DOUG KNIGHT: TERRIBLE SIGHT, INCREDIBLE VISION.
“So, like, how many fingers am I holding up?”
This is the single most common question one must be prepared to answer within two to five minutes of explaining to a peer that they are (I am) a legally blind individual.
But after twenty-two years of answering this question with a snappy reply, more-often-than-not accompanied by a potentially rude hand gesture emphasizing ‘the finger that counts’—as located between the index and ring finger—it started to become clear that perhaps there was a better way of replying.
Perhaps people were asking “How many fingers?” as a way of quickly grasping what it is that I see in comparison to what it is that they can see.
When asked this question folks normally expect a simple answer somewhere between one and five.
If I’m within six feet of a person, it’s an easy answer for me to give. The tricky part to explain is that I cannot see any of the details in their palm, and that the face of the person holding the hand up is emotionless, nay; FEATURELESS. Everything is blurred into one skin-toned-hum when my eyes are fatigued (which is always)
This used to grate on my nerves. I would feel dismissed when someone would get the answer that they were looking for then attempt to grasp my visual field with something to the tune of “Ooh! So, you’re not like, all the way blind!”
No. Not “all the way blind.”
Just close enough to it to not be able to drive a vehicle, track a small fast-moving object, walk through a house of mirrors without breaking my nose. I can’t see my wife wink at me from across the room, or watch my son showing me SOMETHING SIIIIICK from the other side of the living room when I am sitting at the dinner table (AKA my desk).
What my vision does not limit me from doing, however, is expressing myself through the visual arts. And, sure, sometimes it looks like I am smelling the paper or tablet; and sometimes it might look like I’m downright trying to stare through the surface I am working on. The truth is that I am a unique blend of incredibly talented and unstoppably stubborn. So long as light passes through my optic nerves to render images in my brain I will never stop delivering dynamic drawings.
Now, let’s take it back to 1992: My last memory of having 20/20 sight.
I was standing in the entrance of ZELLERS at the mall near my childhood home. The sparkle of a store window caught my attention and beckoned to me,
DOUGLAS, WITHIN THESE WALLS CONTAIN ALL OF YOUR WILDEST FOUR-YEAR-OLD DREAMS….
So, without telling my mom or two sisters, I ventured three-hundred feet across the corridor to answer the call. Unfortunately, within the store my wildest four-year old dreams were not fulfilled; however, there were three middle-aged Italian women who pinched my cheeks and stuffed me full of cookies until my panicking mother eventually found me.
Shortly after that, everything I looked at would seem to jump around on me. Left, then right, then a little up, then a little down; everything also seemed to be covered by a blanket of smoke until I looked at it close enough to see through the fog.
BUT WAIT, that’s not all!
This was a package deal. With it came knee-quaking, nose-bleeding, head-splitting migraines that would drive me to the point of smashing my head against brick walls….
I understand now how that may have been counter-productive… but four-year-old Doug just had it all figured out. When my parents realized I was going through some pretty significant changes they took me for an assessment at the pediatrician’s office. He quickly dismissed my behavior as ATTENTION SEEKING and assured my parents that this phase would pass. He was wrong.
It was a brain tumour.
A few months after this primary diagnosis of being a needy-middle child my parents took me to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario… that’s in CANADA folks!
Within minutes my ophthalmologist located and diagnosed my tumour; nestled snuggly in the optic chiasm, attached to the optic nerve, and resting on the pituitary gland. This would be confirmed by MRI scans and would set my life moving forward in a very unconventional direction.
After chemotherapy, no radiation, my tumour was reduced and held at bay but not removed. the damage, however, was done. The tumour caused my optic nerves to atrophy and break in different places.
This means: My eyes receive FULL visual information, but in the short journey from lens to brain I lose the majority of detail and colour saturation.
Let’s jump ahead twenty-odd years.
Over the past decade I have become, and still am a professional tattoo-artist by trade. I married my best friend and together we have brought two incredible little boys into this world. Between marriage and the birth of our second boy our journey together has seen MANY exploits: Difficult obstacles, funny stories, and fulfilling life lessons aplenty.
My formal education stopped after high school. After graduation my education continued in the form of an apprenticeship in the tattoo-industry. My teachers were a group of peers consisting of some of Toronto’s hardest working women: A Bohemian skeleton, a rock-n-roll Viking, and even a self-proclaimed Thundergod.
Sounds magical right? IT WAS!!!!
I have always been a comic-book lover, prior even to my stays at the hospital as a child. For as long as people have been blasting lasers from their eyes, SNICK-ing blades from their knuckles, summoning chains from demon-capes, or riding in giant robot-dinosaurs being directed by floating heads in projection tubes I have LOVED COMICS.
When I was in the hospital, I took great pleasure in reading comics to pass the time…. Okay, well, looking at the pictures. Sadly, the words were always about eighteen font-points out of my visual grasp. Except the big ones that said stuff like VOOOOOOOSH, or DOOOOOOOOOM, or WHAK!
Here is what it all boils down to:
A story loosely based around events I have lived through.
No, I do not have alien molecules in my brain… I have a dormant tumour I like to call the pebble.
No, my eyes never popped out of my head. Having them wander whichever way they pleased was close enough though (given the way some folks would look at me).
The tones of my book reflect how I have lived my life: With humour, with action, and with adventure.
Thank you for visiting with me here and for your support!
Cross Eye Comics
Keep ‘Em Crossed!