Last week, Middle brought up the subject of blindness in people. Now, this is not something that has never been discussed before, because my best friend JJ is blind due to an incurable disease, and the girls have all met her and her Seeing Eye dog (Aussie, at that time). The discussion did come up out of the blue, but that's nothing out of the ordinary for Middle...
"Hey, Momma. I have a question. How do people get blind?"
Middle caught me off guard and I only half-heard her question. "How do people get what?"
"How do people get blind?"
"What do you mean?"
"Can they be born blind? Does something make them blind? How does it happen?"
"Yes, some people are born blind. Sometimes it happens because of a disease. My friend JJ has something called retinitis pigmentosa that causes her blindness. Sometimes, like in the case of Helen Keller, really high fevers can cause blindness."
"So Helen Keller was a real person?"
"Yes, she was. She got very sick and ran a fever so high that she lost her sight."
"What about JJ?"
"Well," I paused to think about how to explain RP, "the back of your eye has something called the retina, which is what we see against. Hers is going away, so she can't see because there's nothing for her to see against."
Middle chomped on a bite of cereal. "So how do blind people get around? Do they just automatically get a dog?"
I stifled a chuckle. "No. There are three ways that the visually impaired get around. They have a special cane they use that helps them find and avoid objects"—I used a pen to demonstrate—"or they use another human, or they have a dog guide."
"So if I was blind, how would I get a human?"
Good heavens, girl, we are not dealing black-market humans! "You don't get a human," I choked out. "What I meant by that is there's usually another person in the blind person's life who helps them navigate, who drives them places, who guides them around. Family and friends both help out."
I went on to explain that, in order to qualify for a canine guide, most schools require an application and several weeks of training.
She nodded, and that seemed to satisfy her questions for the time being.
Get a human.
Oh. My. Word.