My family decided to quarantine in Ohio with some close friends. President Trump declared a state of emergency, school was called off, and the next day I was headed two states away with two kids, a giant dog, a sphynx cat, a litter box, school bags, computers, and all of our necessary ‘things’. Think Beverly Hillbillies...only more modern. We were packed in like sardines and ready to hunker down with our friends during such a strange and novel time we are experiencing all over the globe.
A blind runner
As the days went on during quarantine, I started noticing a gentleman running down the street. My friends told me he runs frequently and that they thought he was blind. I watched as he jogged by, noticing that he would stop periodically to stick his foot out and feel the curb. And, each time a car would pass, he would stop completely, waiting patiently until it was safe to begin running again. I realized quickly that he was, in fact, visually impaired. And, I really wanted to meet him.
Keeping social distance
After a few days, I got up enough courage to run out and chat with him. I could tell he could hear me running up behind him, so I yelled, “Good morning!” He kindly responded with, “It’s a beautiful day!” I asked him if he had a moment to chat, giggling about staying on my side of the road, of course…to follow social distancing guidelines.
I introduced myself and told him I noticed that he had a visual impairment, stating that I did as well. I know this seems a little bit bold, and I was slightly nervous that I may make him uncomfortable. But a huge smile came across his face as he said, “My name is Ron, it’s nice to meet you.”
Ron has retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. He was diagnosed in the late ’80s, so he’s no newcomer to living life with vision loss. I explained to Ron that I have myopic macular degeneration and we chatted for a few moments about our struggles, highlighting many similarities. Ron isn’t online, but I explained our awesome community to him and he granted permission for me to ask a few questions and words of advice for us here.
Life goes on
Ron explained that his wife passed away a few years ago and that he now lives on his own. When I asked him what that’s like he explained that he makes do with help from his friends...as life goes on. Friends call him frequently to see what he needs when they’re going to the store. He explained that living on his own is important to him, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get a few bangs and bruises from running into things along the way.
Ron jogs his neighborhood whenever the weather allows. He said he enjoys it and tries to stay healthy and active. When I asked him if he’s active for his eye health he responded by saying his eyes were ‘already shot,’ but that means he needs to ‘take extra care of everything else.’ This prompted me to tell him that he does have his peripheral vision to look after, and he explained that he also eats well and takes lutein.
Ron smiled almost the entire time we were talking. When asking me about my myopic macular degeneration, he said he bets there’ll be a cure or treatment for me before I lose most of my vision. Only time will tell, but his kind words, happy demeanor, and optimism were comforting to me.
Lean on others for help
As our conversation came to a close, I wanted to be sure that Ron had someone helping him during this difficult time of isolation and scary COVID-19 sickness. I was reminded that he is well cared for by friends and that he has no problem asking for help when he needs it. He told me a story about how when he goes out to eat, he has no problem telling the guy sitting next to him that he ‘lost [his] fork’ as we chuckled about it together.
Be like Ron
I said goodbye, knowing very well we’d chat another day. The next time I see him running in the morning, I’ll definitely be chasing him down again. His infectious spirit and bright smile certainly made my day and gave me hope during a time where so much feels uncertain.
Ron will probably never read this article, but he now has a special place in my heart. When I feel worried about my future, I will remember Ron. His smile, his positive outlook, his independence, and his strength.
May we all be more like Ron,
Does macular degeneration affect your mental health?