Summary: Sequel to ‘Living in Darkness’.
Rating K+ (4,100 words)
Living in Darkness Series:
Into the Light
Joe stood on the porch letting the sunshine soak into his face. He couldn’t help but sigh as he once again saw light filtering through the darkness he lived in. Ever since he’d married Eliza he’d get flashes of light here and there, but nothing that stayed more than a few moments and nothing that the doctors could explain. Even the best of doctors were perplexed; he knew that because both he and his pa had spent plenty of money on his visits to one doctor after another. Only when he heard Eliza walked up beside him did he turn come out of his thoughts.
“Supper is ready. If you don’t come in, Hop Sing will be offended.” Eliza laid her hand upon her husband’s shoulder. “Are you all right?” She was concerned as Joe seemed more melancholy lately.
Joe smiled as he laid one hand on his wife’s shoulder and one on her swollen belly. “I’m sorry, just wishing I knew what was going on with my eyes.”
Eliza shook her head and gave her husband a quick peck on his cheek. She didn’t blame him for wondering; she just hated what he was allowing the wondering to do to him. “You’ve lived in without the use of your eyes for four years, Joe. While it would be wonderful if you got your eyesight back, and it would, why worry about it? It doesn’t change who you are or how much I love you.” Then, as if reading his thoughts, she put her hand over his, which still rested on her swollen stomach, “And, this child will love you no matter what.”
Joe felt the cloud that had been hanging over him for days lift just enough to make life feel a lot more bearable. “I guess I just want to be able to see the child’s face when the day comes that you give birth to him,” he paused and then chuckled, “or her, whatever the case might be.”
Eliza didn’t doubt for a moment that Joe wanted to be able to see their child and, to be honest, her heart ached at the thought of him only seeing the baby with his hands…thus creating a picture for himself. Still, she couldn’t see where dwelling on something they had no power over was doing him any good either.
“Look, Adam and Mary are bringing Hank over for supper.” Eliza made herself bite her tongue when it came to Adam Hank Cartwright; the young boy as fifteen months old, walking extremely well and into everything. Eliza figured the only reason she could control her tongue when Mary and Adam brought the lad over was because she didn’t want her words coming back to haunt her once the child she was carrying was born. “I’m not sure about Hoss and Rebecca, don’t know that she’s up to visiting anyone yet.” Rebecca had given birth to a baby girl, Inger Grace Cartwright, the month before only the birth had been hard, and Rebecca had almost died. Eliza really didn’t expect to see Rebecca out and about for another couple of months at least. Joe was thinking along the same lines.
“I sure hope not.” He said as he slid his arms into the crook of his wife’s arm and turned her around and headed towards the living room door. “She needs to take care of herself first. Hoss needs her too bad.” As it was, Joe figured it was bad enough that Hoss had had to hire a wet nurse for baby Grace. No, as far as Joe was concerned, Hoss didn’t need to hire a governess as well…something he’d have had to do now only Mrs. Matthews had stepped in and was overseeing her daughter’s recovery.
When Joe opened the door and let Eliza walk in first, Ben, who was sitting in his chair, looked up from his book. He set the item down when Joe and Eliza sat down on the couch. Knowing how Joe had been the past few days, and feeling that, maybe, he was partially to blame, Ben spoke up. “Before Adam and his family get here, Joe. I want to apologize.”
Apologize? Joe sat up straight, confused. No matter what, he couldn’t think of one thing his father had done that he needed to fee like he, Joe, was due an apology. “What are you talking about?” He asked, his confusion could be heard in his voice and seen in his eyebrows which had shot up in surprise.
Eliza was not surprised to hear Ben admit he felt he’d pushed too hard once it looked like Joe’s sight might be returning, and she smiled. Of course, he’d pushed because he cared. Besides, Joe had pushed the issue just as hard. However, anything she had to say would have to wait as Joe, who had come out of the initial shock of hearing his father apologize for pushing things so, spoke up, basically saying the exact same thing his wife had just thought.
“I’m just as much as fault as you are. Now, let’s just drop the subject. Life is still worth living.” Joe smiled as he covered Eliza’s right hand with his left one. “Adam and his family should be here soon. We can enjoy a good supper and then, tomorrow night, we’ll go to the social the town is holding. If I hear right, they’re actually holding it out at *Johnson’s clearing.”
“Sounds good to me,” Ben said as he heard a wagon pulling into the yard. Adam and his family had to have arrived. That being the case, he stood up and headed towards the door, leaving Joe and Eliza to talk about the social.
*As far as I know they never mentioned such a place in Bonanza. If they did, it’s pure coincidence.
