The best antidepressants

December 14, 2010 • Posted in blindness, parenting a child with special needs, Uncategorized by
Beth and her classmate in front of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

That's Beth and her classmate Carlos and his beautiful Golden retriever at Rockefeller Plaza. So New York's nice, but Beth and Harper need to come back to Sweet Home Chicago.

So Monday night I got home and there was no impossibly frantic tail-wagging and jumping up on the hind legs. And I felt, for the first time since Beth left for Morristown, alone.

It was a particular kind of aloneness that I’ve felt before. Like the weeks on end I spent in Urbana while Beth was in the hospital in Chicago after eye surgeries. Or the night of the day that Gus was born. He was delivered by C-Section, squawked, and then proceeded to try to die right in front of my eyes. That night, with Beth doped up in her hospital room and Gus in the neonatal ICU with a 50-50 chance of surviving the night (by the doctor’s estimate), I came home, sat on the couch, and the first thing I saw was a tower of disposable diapers we’d built. Our friends had given them to us as a shower present. Now that was lonely.

Back then I tried the stiff upper lip routine. I’d conjure up a voice that would say, “Don’t feel sorry for yourself.” Now, I hear a little voice — it sounds a lot like Woody Allen’s — that says, “Go ahead. Feel sorry for yourself. If you don’t do it, who will?” So I do and it passes quickly. Takes a lot less energy than fighting the urge.

But I’m still sad. Times like these, some people suggest thinking of all those folks who are less fortunate. I get the count-your-blessings part of that. But it’s never worked for me. In times of misery, knowing that others are even more miserable doesn’t perk me up. Then there’s the “Welcome to Holland” thing. If you don’t know about it, a parent of a child with a disability wrote an essay by that title. The central idea is, say you always wanted to go to Italy. You book the trip, you get on the plane, but somehow, you land in Holland. You’re disappointed that it’s not Italy, but you learn to appreciate all the things about Holland that you never knew you would. I get that, too. But you know, what if sometimes you feel like you landed in freaking Siberia?

I wish we’d landed in Italy. I wish Gus had grown up to play a mean shortstop and become a Rhodes Scholar. I wish Beth could see. I wish she didn’t need a Seeing Eye dog.

Over the years I’ve learned just to go with feeling bad for awhile. And, most important, I’ve learned I’m not alone unless I want to be. After the drive home from dropping off Hanni in Urbana, I had dinner at Kate and Joe’s. They’d invited me knowing I might be a little down. (For the record, we ate Italian food.) These past two weeks with Hanni, our friend and fellow White Sox fan Lora walked Hanni while I was at work.  Lora would tell me stories about their walks each evening. Ira — a friend of Beth’s from college days and now my friend, too — visited with his wife Debbie and delivered a new dog bed for Harper last week, just like they did for Hanni years ago. They also lavished attention on Hanni. I met our friends Rick — who is visually impaired — and his wife Rhona (who isn’t) for coffee yesterday at their invitation. Beth’s 94-year-old mother called last night to make sure I was OK.

In the past I might have resisted having company at a time like this, thinking I was supposed to fight the good fight myself. I might also have turned down Beth’s request to fill in for her here on the blog.

Not anymore. My thanks to all our friends and family, you’ve made a rough time a lot less so. And thanks to all of you blog readers who’ve been reading and commenting and following our little transition. It’s been great having you along for the ride.

Beth and Hanni are back Wednesday, so with any luck at all, the next post will be Beth’s.

Tracie On December 14, 2010 at 2:53 am

Thank you, once again, for your wonderful open writing and sharing with us how life is for you. While I have missed Beth a little, I have very much enjoyed reading your blogs also. Please don’t leave us permanently – perhaps a guest spot occasionally?

Mike On December 14, 2010 at 8:05 am

Thanks for the kind words, Tracie. If Beth has her way I’ll fill in for her again from time to time.

Lauren On December 14, 2010 at 6:16 am

Well said.

