Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

Gaining Insight


I watched as the waves licked at my footprints, softening the outlines, filling the indentations with water. As if in competition, each wave erased more as it advanced and retreated with the incoming tide. Would this be the wave that will erase all residual evidence of my fleeting presence? Or the next?

We were attending a family reunion in Jersey, Channel Islands. Dad and I got up early to take a walk on the beach just outside our hotel. We trudged across the dry white sand towards the water—it was easier to walk on the wet sand. We ambled along side by side, sometimes quiet, other times chatting about this and that. Occasionally we paused to take in our surroundings.

Dad pointed out the little bubbles rising from tiny holes in the sand as the waves retreated. Sand crabs? Or something else? We watched a dog chasing a ball, tongue lolling, tail wagging furiously, the owner watching, smiling, waiting. I pointed out a cluster of rocks a few yards inland.

Dad turned towards me. “Let’s take a look at the tide pools. I wonder whether we’ll find any fish.”

As we drew closer to the rocks, Dad sped up. “When we went to the beach with my Mum, Mike and I would spend hours exploring the tide pools.”

We clambered around on the rocks, peering into pools, every so often calling out to each other, “No fish here.” And “Plenty of seaweed, but nothing else.” Or “This one looks promising.”

We trekked back towards the water and continued on our walk. A tall cliff marked the end of the beach. The clamor of seagulls wheeling around the cliff grew louder as we got closer. I spied a cave about halfway up. “Let’ s climb up there.”

Dad declined. I looked at him askance—he was always up for adventure. I’d expected him to agree, eagerly.

But then it hit me—climbing up the cliff was too risky for him. I’d forgotten—Dad was legally blind.

The term blindness does not necessarily imply total darkness. In fact, it refers to a broad spectrum of visual impairment. According to my father, he can see blurry shapes and color—he cannot recognize faces, nor can he read. His eyesight has deteriorated since our family reunion in Jersey. I doubt that he would now be able to see the tiny bubbling holes in the sand.

I recently found answers to the many of my questions about Dad’s eyesight. A couple of months ago, I took a trip to Israel to visit my family, my two younger siblings, Simon and Rachel, and my parents. Jonathan, my older brother, and I traveled from the States together. Jonathan lives in Gloucester, less than an hour’s drive from the airport. I, on the live in Boulder, Colorado. I stayed at Jonathan’s on the way to Israel and back.

We spent two weeks in Israel. When I woke up on the morning of our departure, my right eye felt itchy. I shrugged it off, probably allergies. By the time we landed in Boston, my eye was swollen shut and weeping. The next evening, both eyes were itchy, and by the morning of me return home, they were both swollen. Opening them was painful, and when I did, all I could see was blurry shapes and colors. Wait— Wasn’t this how Dad described his visual acuity?

So, this is what being legally blind meant.

I knew that Dad had taken one trip abroad, on his own, after he became legally blind. It was a disaster—he got lost somewhere in the terminal, on his way to the gate. That’s when he decided that he was done traveling on his own.

Like Dad, I couldn’t read. Even Deciphering the signs on the highway on the way to Logan airport was beyond me. Oh! This is why Dad got lost at the airport and what prevented him from climbing that cliff in Jersey.