Joe was grateful for the gentle breeze that was blowing through the air as his father parked the surrey that he, Joe and Eliza were traveling in. With Adam talking to Mary, Joe could tell his brother and sister-in-law had parked their wagon next to Ben’s surrey. He could also hear the many voices of their neighbors, friends and acquaintances that had, and were, gathering at the clearing. True to his musings, Hoss and Rebecca had not traveled out to the social, which really surprise no one.
“Well,” Ben said as he grinned at Joe and Eliza, who sat in the back seat of the surrey, “Are you two going to just sit there or are you going to join the festivities?”
Eliza couldn’t help but laugh softly as Joe snapped out of his thoughts and scrambled to cover the fact that he hadn’t been listening. It didn’t matter though. Ben Cartwright didn’t get a chance to tease Joe about it as Hank, who was being carried by his father as a safety precaution around the horses, cried out for his grandfather (who he called da da; the child called Adam ‘da’).
Joe climbed down from the surrey and then helped Eliza down. The two then made their way, with Ben and the others, to a nearby table that had been set up. Sitting down, they listened to the music that was playing and began visiting some of their friends, as they came and went. However, it wasn’t until Jack Drummond, a old family friend and neighbor stopped by and began visiting that Joe sat up straight as the man began talking about his nephew’s son and how he, like Joe, had been blind for a number of years.
“Had himself a rather good shock,” Jack said as he shrugged his shoulders, “and went blind. At the time the doctor said he didn’t know how long it would last.” The gentleman shook his head and said, “My nephew can now see again only it’s been six and half years. You can’t tell me the *blindness would have lasted that long if it was just from an emotional shock! Something else had to have happened!”
Ben, remembering everything he’d learned about the various causes of blindness and knowing which nephew the man was talking about, wasn’t sure their friend was right. Still, for Joe’s sake, he politely acknowledged he’d heard Jack and then skillfully changed the subject.
While Joe was grateful, he also had to quietly suck in his breath. The moment Mr. Drummond had been venting,Joe had a memory come back to him. It was a memory from the day Dr. Martin had come out to the Ponderosa and checked on him. The man had then left the room with Ben following. The two men had talked outside the hall thinking Joe couldn’t hear them; only he could.
“All I can figure is that he when he landed on the ground he bumped the back of his head before rolling.” Dr. Martian said with resignation in his voice. “It must have done damage to optical nerve.”
At the time Joe had only really heard “damage to optical nerve”. Only now, after Mr. Drummond’s words, he couldn’t help but realize he’d skipped right over the words “all I can figure” and “It must have ….” For the first time Joe realized the doctor had only been guessing, and he began wondering the very same thing *Eliza had talked to Ben about. Was it possible that waking up with such blurry vision had been such a shock to him that he’d simply convinced himself he was going blind and then actually done it? The idea unsettled Joe, and he quickly pushed it aside. However, he did not push it aside so fast that Eliza did not notice that something was wrong.
“Joe?” She put her hand on her husband’s arm. “Is something wrong? You look a bit pale.”
The moment she said that Ben looked at his youngest and became alarmed, as he could see Eliza was right. “I think we need to get you home.” Ben said as he began to stand up; he wasn’t putting a social above his son’s health.
“No,” Joe shook his head as the color returned to his face. “I’m fine really.”
Ben and Eliza looked at each other. Both could tell the other one doubted Joe’s word only neither one of them cared to fight him either. “All right,” Ben said as he sat back down, “but if you go pale like that again, we leave without a fight.”
Joe nodded and agreed; he figured it was better to go along with his father than to find himself trying to explain what was now in the back of his mind. Although he decided right then and there he was going to see Dr. Martin and have a long talk with him the first chance he got unaware that Adam, who had been listening and watching without commenting, had quickly connected his reaction to Mr. Drummond’s words. Not knowing about the fuzziness Joe had experienced when he’d woke up after Cochise had stumbled, Joes oldest brother was perplexed. After all, falling off one’s horse might be upsetting only it wasn’t anything to cause any amount of real shock, not enough to cause that much of an emotional shock.
“I’m going for a walk.” Adam stood up and looked at Joe. “Why don’t you come with me, Joe?”
The fact that everyone was puzzled by Adam’s seemingly out of the blue request, but no one said a thing either. They simply waited to see what Joe would do.
Joe might have turned his brother down only Eliza, who had been removed her hand off his arm, pushed him to go. “All right,” He took a hold of his walking stick and stood up, smiling as he did so. He might now know what Adam wanted only Joe, after thinking about it, realized it had been some time since he’d spent any real time with his oldest brother.
*I can’t find the link now only, when I dealt with another story, I DID find a link that claimed “Hysterical Blindness…blindness caused by an emotional shock) could last for years, and that one case lasted ten years. I can’t find the link now.
