Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #78 – “Blind Driving”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

Gwen the Beautiful passed her driver’s license test yesterday.

Let me rephrase that:

Gwen passed her driver’s license eye test yesterday.

Another rephrasing:

Gwen passed her driver’s license peripheral vision test.

Now I realize that doesn’t sound like such a big deal. Until you consider that my wife’s been literally half-blind for two and a half years, since a stroke zapped the vision center in her brain. As I’ve written before, the result was what doctors call “hemianopia to the right.”

As in there being nothing in the right half of the field of vision in each eye but blackness.

Not an easy thing to live with.

Gwen’s birthday is next week, and about a month ago the state sent her a reminder that her license was about to expire. We talked about whether she wanted to try and renew it or opt for a “Disabled” sticker instead.

Gwen didn’t want the sticker. “That means I’d be seeing myself as disabled. I’d be admitting defeat,” she said. And since she’s been practicing her driving, mostly on our gravel road, she figured she’d give renewal a shot.

“After all, having a license could be a big plus in an Emergency.”

When I mentioned the situation to Dwayne the Earth Mover he chuckled. “If you play this nice and proper it won’t matter if Gwen can see to the right or not,” he said.

“The peripheral vision test’s the one you’ve got to watch out for, and they always start it with a quick flash to the right. Then they ask, ‘Did you see a light?’ And then they ask, ‘Which side was it on?’ So chances are good that if they say, ‘Did you see a light?’ right after they start the test and Gwen didn’t see it, all she’s got to do is tell them the light was on the right. Then they’ll flash the other side, but she’ll see that one clear as day.”

I passed this bit of intell on to Gwen, and in we went to the Revenue Office. Evie the Friendly Clerk gave Gwen the forms to fill out, after which Gwen looked into the viewer and read the eye chart.

Piece of cake.

Then came the Big Moment.

“Now we’ll test your peripheral vision. Did you see a light?”

Gwen hesitated. I counted one beat. Another. Then:

“I saw a light,” Gwen said.

“Which side was it on?”

Another beat, and, “The right.”

“Good! ” Evie said.

They did the left side next, just as Dwayne had said. Then it was time for Gwen’s photo op, and seven minutes later we walked back out to the street with Gwen’s new license in her wallet.

“I felt you hesitate,” I said. “I know you hate to lie.”

Gwen smiled. “I didn’t lie,” she said. ” hesitated because I was so shocked. I saw the light blink -” she held her finger up to her far right – “over here!”

“You really saw it? You saw the light?!”

“I sure did, sweetie. It’s been so gradual, and I’ve gotten so used to how my eyesight has been that I didn’t even notice it changing. But I can see! ”

We wrapped our arms around each other. I may even have whooped excitedly, although I’m not sure. I was too excited for Gwen to keep track of myself.

So here’s how things stand. Gwen’s still got a pretty good-sized blind spot in each eye, but the days when the whole right side of the world was invisible are over. Her vision is coming back.

Filling in. Her brain is healing, just as every doctor we saw said it would never do.

Next week, for her birthday, we’ll probably do the same thing we did for mine. Head for the deluxe Jacuzzi room at the Mountain Home Ramada Inn and spend the night.

Gwen wants to drive. I was a little nervous about that when she brought it up at breakfast, but this afternoon I ran into Dwayne at the hardware store and he pointed out something I’d let myself forget.

“You’ve got to let her drive,” he said. ” I’ve seen you behind the wheel. Even a blind Gwen had to have more control of a vehicle than you do.”

Forty minutes on a familiar highway to the Jacuzzi room. That’s a trip I can make with my eyes closed.

Especially this time, when I’ll be in the passenger seat.

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.