Those of us who are sighted obtain much (I would even venture to say most) of our meaningful communication (emphasis on meaningful) through exchanged glances; in other words, our eyes talk to each other, whether we be family, friends, lovers, strangers, or enemies. In fact, though we may chatter away to one another, I submit that we convey far more to one another with our eyes than we do with our words. While our words provide facts, our eyes supply the meaning behind the facts. For instance, all lovers know that while they are catching up on each other's life with words, their eyes are undressing each other in a foreplay of glances. Formalities often precede essence.
And how many among us have caught someone's glance across a crowded room and known immediately what was meant? I would wager all of us. We can see love, lust, anger, boredom, playfulness, and much more--all without a translator. We rely on glances to connect us to one another, but many of us take these glances so much for granted that we don't even know how much we rely upon exchanged glances until they are gone.
My husband's dementia took away our exchange of meaningful glances. His eyes look at the world with a lack of connection. He looks and sees the world as a series of facts, but his emotional connection to these facts is gone. There is no look of love on our anniversary, no look of pride when one of our children graduates, no look of sorrow about our child's schizophrenia, no look of concern when something goes wrong, no look that shares anything!
This absence of meaningful glances makes me sad, and it also scares me. If sharing meaningful glances connects us as human beings, what does it mean when one can no longer meaningfully glance? Because my husband no longer connects with his eyes, I find myself, when talking to him, looking anywhere but at his eyes because I cannot bear the emotional emptiness that is in them.
As we all know, nature abhors a vacuum, so I find myself looking for opportunities to connect to others by exchanging meaningful glances to make up for the absence of them in my marriage. The best are meaningful glances exchanged between my children and me and my friends and me, but I am finding that there is also great joy in exchanging meaningful glances with my fellow humans in checkout lines, on the road, in a park, across a crowded room. Though these shared glances do not fill the void left by my husband's dementia, they do take away a bit of the sting.
So, when you catch someone's glance, please take the time to smile, nod, or comment. But whatever you do, never take meaningful glances for granted because you never know when they will disappear forever.
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