Elder Series – Mel

M Dawn Thacker has compiled a series of short stories about elders, their experiences aging, and the challenges they face. M Dawn continues her series with Mel…

 

When I first met Mel, I felt sorry for her. I thought of myself, and how I would miss my vision if it was taken from me by some force of fate. I imagined the sadness of losing the purple of my morning glories, the opaque green of the sea glass I search for at the shore, the rusty red of McIntosh apples in the fall orchard, and the four petaled white of dogwood blossoms in spring. What would I do minus the color in my world?

I love faces, watching them, admiring their differences, the way brows furrow, eyes crinkle at the corners, noses turn up on the end and how cheeks dimple with a smile. I study frowns when I’m sitting on a park bench and smirks at the food court in the mall. I know people think I’m forward, looking directly at them as I do, but I can’t help myself. Faces fascinate me. If the power button to my vision was turned off, I would miss channel surfing profiles.

Sometimes, for no other reason than to ride, I get in my car. I turn left out of the driveway and find crooked gravel roads to places I’ve never met. I’ve discovered silver ribbons of train rail, wooden bridges that clatter under my tires, fields of thatch and lavender thistles, old gray barns with red tin roofs, and dappled horses grazing by board fences. Without my eyes, these would be lost to me.

Mel had vision. It just wasn’t in her eyes. I was surprised one day when she said, “Margaret, you are very tall.”

“How do you know I’m tall, Mel?”

“Your voice is really far up there,” she said from her seat in the wheelchair. “I’d say you were as tall as most men.” She was right.

Mel loved to talk and called me to her room to discuss the news, complain about the villain in her favorite soap opera on tv, teach me a new song she learned, or a Bible verse she thought might help me with my latest life crisis. I was ashamed that I sometimes tried to sneak by her because my time was precious and I had work to do. She called to me when I turned the corner near her room. “How do you know it’s me coming down the hall, Mel, when I haven’t even said anything,” I asked her one day.

“You wear soft soled shoes, Margaret. You don’t make much noise, but your steps are far apart. Your legs must be long, no one else here has that kind of stride.” Again, she was right. I couldn’t fool her into thinking I was not there.

Mel’s fingers were sensitive. She knew texture, like I knew color. “Your sweater is wool, Margaret. I know because the yarn is course and a little hairy. It scratches on my fingertips. What color is it?”

Why did Mel ask me about color? She was blind from birth, had never seen colors. In my mind, the concept would be lost to her. I didn’t ask, just gave her the information she requested. “It’s blue,” I’d say. Finally, one day, my curiosity got the best of me. I asked her why she wanted to know about colors.

“I see colors in heat, and cool, smell, sound, taste and feel,” she said.

“Oh?” I said, not really understanding.

“Ok, here’s how I see colors. Blue is running water. Yellow is the way the sun warms my shoulders when I sit on the porch. Orange is a sharp bite and twang, like when you peel a fresh piece of fruit and it spritzes you. Red is a crisp bite of apple. Green is the feel of soft moss growing on rocks. Tan is the grit of sand, and the way it feels slipping between my fingers. White is the softness of a cotton ball. Silver is a bell ringing, and black is the quietest quiet you can hear.”

At that moment, Mel’s world began to make sense to me. I no longer felt sorry for her. Her vision was far superior to my own. I stopped seeing her as blind, and started seeing her as Mel.

She died in 2003, I miss her wisdom and my lessons in seeing without eyes. I went to pay my last respects to her at the funeral home. She was wearing her favorite dress. It was the soft color of Mel’s first puppy and the richness of her favorite dessert, gingerbread.

 

Mel © 2011 M Dawn Thacker. Read M Dawn’s latest on Now.readthisplease.com and check back for the next story in her Elder Series.

 


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