*Eliza’s talk to Ben can be found in “Living in Darkness”.
Adam and Joe walked past one person after another. “Hello, Adam!” “Hi there, Joe!” and a number of other things met their ears as they made their way to the other side of the clearing. Once on the other side, Adam suggested they walk down to a nearby stream. “We can talk without anyone overhearing us.” Adam looked at his baby brother, hoping that the privacy would help him get Joe to open up and talk. And talk was something Adam was sure Joe needed to do, he was sure of it.
The moment his oldest brother made his request, Joe knew Adam had something serious on his mine. He had to; Adam would have simply talked to him in spite of anyone who might be nearby if it wasn’t. “Reckon I can spare the time.” Joe grinned as he and Adam walked away from the crowd.
As the two brothers walked towards the stream they talked and laughed about days gone by and the families they now had. However, once they arrived at the stream and found places to sit Adam looked at the tall grass blowing in the gentle breezed and looked at the birds flying overhead. To live in a world where he could only enjoy such things from memories and a bit of imagination was something he prayed he never had to experience. He took a deep breath and changed the subject once again. “Joe, what all happened that day? I mean, the day of your accident?”
A part of Joe wanted to ask his brother why he was asking and then tell him to just leave the past where it belonged; the rest of him knew Adam was asking due to Mr. Drummond’s words. “Nothing much,” Joe replied and shrugged his shoulders. “I’d been out fixing some fence lines and checking on the cattle when I came across a couple of dead cows. I started looking around and…” he shivered slightly as he recalled looking up and see a huge cougar looking down at him. “I turned Cochise and pushed him as hard as I could. I mean, I felt like I needed to warn pa about the cougar and tell him what was happening.”
Adam could understand that one. “And when you woke up,” Adam said slowly, having realized there had been something not quite right when he looked at his baby brother’s eyes when he’d looked at him. Only, since Joe didn’t say anything, Adam had told himself everything would be all right. “we all looked fuzzy to you. Why didn’t you say something then?”
Joe didn’t say anything for a moment. *“Brother, I thought you were half dead.” Hoss said after entering the room and announcing the doctor was on his way. “Are you all right?” Adam asked. Joe sighed as he remembered how he’d assured Adam and the others he was all right. “I…” He started to say it as simply because he didn’t want them to worry only he found himself confessing the truth. “I was hoping it would simply clear up, and there would be no need to say anything. Besides, I wanted all of you to be free to get that cougar, not hang around the house worrying about my eyesight.”
Adam, who was sitting on a small boulder with his elbows resting on his knees and had his clasped together and held upwards so he could rest his chin on them, said, “In between worrying about the cat and then worrying about your eyesight, your stress level had to be at an all time high.”
Joe, who was sitting on another boulder caught up to his brother’s train of thought, stood up and took a few steps forward. Folding his arms and facing towards the stream, he listened to the rushing water for a few minutes before turning around enough to be relatively sure he was facing Adam…or at least facing him enough that his brother would have no reason to change positions while they talked. “You think I did this to myself? You think I wanted to live in darkness, and that I want to now?” He asked, shocked to hear the amount of anger and annoyance in his voice. After all, hadn’t he been wondering the same thing ever since Mr. Drummond had stopped by and talked to the family?
“Of course not,” Adam answered as he too stood up and walked toward the stream.
“Then why ask what you did and make that statement?” Joe asked once he and Adam stood on the bank of the stream. He couldn’t understand that one so he didn’t even attempt to hide the fact he was a bit upset by the conversation.
“I don’t think anyone wants to live without their eyesight, and they definitely don’t consciously make themselves go blind.” Adam shook his head as he again looked over the scenery. “I just think there’s a chance, a very small chance that, in between knowing there was danger from a cougar and waking up with fuzzy eyesight, something snapped as it were.”
Joe sighed and confessed to what he’d heard the doctor say but then agreed with Mr. Drummond. “It’s been four years Adam! I hit the back of my head when I fell; pa said so. If he’s wrong, if it’s was what you said, what I admit I have thought about, it would have cleared up by now.”
Adam thought about telling Joe about the cases of blindness caused by emotional trauma, and how long some of them had lasted. In the end, he decided against it as it would only turn into a debate or fight. If he did that, and he was right, Adam could see Joe, subconsciously, staying blind just to prove him wrong. “I guess you’re right. Sorry,” Adam sighed and clasped Joe’s shoulder. “It was just a thought. How about we get back to the party before that wife of yours, and my wife, both come after us?”
Joe laughed. “I think you’re right; we best get back.”
