A WIFE’S STORY

by Theresa House

David and Theresa House and their four children live in San Diego, California. The House family is in many ways a traditional American family—David brings in the income and Theresa stays home with the children. And that’s the way they both want it. It is also exactly the way Theresa knew it could be when she decided to marry David despite her family’s grave misgivings. Here is what she has to say in this loving portrait of her family:

I am thirty years old, and I have been happily married for ten-and-a-half years. I have four wonderful children—three, five, seven, and nine. My husband David was diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration at the age of five. He is now thirty-seven and has just a little remaining vision in each eye.

I knew my husband for several years before we actually began dating. His sister was my best friend in grade school, and as a teen-ager I was a member of the church youth group that Dave was in charge of. During the course of our friendship I was always impressed to see that Dave would never let his blindness stop him from anything he undertook.

A good example of this determination was the high school youth group of over a hundred teen-agers that he managed for nearly four years. Those years are very dear to me.

That group had the reputation of being one of the biggest and the best among the Catholic churches throughout San Diego. At the same time that Dave was our church’s youth director he was attending San Diego State University.After graduating from college, Dave made the decision to attend a residential training facility for blind adults in northern California. This was to learn Braille, cane travel, cooking, and independent living skills. He believed that it was very important to learn the alternative techniques used by blind people before he lost his vision completely. Dave said that he was tired of faking and bluffing his way through awkward situations using his partial vision. He wanted to stop pretending that he could function normally in the sighted world by denying his blindness.

A year later Dave returned home to San Diego, well-equipped with the skills of blindness, full of confidence, and ready to hit the job market. By coincidence we began dating the same month he was hired by Catholic Community Services. This was February, 1982. One of the fondest memories I have of the early days of our courtship was going out on dates riding double on my moped scooter. Dave did not drive, and I didn’t own a car at the time. I was eighteen, and he was twenty-four. We still laugh today when we look back at that crazy and romantic time.

One of the more challenging aspects of our relationship was my family’s prejudice about blindness. My parents did not approve of our courtship. They felt—and they still do, even though he has proved them wrong—that a man who is going blind does not hav a bright future ahead of him. Allthis only convinced me that people’s attitudes about blindness can be more of a problem than the actual loss of eyesight.

In 1983 we became engaged with plans for a June wedding in the following year. My family continued their resistance to my fiance. When we got married in 1984, we were both working forty hours a week. I had a great paying job as a medical unit clerk in our local hospital. Dave had obtained his broker’s license and was in the process of making a career change from social work to real estate.

A year later David, Jr., was born, and I cut my work schedule in half, to twenty hours a week. In 1987 our second son Christopher was born, and I reduced my work schedule to sixteen hours a week. Then in 1989 our third son Patrick was born. I decided to stop working completely to be a full-time mother and homemaker. I made this decision in the confidence that my blind husband was quite capable of being the sole breadwinner in our family. My confidence was further reinforced in 1991, when we decided to have a fourth child. I was determined to fulfill my lifetime dream of having a daughter. My wish came true that year, and we named our beautiful little girl Veronica. For the past five-and-a-half years I have not worked outside the home because my husband has done such a great job of supporting us financially.

In our home, raising the children is truly a fifty-fifty partnership. After our youngest was born, Dave urged me to find a hobby so that I could take a well-deserved break from the kids in the evenings.

For three years I took martial arts, earning a second degree green belt in Tong So Do Karate. I am at the halfway mark of becoming a black belt, which I intend to accomplish. Also I am going to college at night, working to become certified as a floral designer. I plan to operate my own business out of my home doing floral arrangements for weddings.

None of this would be possible without the full support of my husband. Dave serves as an evening and weekend baby sitter whenever I have outside activities. My husband is no slouch when it comes to taking on his share of the chores and responsibilities at home. Each day he helps me get the children ready for school by waking them up, feeding them breakfast, and preparing their baths. This allows me enough time for exercise each morning. I enjoy jogging. While Dave is getting ready for work, I make the lunches, help the children dress, and take them to school.

In the evenings after work, Dave assists me in getting the kids through their homework. While I am preparing dinner, he unloads the dishwasher and sets the table. After supper he clears the table, takes out the trash, and feeds the dog. In the meantime I am doing the dishes. Together we tuck the children into bed and then do paperwork, like paying bills and going through the mail.My husband has found that keeping household items organized and orderly cuts down drastically on the frustration that can accompany vision loss. He has certainly proven this true by taking charge of the laundry for our family of six. Dave has used his Braille label maker on the washing machine and does a great job of keeping the clothes clean and neatly sorted. My job is to fold and put them away.

David makes blindness his responsibility and not an undue hardship on the family. For example, at home he has the choice of using his cane or possibly tripping over toys, shoes, or anything else inadvertently left on the floor. (We encourage our children to pick up after themselves, but in reality this does not always happen.)

Since I am the only driver in our family, I have been unanimously elected the family chauffeur.Dave himself makes it a point not to rely on me as his only mode of transportation. He makes his own arrangements to get to and from work, and he uses public transportation whenever necessary. He also enjoys walking places to stay in shape.Dave no longer uses large print for reading because it is too much of a strain and too time-consuming. He says that, by learning Braille, he has kept himself from becoming illiterate.

There are countless examples of how Dave uses Braille in his daily life. I have already mentioned the Braille label maker, which he uses both at home and at work. My husband orders stories, called Twin Vision books, which have both Braille and print as well as the illustrations. He really appreciates having the ability to read these books to our younger children. To help our older son, Dave orders a book in Braille that we can also find in the public library in print. This allows my son to practice reading aloud while my husband follows along in Braille, correcting him whenever necessary.

One favorite family outing is trips to the Price Club. My husband always brings an itemized grocery list in Braille to prevent us from spending too much money. Dave also receives the Sunday mass readings in Braille, which he takes to church each week. He is a voracious reader, and between Braille and cassette recordings he manages to read a weekly newspaper, three monthly magazines, and a couple of books a month. I firmly believe that my husband is a living example of how blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance. In the event that total blindness comes, I know that he will be well prepared.

My husband is active in the National Federation of the Blind, which has over fifty thousand members across the United States. I can honestly say that the NFB has been instrumental in making my husband the self-confident, independent, capable individual he is today. The benefits and support Dave has derived from this organization have done wonders for his self-image and self-esteem. I would highly recommend the National Federation of the Blind to anyone who is struggling with losing eyesight.