by Philip Kutner
What's it like to not see everything? What's it like to see nothing?
For fully sighted folks, these are questions that rarely enter their thoughts other than when conversing with the visually impaired. One can only imagine what it's like when trying to walk in someone else's shoes.
There are experiences that one can only imagine, but must experience to grasp its real feeling or meaning. What's it like to see a baby chick hatch? What's it like to be high on drugs? What's it like jumping out of an airplane, going into freefall, pulling the string, and finally coming down on land? What's it like to give birth to a child? I have experienced none of them, and never will one of them.
I want to share an event that half of us have, or may have. It was one of the most profound and definitely the one that had the greatest emotional impact on me. It was the first time I saw my first grandchild.
Our daughter was in our home when she started having labor pains. We clocked the time between pains and decided it was time to take her to the Hackensack General Hospital in Hackensack, N.J. After a while, we left to eat and were called to return. Baby
Melanie had been born.
As we rushed in, we passed by the nursery where the babies were kept. They were lined up with bassinettes along the viewing window. I said to my wife, Sally, "Go on in to see Debbie, I want to just spend a moment looking at baby Melanie."
All of the babies were covered in blue or pink blankets. I held up a sheet of paper with Melanie's name for the nurse to point to my granddaughter. She was the third from the right. The blanket covered all but the top of her head that had quite a bit of dark hair.
As I stood transfixed with my nose squashed against the windowpane, a sudden peacefulness passed over me. It was like standing on top of Mount Everest and looking down at the rest of the world. There were no thoughts going through my mind - only a calm and quiet I had never experienced.
Time passed and the others came out and said, "Let's go." I remember only a weak and then strong tug on my sleeve and then sort of like waking from a dream. Later they said that I had spent over 40 minutes staring through a nursery window.
You may have had an unusual experience and tried to explain it to someone and they may have said, "I know." You may have had a like experience, but it is impossible to feel the intensity unless you actually experience it.
Losing one's sight is a traumatic experience. Only sightless folks can sense the enormity of the loss. People have been blindfolded and told to try to experience sightlessness. They all note the helplessness and hopelessness of their feelings, but they know that it is only for a short while and they will soon be back in the sighted world.