Nothing more was said between the two brothers as they walked back to the social. How could they visit when Adam’s mind had turned to other matters he had to deal with once the social was over, and Joe’s was stuck on the conversation he and Adam had just had. The question on the forefront being ‘was this blindness really brought on by my subconscious?”
Joe sat on his horse overlooking the cattle when he spotted one that was down. He pushed Cochise forward and as shocked to find the down cow was not only down, but dead also. It looked as if it had been eaten on too. He looked around, shocked to see huge tracks off to the side, cougar tracks. He decided to follow. It wasn’t long before he located another dead cow. He might have become more than upset only he heard a noise in the rocks above him and looked up. His eyes widened as he saw the hugest cougar he’d ever seen disappearing out of his sight. The realization of the damage the cat could do, had done, propelled Joe to turn and push Cochise as hard as he could towards home.
Mile and mile he pushed his horse. By the time he reached the house he was as anxious as he’d ever been to warn his father of the danger on their land. “Pa!” Joe yelled. He saw his father wave and then, to his horror, Cochise stepped in hold and stumbled. The last thought on his mind as he hit the ground was the danger to his family and the need to warn them. The first question when he’d been shocked to wake up to blurred vision was ‘how can I help protect my family when I’m going blind?”
Eliza walked, or was it waddled, into the room she and Joe shared to see him tossing and turning wildly on his bed, one minute crying out warnings to his family members to the next minute yelling he was blind and asking how he could help protect his family. She hurried as fast as she could to his side and shook him. “Wake up, Joe, you’re having a nightmare. Wake up!”
When his wife shook him, Joe woke up with a start. He went to apologize and to tell her what he’d been dreaming about only to receive the shock of his life….he could see his wife’s face. Well, not clearly he couldn’t only he could see it. He reached and touched Eliza’s face, who gasped in astonishment as she could tell Joe was looking right at her, not in the general area. “Joe?” She asked cautiously, “Can you see me?”
Joe smiled wide and nodded, though he clarified that his eyesight was blurry. Tears sprang to her eyes and she embraced him. Fuzzy or night, just the fact that he could see anything made her heart leap for joy. Maybe, just maybe, he’d be seeing clearly by the time the baby was born. They might have said more to each other only Ben, having heard Joe’s screaming, stepped into the room. Naturally, he was concerned when he saw Joe and Eliza holding each other and crying.
“What’s wrong?” Ben asked as he stepped forward only to have his own emotions run wild when his youngest turned his head, looked right at him and said, “I never knew blurred vision would ever be a thing to be happy about.”
Joe paced back and forth across the living room as Ben sat in his chair, Adam sat on the blue chair and Mary sat on the couch with Hank. Hoss and his wife were actually sitting out on the porch with baby Grace; the two had said they needed the fresh air.
“Sit down, Joe.” Ben pointed to the unused portion of the couch. “That baby isn’t going to get here any sooner that it wants to.”
“Sorry, pa,” Joe sid as he stopped pacing and leaned against the railing leading upstairs. “I just can’t believe it, I’m actually going to be able to see the baby, really see it.” His eyesight had remained blurry for a solid week and then, gradually, returned. Joe would never really know whether or not his optical nerve had been damaged and simply healed itself miraculously or if simply talking to Adam about the possibility that he was actually suffering from blindness caused by his subconscious mind, thus enabling him to actually deal with it, returned his eyesight. It didn’t really matter to him nor to anyone else. The important fact remained…he would see his firstborn child.
Ben and Adam smiled. While neither one of them could understand it either, they were more than elated at the turn of events. However, before either one of them could say anything they heard a baby’s cry and then Dr. Martin’s helper, a young black haired woman by the name of Miss Caldwell, appeared at the top of the stairs and began making her way down to the main floor.
Joe practically flew to her side and asked, “How’s my wife? How’s the baby?”
Everyone chuckled at his reaction though they really started laughing when Miss Caldwell assured him that his wife and newborn son were doing all right….and he flew up the stairs before another word could be said. By the time he got to the room, Dr. Martin was shutting his black bad and Eliza was holding their son in the crook of her arm.
“Come and see your son, Joe.” Eliza was simply beaming as Joe made his way to the side of the bed and sat down, reaching out to pick up his son’s small hand in his larger one. The silliest grin he’d ever worn spread across his face only he didn’t care. After all, he figured the best of men were made fools of when a baby was around.
“He’s something else,” Joe said as he leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. “As is his mother.” He then said another prayer of thanksgiving. While he had learned much while living in darkness, Joe was more than grateful that life had led him back into the light.
Other Stories by this Author
- Far Side of Jordan (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)
- Living in Darkness (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)
- His Legacy (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)
- Band of Brothers (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)
- Don’t Forget the Stars (by Tauna Petit-Strawn)