CNIB Vision Mate Journey
Shortly after retiring last May, I applied to CNIB to be a Vision Mate. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met Verna, the client with whom I’d been matched. My CNIB partner had given me a thumbnail sketch of my newly-assigned partner: She had limited vision, a strong desire to remain independent, a guide dog, and lots of get-up-and-go. He suggested we start with a walk in the neighbourhood.
I phoned Verna to set up my first visit and found her friendly, eager to have a Vision Mate and open about her vision loss.
She was waiting at the door when I rang the bell. She welcomed me so warmly I knew we’d quickly become friends. Because it was a muggy September day, we agreed to relax and get to know each other before taking our walk. I also wanted to make sure Verna was comfortable sharing her story with a wider audience. I needn’t have worried. Her face lit up at the prospect. (I was a newspaper writer for 40 years.)
Verna is a tiny 77-year-old dynamo. A corneal ulcer left her blind in her right eye 58 years ago. She has partial vision in her left eye – it varies from day to day – following cataract surgery in 2005.
But none of that has slowed her down. She’s held a variety of jobs over the course of her life, from nursing assistant to operator of a small mixed farm. She’s still a market gardener, selling the plants she grows. She has a magnificent garden, a greenhouse and a potting centre. But that is only one activity. Every weekday morning, she goes to Brantford’s Adult Recreation Therapy Centre for exercise, arts and crafts, storytelling and conversation.
“I’ve always been outgoing,” she says. “I like being with people.”
For Verna, the best thing about having a vision mate is having a steady companion, someone she can confide in. We talk about her challenges, triumphs and fears, celebrate special occasions and enjoy our deepening friendship. She phones to update me between visits.
Barely a month into my new role, I can’t imagine post-employment life without Verna and Buster.