Harry On December 14, 2010 at 7:03 am

You’re the only one who can make me laugh and cry at the same time

Lori On December 14, 2010 at 8:38 am


After you wrote about dropping Hanni off, I wrote a response about how bummed out I would be without Hanni. It didn’t come out the way I intended so I didn’t respond. And this comes along. I’d never heard the Holland story and I may try to fool myself the next time I am feeling the way you are. When I broke my feet a couple years ago, I tried that ‘buck it up, you can do it on your own’. Never again. Should I need help or just desire company, I will be more demanding of my friends. It makes the time that doesn’t seem so great pass more easily and they don’t feel like this is a demand – this is all part of hanging out and being friends.

Happy to hear that Beth’s return is soon and I will miss your posts.

Mike On December 18, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Lori, I think we walk a fine line between trying to appear strong and independent and not needy and accepting and even seeking help. It’s a tough thing and I think the line is different for everyone–and it changes with circumstances. I look back and think that I wanted so badly for people not to feel sorry for Beth or me that I erred on the wrong side for awhile.

Jill On December 14, 2010 at 9:02 am

It’s been great reading your posts, Mike. I hope you can be a “guest” from time to time in the future. Your voice is as lovely and strong as Beth’s. Your friend, Jill

Mike On December 18, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Thanks Jill, glad to count you as my friend, too.

Cheryl On December 14, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Did you notice you said “Beth and Hanni are back Wednesday”? It’s gonna take awhile….. Italy will always be there but Holland has beautiful tulips.

Mike On December 15, 2010 at 8:23 am

Ha, I wonder how many times I’m going to make that mistake. Either that, or calling him Harpo.

Susie Corbitt On December 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Adjusting to transistions, boy can I relate!
It’s brave of you, Mike to relate your journey to us.
Thanks for writing! Good luck to you Beth, Gus and Harper!

Mike On December 18, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Well, I don’t know about brave. I know enough about the people–like you–who read Beth’s stuff to know they can be trusted, so that helped a lot.

Audrey Mitchell On December 14, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Mike. Great job. It was nice to have your perspective on things. Come back again.

Audrey (from the Renaissance Writing Class).

Mike On December 18, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Thanks Audrey. I get accounts about your class all the time and enjoy it vicariously.

Robin On December 14, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Just discovered the blog last night. I met Beth briefly at a Seeing Eye Family Day. I raise pups and just gave up my 7th. Reading how much love is given to these dogs makes giving them up so much easier. I know my pup will have a much richer life as a guide that he ever will as a couch potato!

Mike On December 14, 2010 at 10:28 pm

You do a heroic job. Thank you.

Rick On December 15, 2010 at 7:08 pm

You have been such a great “guest writer” – so nice to know what Beth and Harper are doing and also what you and Hanni were doing during the transition. Anxious to hear about the homecoming!

Mike On December 18, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Thanks Rick, the homecoming has been swell so far.

MaryEllen Schneider On December 16, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Thank you for your candid, charming, and engaging posts, Mike. A true pleasure to read.

Looking forward to your next guest spot.

Mike On December 18, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Thanks MaryEllen, and thanks for all your work with Sit Stay Read. Beth has really enjoyed it and I’ve enjoyed learning about it.

nancyb On December 16, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Mike I’m not sure what to say except wow. Thoughtful and emotional stuff. You guys are amazing.

Jeff flodin On December 17, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Thank you, Mike, for a powerful, honest and compelling posting. My wife is my sighted partner. Each day we face challenges. Some days we make an unbeatable team. Other days, we need more practice. I am grateful for her faith in me. She is grateful for my willingness. I hope never to take her for granted and she hopes I never give up. I need to remain mindful that my blindness affects her just as deeply as it affects me – in different ways, perhaps – but profoundly. I am fortunate to have a ready source of support from agencies, individuals, and colleagues. Reading your posting reminds me of the needs of the sighted partner. Ever think of starting your own blog?

Mike On December 18, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Jeff–I like your comment about “Other days, we need more practice.” I feel like after all these years, Beth and I sometimes are still a work in progress. Nice to know we have company. I may start blogging, but it’s a lot harder to do it all the time than to just fill in.

Leave a Response