Peter Hackett – I Can’t See You

The first time I noticed there was a problem with the eye was way back in 1942. I travelled from Darwin down to Sydney during the war. I had trouble coping with the glare off the buildings. I thought it was because I had come from tropical vegetation.

I was about forty when I went to get reading glasses. The eye specialist spotted something and before I knew it I was seeing Professor Constable. It was about fifteen years that I saw him before surgery was necessary. By then I had macular degeneration in both eyes. Now at 84 my vision is about 3%, that is peripheral only. Loss of sight has curtailed our retirement plans, especially travel. That is driving. We still travel by plane, train and boat but you don’t see anything.

My wife Berenice has to go with me everywhere except the toilet. The most frustrating thing is not being able to do the basic maintenance around the house. I’ve got to get someone in for even the simplest of things.

In terms of entertainment the TV is hopeless. I listen to a lot of audiotapes from the Blind Society. I had to give up gardening – I still pot under my wife’s supervision.

There was an amusing occasion once when we went to stay with relatives. One of the boys bought his 16-year-old girl friend to meet us. I said to her, “I can’t see you but I can use Braille”. I made a gesture in her direction with my hands – I didn’t touch her. It was a joke. Well she was horrified. It was several years before she would speak to me. Now we laugh about it.

If you’ve got a melanoma or something – surgery just has to be done. Having the eye out wasn’t that much of a trauma because it was better than cancer developing into the head. You just have to accept it. The upside is you don’t have to wear reading glasses anymore. It’s funny but I still do wear sunglasses for the glare.

Berenice’s Story – Under Pressure

As a partner I say, “well Peter has the affliction but I’ve got the sentence”. Anyone that is a carer knows that it is hard work. I’m glad that I am able to do things to help. The hardest part is not being able to do what I want when I want. I always have to consider someone else. It’s affected me with holidays, when your partner can’t see it is not very pleasant.

You’ve got to learn not to just put things down where you want. You’ve got to put it in the same place each time. You need to be aware all the time. It puts us both under pressure. I’ve got to take on all the driving, the accounts and just everyday things. Peter’s got no independence. If he wants to do something he needs me to stop what I am doing and help.

I get frustrated that I can’t finish my own jobs. It gets tense sometimes. Just as well he is good looking.

As told to Julia Sutton. Reprinted with permission from Peter and Berenice Hackett. You may link to this story, but please do not copy or otherwise circulate.