Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sight and Sound

Reading a post on the part that music plays in his life, by The Vernacular Vicar rang many bells with me today.

For many years (until I was in my 30's, I ate drank slept and breathed music.  To such an extent that it almost excluded everything else.

Had anyone at that time said "you are going deaf, and soon will never hear music again", I'd have wanted to die.

My mother, who also loved music, was just as passionate about books.  She read voraciously, anything which could be termed literature, and was never without a book in one hand, whatever the other might be doing.

In her late seventies her sight began to fail.  As she did with most personal ailments, she ignored it as long as she could and by the time we (the family), and everyone else who knew, had prevailed upon her to see a specialist it was too late.

Gradually her sight became poorer and poorer, at first needing stronger and stronger spectacles, then using a magnifying glass and any other aid available, and finally declared officially 'blind', she never stopped trying to read.

My father devised endless exercises for her during this time, making postcard-size letters black on white background and getting her to read them, until eventually even that became an impossibility.

She had for many years, some peripheral vision, odd, unreliable and prone to materialising at quite unexpected times.  "Oh, she would say, "that's a lovely colour, it always did suit you", and we would look at each other amazed.  That, however, finally vanished too and she was left able only to distinguish shapes and light and dark.

My late sister-in law introduced her to the world of "talking books", and at first reluctant and inept with the fiddly mechanism, she suddenly took to them like a duck to water and was never without a 'book'.

As her hearing began to fade too, the older she became, she started to use hearing aids, of increasing strength much as she had with her 'spec's'.

She was a small frail but unbelievably courageous woman, who never allowed anything to defeat her.  Neither arthritis, leaking heart valve (pace-maker assisted), broken hip (pinned ate the age of 102,) right to the end of her life a year later.

When my father died five years before she did, she went to live, first with one, then with another of my brothers and it was only then, that after almost 70 years of marriage, she finally lost some of her enthusiasm for life.

Never a noisy or boisterous character, nor overtly joyous, she nevertheless, had a quiet tranquil and contented nature in even the most trying and distressing times.

I inherited the love of music and literature from both parents, but sadly, nothing of my mother's accepting and stoic attitude to life.

The photograph of her above, was taken a few days after my father's death, when she retreated  into her "talking books" as a means of escaping the huge change in her life.

Sight and hearing are so very precious and those of us lucky enough to have them should guard them like the jewels they are.


  1. A thought-provoking post, Ray. Your mother sounds like a remarkable woman, and in many ways a fortunate one, despite her gradual loss of sight and hearing. An exceptionally long life and marriage (I can't even imagine not being widowed until my mid-90s) and a love of two of the most fulfilling things in life, books and music, are things so many people would love to have. I think the stoicism you mention was deeply engrained in those who lived through two world wars and all the losses they brought.

  2. Ray, my mom also lost her sight gradually. When she realized it was happening, she spent most of her time at the local library, checking out every book she had ever thought she wanted to read. She finally had to give it up about five years ago and consented to listen to some books on CD that I bought her, but she had difficulty making the CD player work. Then, she moved into the apartment where she lives now, which is flooded with sunlight (her old home was very dark, which was part of the problem), and sees a doctor who specializes in glaucoma who has helped with treatment, and she is now able to read large print books a few pages at a time. She was so happy about that! And now she has her nose in a book again nearly every time I see her.

  3. She was a remarkable woman Perpetua, but her good fortune came from her ability to make the very utmost of every small thing. I've written before about the lack of money which was a way of life for her and her ability to adapt endlessly and never be defeated by circumstances.
    Even now, three years after her death, I still tend to think (just for a brief second, before reality kicks in)
    "I don't know how to cope with this or that, I need to talk to mum".
    I just hope I never have anything like as tough a time as she did. I'd never be able to react so serenely.

    1. Ray, I think you must have written about her before I found your blog. She sound even more remarkable from what you say.

  4. I'm so glad your mother has been able to reverse the loss of sight and that there was an effective treatment available to her. It must be wonderful to see her reading again.

  5. A lovely post about your mother and reading, both are enjoyable activities!

  6. Indeed they are Theanne, so imagine the loss of both from an already restricted life.