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There’s More Than One Way To See

By Elaine Cassel

Henry Grunwald, former editor-in-chief of Time, thought he needed new eyeglasses that day in 1992 when he poured water and missed the glass. But he did not need new eyeglasses. His ophthalmologist told him he was in the early stages of macular degeneration; an incurable condition in which vision becomes increasingly cloudy and blurred until almost total blindness sets in. Now this life-long journalist has written a book about going blind.

Twilight: Losing Sight, Gaining Insight (Knopf, 1999) is the story of Grunwald's journey from the light of sight to the darkness of blindness. Upon receiving the dreaded diagnosis, he was angry, afraid, and depressed as he faced the lost of independence, especially his inability to read and write (his life's work) without assistance. But upon accepting the inevitable, he set out to learn how to "see" the world differently through blurred images. He began to pay more attention to ordinary objects and the faces of those he loved, particularly his wife who eventually became his "eyes." He made it a habit to concentrate on what he could see—however dim its image, so as to increase his visual memory store. As his sight grew dimmer, he concentrated on recalling visions from his distant past. He summoned up sights long forgotten—his childhood bedroom, his mother's face, and the childhood faces of his now-grown children.

The insight gained while losing sight refers to what Grunwald found on the road to darkness—a sense of humor about his failing eyesight; a profound appreciation for those upon whom he relied for assistance; and the discovery that there is more than one way to "see." Ultimately, loss of eyesight sharpened his view of life and gave him a new vision of his place within it.

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