I was lucky enough to be born with perfect vision. I never realized the depth of how fortunate I am until I spent last night in total darkness. For over three hours it didn’t matter if my eyes were open or closed – it was pitch black behind my blindfold. To make this evening even more significant – I had to eat a five-course meal – with wine – in this darkness.
This amazing evening of awareness is the brainchild of Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania. Participants experience eating their meal through the eyes and senses of someone who is visually impaired. The menu is not disclosed until after dessert when we were shown the plates of food we had enjoyed (however difficult it was to get it into our mouths!).
A quick snapshot of our night began with us being led (blindfolded) into a room full of other participants. It was loud and intimidating as I held my hand out in front of me trying to squeeze past the chairs of the folks already seated. Once seated we were given verbal instructions describing our places setting…..4 forks on the left, 2 knives on the right, a wine glass at 1 o’clock, our water glass at noon.
We had met the others joining our table before being blindfolded, but once seated we quickly learned we could only communicate (easily) with the person to our immediate right or left. It was noisy and actually a bit scary. I was completely surprised to realize how much we (as sighted people) “read” each other’s facial expressions, gestures, and even lips when holding a conversation. Without these cues it was nearly impossible to carry on in-depth conversations with others at our table.
And oh…..the meal! Imagine someone placing a mystery plate of food in front of you without knowing what it was! The servers would approach us by saying our name, alerting us to their presence. “Susan, I’m behind you about to place a plate in front of you”. Soon my fork was stabbing into something a bit rubbery but I had no idea what had been presented to me. Forget cutting with a knife – I had no idea where to start slicing. It was easier to tear this “blob” with my fingers. How comical we must have looked to the volunteer staff who served us! The meat was delicious, messy, and somehow consumed by using my fork and fingers. Miss Manners would have been appalled.
More wine was served along with several additional courses. Each one was met with trepidation until giving up and using fingers to guide the food onto my fork.
I’ve been struggling to think how to describe the reality of losing ones vision. My closest, previous experience would be slowly waking up from anesthesia to a noisy room, not being able to see anything yet every now and then hearing someone call my name. “Susan. Are you awake?” My normally extroverted self was unusually quiet last evening – taking it all in and struggling to not fear the unknown.
As we approach the upcoming holiday of Thanksgiving I have a greater perspective on how difficult life would be like without my eyesight. I will never again take my vision for granted and realize how beautiful a dinner can be. You can be sure I am going to be focusing on those gathered around my table when we celebrate this holiday in a few weeks. I hope all of you enjoy the sights around your table as you gather to give thanks!