My grandfather went blind before I was born. I would sit at the foot of his overstuffed maroon rocker and listen to his handheld radio crackle with a play-by-play of the St. Louis Cardinal's battle against the Cubs; my grandmother would refill his mug with black coffee and he'd ask for a refill before realising it was already there.
He wore thick sunglasses that he rarely took off. He told me I was beautiful and I believed him.
I've been drawn to literature and memoirs that focus on the loss of sight ever since I discovered my love of reading. It was just a matter of time before Hull's Notes on Blindness turned up on my shelf.
Unlike similar works, Hull doesn't offer his story up as a neatly packaged lesson taped with plot points and wrapped in morals. There's no moment of "Ah, this is why this has happened to me" or "This is the best way to deal with life's hardships." Which is refreshing: though Hull has a steadfast faith in God, he doesn't use that belief as a bandage or explanation.
His snippets read more like short essays, some sobering and others sweet. His children lying about finishing their vegetables and scraping them into the trash. The difficulties of walking on the elbow of another. The deconstruction of what it means to travel.
That last one got me. My grandfather elected to spend most of his life in the living room, listening to the six o-clock news or listening to me rattle on about a dog I saw on my walk over. But Hull continued to work and travel. How could he claim to have visited Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower? Was he really in Russia if he couldn't see the falling snow?
In today's age of pandemics and isolation, wanderlust has definitely reared its head. But what I miss isn't really the sites; I want to experience new food, hear the locals talk in their eclectic accents. And while I love living as an expat in Ukraine, it's not the architecture or landscape that grips me. My memories are tied to late-night conversations with friends, the starch of potato vareniky, and the violinists playing Bach in the park.
This book made me grateful for my site, but even more so for the array of sensations humanity is able to experience.
Rating: 4 Stars
Similar Read: When Breath Becomes Air
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