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Peter and Mary's Story -- Mary's View

I had never thought about relating to a blind person. The situation had never presented itself in my early life, and I never had any education with regard to the subject -- a rather common experience for my age group (senior). It seems amazing to me now, that I have loved two men who lost their vision. One was my first husband George, who lost his vision at the end of our life together; and the other is Peter, who was blind when we met. By that time, I had had some practice in knowing how to interact with a visually impaired person, but as Peter and I have had more life experience together (we've lived together since 1994), I have found myself learning more about what is required to make ever so many things work for us.

Peter has had light perception only since the age of 33. He also has had a hearing impairment since he was 7. There are many issues I, a sighted person, have to deal with because of living with a visually impaired spouse, such as allowing enough room for two paths wherever we go. Revolving doors are another challenge. And I must read the mail for both of us, every day. There are always challenges, such as how to negotiate a public swimming pool when on vacation. Peter's guide dog had been retired, and I am often in the position of acting as a sighted guide, a job with a whole array of "do's and don'ts," all of which make logical sense, but require patience on both our parts. And, I might add, a good sense of humor.

Functioning as a two-in-one entity has some drawbacks. One major problem is maintaining some personal agenda separate from what we need to do as a twosome. Though others not in our situation may have a similar issue, our life circumstances make this even more of a problem. Peter needs help in so many little ways; I can easily be distracted from maintaining my own work schedule. This doesn't mean that he isn't able to work independently once some small problem is resolved, but it does require that I be open to interruptions. Sometimes I am more affable about this than at other times. I know Peter senses my irritation.

We try to have an orderly (as well as aesthetically pleasing) household. Adequate space in our home helps. We pay no attention to conventional roles, such as who does laundry (Peter), who drives (I do), who does the dishes (Peter), who mows the lawn (me). On the other hand, Peter takes out the garbage (hugging the fence along the alley helps); and I do the cooking (Peter makes coffee and breakfast). Peter also cleans house (with me) and does windows (sometimes with me). We both participated in painting the new room addition, where laughs abounded, but so did moral support.

Peter handles much of his own personal business with the use of his talking computer and, of course, the telephone. Talking calculators, watches, and other assisted devices for the blind are of immense help.

We both belong to the same book club. All of Peter's reading is done with Library of Congress tapes, while I use the printed version. We both enjoy concerts and most live theater. We each feel free to indulge in our separate interests, too. Peter has shown some resistance to my invitations to become an horticulturist. (This does not mean that be does not appreciate nature and it's cultivation. He feeds the birds! Special guideposts help him find the feeder. I wash the bird bath.)

We're still trying to figure out how to function as two individuals in a large social gathering, where background noise and very mobile social participants are a big challenge to Peter. Hitting people with a mobility cane doesn't make for good social contact! These situations require my help, and sometimes slow down my social pacing. Crowded restaurants, which often exhibit no attention to acoustics suitable for discussion (especially for Peter, who is hearing impaired as well as blind), are also a big challenge. Travel by car, though I do all the driving, has been enjoyable because we work on pacing ourselves appropriately, enjoying tapes and the radio. It helps that Peter is not a back seat driver. I give travelogue descriptions to Peter while I drive.

We find that laughing at our situation and peculiarities is of great assistance in negotiating our differences and enjoying our time together on Planet Earth.





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