My Big Brother Danny is Blind

Daniel Robert Mooney, affectionately known by his siblings Cookie (Marilyn), Jay (John Jr.), and me, Kat (Kathleen) as “Danny”. He is also the second oldest, and from my perspective, is the brainiac within our Mooney clan.  Now I know as soon as his wife Marnie reads this article to “Dan”, as she lovingly calls him; he gets the “Daniel” when she wants to get his attention, or the “D.a.n.i.e.l” with a deeper tone and inflection which means, “o.k., that’s enough,” it’s going to go right to his head!  I can almost hear his lips moving, “Geez there was no need to write an article, I could have told you that,” with his sharp, sarcastically witted sense of humour.  He might have missed his true calling as a stand-up comedian because he has always had a genuine knack to make you laugh!

Danny is the most academically gifted one of us siblings, and I mean this seriously.  In addition to having the gift of the gab and a former superpower for reading books at the speed of lighting, my big brother, Danny is a self-taught reader who fell in love with reading at the young age of four. By the time he was ten, he would take small appliances apart just to see how they worked, and he could put them back together without a manual.  I believe he got into trouble with our dad because one time he took apart the only alarm clock in our house.  I remember hearing lots of funny trickled-down stories about our dad telling him, “You better put that back together and make sure it works or I will kick you in the ass and make your nose bleed.” Although this never happened, it was our dad’s way of letting Danny know that he was serious.

My Brainiac Brother

As you may know by now, my family’s roots are in Montreal, QC. We come from a family with modest means where both of our parents worked long hours to put the food on the table.  When we were growing up, Danny would get the highest grades in his class effortlessly. He even received a full-tuition scholarship to attend one of the most prestigious learning institutions in Montreal and was then Loyola Boys College in Notre-Dame-de-Grace (also known as NDG). It was a private Jesuit, Catholic high school for boys founded in 1896, and only the academically elite were invited to study there. It is now Loyola High School.

Many boys who attended the school were financially privileged and had way more material things than they could ever want. Danny had this going against him right from the start.  It was challenging to say the least, about how expensively overpriced the school uniforms were. Our family could barely afford them.  My parents were so proud of Danny, especially our dad, for he believed Danny would have the best education possible.  After two weeks of going to the new posh school, Danny felt like he didn’t fit in, and he was missing his friends. The kids were mean, and Danny heard their ongoing bullish whispers.   He wanted to be with his friends, he then went to James Lyng High School because his friends were there.

Later, in his last year of high school, Danny dropped out of school, which broke our dad’s heart.  Our parents saw the potential Danny had. He was bored with the curriculum, and I am convinced he could probably do a better job teaching his peers than his teachers. He did find his way as he chose a different educational path.  He moved west at the early age of 19 and spent some time with our sister Cookie and her husband Jimmy Shepherd, who lived and continues to live in Calgary, Alberta.  By the time he was 20, he was fending for himself.  He later went back to school for a two-year private program in electronics. There he earned the opportunity to be an apprentice for two years. He was successful in achieving his journeyman electrician designation where he became a licensed electrician.

Before Danny lost his Eyesight, but not his Vision

From the age of 18 months, Danny had to wear prescription eyeglasses to see. They were the ones with the thick lenses where many kids and some parents used to call them coke bottle glasses and other demeaning names. The doctor told my parents that the chances for Danny to lose his vision as he aged was very high.

Danny was diagnosed with wet macular degeneration and has lost his eyesight by 95%. He can see shadows.  Danny shared with me that he could see in plain English…remember he’s a brainiac,

“If you are watching TV imagine that there is a large pizza box in the center of the program you are watching.  I can see some things around that pizza box, I cannot see anything in the center.”

During the 1990s, Danny worked full-time as a civilian for the Department of National Defence Naval Shipyard (it is also known as the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) in Esquimalt, BC. It is Canada’s Pacific Coast Naval Base).

Danny moved up in the civilian ranks working as an electrician and later as safety supervisor. With almost 15 years into his career in 2009, and when he could no longer do his job, he began to loose his eyesight and the ability to see in one eye and then gradually the second eye. He could no longer do his job.

With this new diagnosis, he was now deemed “disable.”  The HR team gradually moved him into an administrative role where they took some time to see, no pun intended, what Danny could do and what he was interested in.  He received training as he then helped people return to work.

Danny had always had a genuine interest in sticking up for the underdog, so it was natural for him to find his way and excel in his new volunteer role as the National Co-Chair of the Advisory Group for Persons with Disabilities.

Before this he was a public service with the Department of National Defence Naval Shipyard -Journeyman status as an electrician 1990 apprentice, 12 years – one eye then went in the second eye -= them moved to admin hr = lost his vision.

I assume, of course, losing one’s eyesight at any age is traumatic and life-changing. I believe no one really understands it unless they are living with it. I am told my brother copes with laughter as he has always had a jovial sense of humour.  But inside, I can honestly say that I have no idea what is like and what he has been going through because I am not in his shoes.

According to Google in 2020, it was estimated worldwide that 49.1 million people were blind. Only 2% have wet macular degeneration which means have there is very little if any research. To date, we do not know what causes it or how it progresses.  Danny told me that there are more blood vessels in the retina, and they often begin to leak.  He provided this visual so I could understand, “It is like tree roots tearing through the sidewalk.”

This 10th Issue of The Cat’s Meow is dedicated to the many people who live every day without their eyesight, let us not forget that they still have a vision – may those of us who have our eyesight, may we not take it for granted.

Kat Mooney
Founder & Principal Navigator
Pounce Support Services™