It was precious to me, a gift from the hands of a consummate potter, Tim Morris, who is no longer with us. From base to handle to lip, it was perfect. But alas, it too has gone the way of all beer mugs. Swept into a dustpan and tipped into a bin.
I could, of course, have let myself slide into the “five stages of grief” that follow a loss as described by the famous psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But I’m made of sterner stuff, sterner stuff than my recently departed beer mug at any rate. Besides, the type of grief that Kubler-Ross deals with in the book that brought her to prominence, is of quite a different magnitude. The book’s title is, On Death and Dying. Kubler-Ross herself died only just a little while ago. I hope she’s alright.
Her legacy is that her model has been widely adopted by academics and practitioners alike. Me, when I imagine adopting a model, something quite different jumps to mind. But to stick to the subject, what’s interesting is that her take on things has been “applied to many other situations where someone suffers a loss”, like going blind for instance.
A certain Thomas Carroll has gone so far as to identify as many as twenty losses that affect someone whose sight has given them the slip. Not content with this, he then goes and divides these losses into several categories: losses of psychological security, of basic skills, losses in communication, in appreciation, losses concerning occupation and recreation, and losses affecting the personality. It’s enough to make you lose your mind as well.
The good news is that all these losses can be turned around. There’s Independence training, Braille, specially designed software for blindies, job training and so on. You can even take up blind cricket or bowls if you like. But you’ll first have to Kubler-Ross your way to “acceptance” before you see the light. So, lets go through the check List, just in case you need it one day.
Denial; “This is not happening to me.” Or, if you’re an optimist, “I will find a cure.”
Anger; “How dare God do this to me.” Or for the optimists, “I’m getting rid of my priest.”
Bargaining; “Please let me see again and I’ll never do anything naughty again.” Or for the optimists, “Why is everyone else not blind?”
Depression; “I can’t bear to face going through this.” Optimists? “I’m selling my mirror.”
Acceptance; “That feels better.” Optimists, “Anyone for cricket?”
Having said all that, I don’t recollect going through any of those five stages myself when my eyes went fud. Maybe that’s because it happened very gradually, a soft landing rather than a shattering crash, a la my Tim Morris beer mug.
Mind you, I can’t say that I haven’t at times regressed briefly into one of those five emotional stages. For instance, there’s the denial that engulfs you once you’ve got over the initial shock of plunging your hand into the blancmange at a posh dinner party. And what could one feel other than anger at a heartless world when, one evening, you emerge from the backroom of a university library, that has been especially allocated to you and your readers, to find that the librarian has gone and locked up for the night. Then there’s the bargaining that takes place when a stranger, who thinks you need charity, comes up to you in the street and tries to press money into your hand. It’s never enough! And how depressing it is when, despite the self-assurance you’ve developed, you catch the wrong bus and, instead of a short trip, you end up doing a whole afternoon’s tour of the Durban Bluff and then, wind up stranded at a bus depot in the heart of some grotty industrial area.
But I’ve always made good my losses. I’ve also, I hope, preserved a kind of hardy independence of spirit, the one you would have seen all those years ago as I walked the three or four kilometres of dirt road to Tim Morris’s Muldersdrift home. I liked to read taped books you see, but I had no electricity. He, who made pots from dawn till dusk, loved reading but had no time. So, I’d plug in, turn on and, while he potted we’d listen together to War and Peace or what ever took our fancy.
One time we were whizzing off somewhere in his little red sports car when I heard something rolling around on the floor. It was a beer mug. “Ah,” he said. “Left over from the last exhibition. It’s yours.” It was in that same car that Tim gassed himself.
Yes, even blind people feel sad sometimes.