Love isn’t blind
Roger Vaughan is legally blind. His wife has cerebral palsy. But the love and laughter pervading the home of this Christ?Church couple belie the disabilities with which they both have had to cope daily throughout their nine-year marriage.
In fact they both consider the physical limitations to be an inspiration that drives the marriage, and the feature of their lives which anchors their commitment to each other and sees them through the difficult patches that Roger suggests “crop up in any marriage from time to time”.
He is the quiet one in the partnership, something of a balance to the effervescence and spontaneity of a wife who laughs heartily.
Relaxed and very much at home as they chatted with EASY Magazine one recent Saturday morning, this couple clearly has no misgivings about the challenges they face but are firm in their resolve to meet those challenges. By their own account, they weighed the pros and cons of marriage before they took the bold step.
“We first met at a cast party,” Roger explained.
A friend of mine had invited me to the party after a Barbados National Organization for the Disabled (BARNOD) play.
“Then a few months later [Rose Ann] came to the Centre for the Blind for an interview. I was working there caning chairs.”
Rose Ann secured the job working as assistant to the manager, and her roving eye fell upon her “Roge”.
With laughter she told EASY: “I knew right away that this guy wanted investigating. He was not like all the rest of the guys. He was funny, he had a lot to say without saying it.”
Given her impulsive personality, she pursued him and is not shy to admit “I was the chaser”, prompting Roger’s response almost with a tone of resignation and a smile on his face: “I think she shot me down.”
He did not talk a lot during the interview, listening as his wife sats beside him attractively dressed, from time to time playfully reaching for his hand or adoringly looking into his eyes, while he interrupted her occasionally with an opinion or a memory.
Rose Ann remarked about her husband: “He does not speak a lot but when he speaks, he speaks volumes. He is very analytical.
“I am the one who is very spontaneous. Roger, on the other hand, has to think about everything,” she added.
There was no flippancy in thinking when she considered this man as a likely spouse.
“He had a lot of concerns here. Here it is, he has a physically disabled chick . . . if she gets pregnant, how is she going to manage the baby? When we go shopping, how are we going to get home with the groceries?” These thoughts were running through her mind as she mulled over the prospects of being married to Roger.
On the other hand, Roger was impressed with this young woman.
“She was so positive about her disability,” he said, “after a period of time I realized there were certain things about her – the way she was assisting me, the way we did things together. Whereas I am quiet, she is bold; I realized she was worth getting more deeply involved with.”
Deep involvement for Roger led to marriage after a courtship in which Rose Ann constantly surprised him, like the Valentine’s Day when she invited him to lunch at her workplace, the Barbados Workers’ Union and boldly set them up at a lone table in the middle of the room, under the peering eyes of her co-workers as the two enjoyed a romantic lunch with eyes only for each other.
Roger suffered a detached retina which led to his being declared legally blind at age 22. He remembers crying when first confronted with that reality, but he decided to learn Braille, aware of the likelihood that he could eventually go totally blind.
“I resolved to live life as fully as possible,” he said, though it meant giving up all hope of a career in the hospitality industry for which he had begun training. Today he still has limited sight in one eye, sufficient to do the cooking.
“When we first got married we had to learn to deal with sharing space, even with simple tasks like cooking,” Roger recalled.
That was only one of his challenges. He had to come to terms with the fact that he had married a physically disabled woman, who grew up “privileged, getting her own way”, and Rose Ann jumps in: “I brought that into the marriage.”
She had never harboured fears about her disability. “I only noticed obstacles when I became active within the disabled community because I grew up with a mother and sister who are the strongest women I know.
“Very early in my life they instilled in me a sense of independence.”
She was educated in the regular primary and secondary school system.
She is bold and not slow to express her feelings: “I don’t hold back. If an incident happens now, I have to deal with it – whereas Roger is the opposite.”
But she guards against going overboard, mindful of taking advantage of her husband’s patience with her occasional tantrums. Rose Ann was diagnosed with lupus in 2007, but this is another obstacle they are working on together.
It is clear these two are not daunted. “We are advocates together and we love each other,” says Rose Ann, while Roger adds: “The joy of it is that we work together. Though we might have differences even in our personal life, we don’t stay angry with each other for long.”