I was watching Frasier last night (it’s a guilty pleasure of mine) and came across this funny, yet insightful episode. To tell the truth, I don’t remember much of the plot, only that Frasier is visiting this nursing home, assisted living sort of place with a friend of his. Someone in the home recognizes his voice and invites him into his room. Turns out it’s a man who has gone blind, but listens to Frasier’s radio show. They talk for a while, and the man shares some of how Frasier helped him.
The man had lost his wife years ago and was struggling with that, so, at Frasier’s indirect radio advice, he had a porcelain mask made that resembled his wife’s face so he could touch it, feel her cheekbones, her forehead, her lips, and remember his wife still. Only, the porcelain mask was completely generic and nondescript. It didn’t look like his wife at all. We, of course, knew this, as did Frasier, but he had no idea because he was blind.
It got me thinking two things. Firstly, I found it really insightful how this man, even though he was completely blind, was still able to “see” his wife. Not with his eyes, of course, but in memories, and he was able to anchor that experience to an object in the real world. While before it was his wife, and that’s what gave the memory staying power, it became the mask. The memory retained its anchor here to the real world, and so it could never be forgotten.
Secondly, I had to wonder if the man somehow knew that the mask didn’t in fact resemble his wife, but that he was placing her features onto the blank slate of the mask. I had to wonder if it would bother him had Frasier told him “Hey, that mask is totally generic and doesn’t resemble your wife at all.” Or I wonder if he perhaps knew that all the mask ever was was a symbol, one that represented his wife, and so it needn’t really look like her at all.