those shows. I have created my own stories to various Broadway musicals, and now still have remnants of those albums on my ipod today.
I had good friends visit and bake me tasty treats, and after a month I was able to sit up but not do much activity, which meant I had to stay in bed. This meant that over the holiday season I couldn’t move much or participate, and by the time my eighteenth birthday came around in January I was able to sit up and watch, a few inches from the tv, I Am Legend, with a bowl of ice cream and a cosy blanket. If there is one thing I learned over those two months it was that I hated staying still.
I’ve written a lot about the holidays and the material parts of them. How to look cute what to buy your loved ones, decorating, making gifts, but for me Christmas is something else. I have always been the Buddy-The-Elf enthusiasm of the family, the driving force to get up early and go to the Christmas parade in the snow, or to decorate the tree in November, to watch the movies and sing carols and songs. I have always been that motivation, and that year when I was immobilized by my blindness I felt that all of that was taken away from me, and to be honest it was gone from me for a little while, until my third year of university, three years after my surgery, when I was in England for the months leading up to the holidays.
Now, this season, five years since I couldn’t watch my favourite holiday movies or eat candy canes while waking through Waterloo Park looking at the lights, I remain grateful for the limited vision that I do have. Those moments when I just notice bright lights on my neighbours’ houses, or the oversized Christmas tree in the mall. The lights on the trees are big for me, before my surgery my parents took me to the Eaton Centre in Toronto and had to guide me around since I was completely blind, and the Swarovski Christmas tree, which is lit by thousands of crystals, stood infront of me and I could see it and it was magnificent. Nothing will ever feel as amazing as actually being able to see something so special.
So this holiday season, while you are baking and drinking and shopping, while you are decorating and wrapping and singing, think of the things you do have instead of the things you lack that are on your list. Think of the things you can do, instead of the things you can’t this Christmas. Be grateful for the people who are in your life, and not for those who are lost. And enjoy life, because this is all you’ve got.
My best wishes for you this holiday,