Apologies, I Thought Your Breast Was an Ink Pen

2021 September 29
by mockers

I am diabetic. I have been for 25 years. I have never been very good at it. For a couple decades I generally ate and drank what I wanted. I did my best to crank up the insulin to compensate, but I certainly wasn’t willing to change my lifestyle. These horrible decisions eventually resulted in stage-IV kidney failure, gastroparesis, and a host of other complications. The worst among them is retinopathy. A little over a year ago, I went blind in my left eye. Don’t feel too bad, I did it to myself. It has, however, changed a few things about how I go through life. For example:


I taught myself to juggle one summer when I was 10.  I was living as a latchkey kid in the suburbs of Des Moines. I was alone and had nothing better to do. I learned with some magazine article (I think it was Boy’s Life) and pool balls. I just sat on the ugliest lime green carpet I have ever seen and straight practiced until I could do it without thinking. I never learned how to juggle more than three balls because there’s no point. If you can juggle four, people aren’t generally all that more impressed…and they inevitably ask, “Well, can you juggle five?” So, I was happy with three.

I have no idea why, but when people see me juggle, it makes them smile. Making people smile is my favorite thing to do in the world. Whenever I saw three things that were close to the same weight, I just got in the habit of picking them up and juggling. It was always worth a laugh, and I may have even gotten a date of two out of the deal.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago: my wife and I were taking my mother-in-law grocery shopping at her local Walmart. It was filled with frustrated, pandemic-weary shoppers who just wanted to get out of there. My mother-in-law was being a handful, zooming around in the little electric scooter and generally driving my poor wife nuts. I saw a giant display of limes and recognized an opportunity to distract my wife from her frustration and catch a glimpse of her pretty smile. I grabbed the three items as I’d done thousands of times before and started throwing them in the air. I have no idea what happened. The three-dimensional juggling world that I had know for 34 years had suddenly transformed into flatness. Without the benefit of depth perception, I was no longer a juggler. I was a mental patient indiscriminately chucking citrus fruit at Arizona hillbillies.  Nobody cared…because, Walmart…but still, I had to cross juggling of the list of stuff I could do when I needed to get a smile. Stupid blindness.

Catching Anything

Similar to the juggling incident, this one involves timing and the ability to judge distance. Due to partial blindness, I no longer have either of these attributes. Imagine a scenario when I have to go somewhere, but I can’t remember where I put my keys. I look at my family and say, “Hey, has anyone seen my keys?”

My son responds by grabbing them from the coffee table next to him, saying, “Here you go, Dad!” And throwing them across the room to me. For the first 17 years of the boy’s life I would say, “Thanks!” while simultaneously catching the keys while turning toward the door. Now that I am half blind, I freeze in terror as I realize the keys are flying toward me. I take my left hand and stab helplessly at the air in the hopes that I will make a one-in-a-million, half-blind grab. I wince in shame as I whiff with my empty hand and the keys clink into my face. I briefly consider crying as the keys crash to the floor.

Sadly, that’s just the tip of that particular iceberg. I now dream of enjoying a backyard Norman Rockwell moment with my kids where we have a game of catch while grilling dogs and burgers. Instead, this dream now quickly disintegrates into a game of, “Let’s repeatedly bean Dad with a horsehide-covered projectile.” Frankly, it may be more fun for them this way.

Handing Me Things

I wasn’t writing last week because I was canvassing for a political cause that I care about. The whole process is as follows: I go somewhere public and ask complete strangers to sign a petition in the hope that I will get enough signatures to qualify for a referendum on next year’s ballot. They ask what it’s about. I give them my version of the situation and invite them to read the Senate bill behind the petition. If they say no, I thank them and go on to the next person.

If they say they’ll sign, I extend my pen to them. They take the pen and my clipboard. After they are done signing, I begin to tremble with fear. They are going to hand the pen back to me. Now that I am a little more than half blind, I have no idea how close or far away the pen is. Sometimes I just extend my hand and they mercifully insert the pend into my grasp. Other times they just stand there, waiting for Jesus to come back or whatever, and I find myself forced to reach out and find the pen with my fingers. So far it has worked out okay. I might grasp at air once or twice before I get it, but I eventually get there as I exhale in relief. I take my pen back and start the process all over again.

However, I am terrified that one of these days things will go terribly, terribly wrong. They are going to be done signing and just standing there holding the pen in front of them. I am going to attempt to grab it back. With absolutely no depth perception, I will end up reaching forward and squeezing my hand, hoping it closes around the pen. In this worst-case scenario I will miss the pen and end up with a handful of right breast.

The moral of the story is that if you end up with diabetes, check your sugar often and live accordingly, otherwise you’ll end up explaining to the police, “I am sorry Officer. I thought that stranger’s right breast was my ink pen…”

2 Responses leave one →
  1. 2021 September 29
    Mrs Metten permalink

    Have you ever reached out to pet Tofu and missed? He doesn’t care.

    You do have good aim when grabbing my breasts though 🙂

  2. 2021 September 29
    metten permalink

    I love you

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