Motherly has partnered with Hillary Frank and The Longest Shortest Time podcast to bring you insights from their five years of publishing stories from the front lines of parenthood.
In Episode #26, Blind Love, Frank chats with Jeff and Sarah Overmars who share their beautiful love story which includes Jeff’s progression into total blindness. Jeff suffers from Choroideremia, “A rare eye disease that causes a person to see flashing lights and patches of darkness until, eventually, they can no longer see anything at all.”
“Looking through my eyes, I describe it to people sometimes as if you were to take Vaseline and smear it over a camera lens and then look through that lens.” —Jeff Overmars
What challenges does this bring on for the couple—especially when children enter the picture? We all know parenting can be hard enough on marriages at times—but what happens when the division of labor is completely beyond either of your control?
The love story
Jeff interviewed Sarah for his college radio show—because he needed to ask one of the crazy outdoor runners why they were still running outside in Nova Scotia’s -32°F weather. He was perplexed by them. A friend put Jeff in touch with Sarah; the interview went well, it felt comfortable—and that was it.
About a month later, Sarah tapped Jeff’s arm on the escalator after they each enjoyed the same movie—separately, alone. Jeff’s condition and the white cane he used, reminded Sarah of her father who was blind and the white cane he also used. She said, “Jeff rang out to me. He was especially cute in my eyes.”
They part ways, and Sarah makes note of this encounter in her journal that night saying that Jeff was going to be “an important person in her life.” But they didn’t see each other until a few months later, at a bar. After this chance encounter, they started making actual plans to see one another—going dancing, listening to music, and getting to know each other. Then plans had them going separate ways soon after they started dating—Jeff to Antigua to teach the blind, and Sarah to teachers college in Toronto.
Jeff couldn’t stand the thought of what they had coming to an end. So he hitchhiked his way to the airport to say a real goodbye to Sarah, to make sure their relationship was solidified. Jeff wrote Sarah love letter after love letter while they were apart, and eventually they reunited, married, and had children together.
They were only four or five months into marriage when they decided to start trying for kids, so that Jeff could see them before his sight was totally gone.
Jeff’s condition makes it very hard for him to take the children out of the house on his own—he doesn’t have peripheral vision, so he worries he could lose them. It’s hard for Jeff to help around the house, or to do everyday tasks with/for the kids.
Looking for the kid’s things, noticing if anything is wrong with the house, cooking, driving everyone around (including driving herself to the hospital while in labor!)—falls under Sarah’s jurisdiction.
“It’s exhausting. At times I feel very overwhelmed by it all.” —Sarah Overmars
And how does Jeff feel?
“I guess I feel a bit like a disappointment sometimes. ” —Jeff Overmars
Jeff takes the children out to places on the bus, he entertains them while Sarah makes dinner; doing what he can to balance out what Sarah does for the family.
So how romantic is their story these days? Their romantic moments happen in smaller ways, while they’re in the car with the kids taking a drive—chatting, listening to music, and spending time together as a couple once the kids fall asleep. As Frank says, “It’s no hitch-hiking to the airport blind in the middle of the night, but for now, while the kids are still small—it’s what they’ve got.”
Take a listen to this beautiful story