Love & Family

Love is blind – Aussie couple share their beautiful story

Pete and Pearl are couple goals

When Pearl first heard Pete’s voice, she instantly felt a connection.

Here, Pearl Sumner, 76, from Melbourne, Victoria, shares the story in her own words.

Making my way to the social club, I couldn’t wait to catch up with my mates. As a person with blindness, the club was a great way to connect with people now that I was 19 and had finished school. 

 

With friends, who also had low vision, we had set it up about a year earlier. 

That day, my friend Joy came over. 

‘I wanted to introduce you to Pete. It’s his first time here,’ she said. 

‘Nice to meet you Pearl, how’s your day been?’ he said. 

Hearing his warm, friendly voice, I felt goosebumps. It was like someone had lit a match that went pshhww! 

This is the guy I’m going to marry! I thought. 

As we spoke, I could feel the sparks flying between us. And when Joy whisked him away to meet the others, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. 

Later, we caught up and I learnt Pete was 20. We chatted until the end.  

At the club the following month, Pete told me about his blindness. 

Two years before, he had been volunteering when he’d accidentally splashed chemicals in his eyes, leaving him without sight. He was currently in a rehabilitation unit so he could learn skills like reading braille and getting about with a cane.  

‘It’s been hard adapting to this new way of living,’ he admitted. 

‘You’ll get there,’ I reassured him. 

As I’d been born with blindness, my world had always been this way. 

Pete and Pearl on our wedding day
On our wedding day

Once Pete was out of the rehab centre, he took me for dinner in the city, and a kind waiter read us the menu. 

Soon, friendship blossomed into love. 

Our connection felt so genuine – none of it was based on looks; it was about our energy and personalities. Pete was always making me chuckle with silly jokes, so I knew he was the one for me. 

As he’d had vision in the past, he would tell me about things I never knew. 

‘When you’re speaking to someone, it’s important to look at them. It lets them know you’re interested in what they’re saying,’ he said. 

After four years together, Pete and I got married.  

Moving in together, we put braille labels on things to help us out. 

My confidence definitely encouraged him, but Pete’s determined attitude meant he usually wanted to work things out for himself.  

Living without vision had its challenges, though. 

One time, I got home to Pete boiling some cabbage for dinner. But instead of salt, he’d poured powdered Ajax all over it! 

Eventually, Pete got his first guide dog, Jasper, who made such a big difference. Our ambassador, he helped us socialise and led us through life. 

Wanting to help others, we set up a charity, travelling the world and supporting blind kids from disadvantaged areas. 

Pete, Pearl and kids
David, Winsome, Pete and me

We also went on to have our own children, Winsome and David. I’d often put the kids on a rein and attach them to me, so I knew where they were. 

My sister-in-law, Jenny, guided me through things such as changing nappies and feeding, so that I could gradually do it alone. 

I would sometimes get covered in the kids’ mess though! 

At bedtime, instead of reading books to them, Pete would make up incredible stories. 

We also had a regular support worker, and I joined a blind mothers’ club, where I learned a lot. 

To clear up after the kids, I was taught to shut them out of the room and feel around, putting any toys in a big bag.  

When I dressed them, I’d work out what colour an item was by feeling the texture. 

Sometimes, I’m sure their socks were mismatched! 

As they got older, our golden rule was that if we called their name, they had to answer immediately so we knew where they were. 

Over the years, I wished I could see their faces change. 

When they brought home schoolwork, Winsome and David would take our fingers and carefully trace over their words or drawings.   

They helped me at the supermarket too, but sometimes they’d take full advantage of my low vision. 

‘Do you really need all of those lunch wraps?’ a checkout lady asked one day. 

I’d asked Winsome to grab a pack and she cheekily piled about 50 into the trolley! 

Pete and Pearl
Pete, Kobie, Gracie and me (Credit: Pete, Kobie, Gracie and me)

Winsome, now 52, and David, 50, have both gone on to have their own children. 

‘How did you both do it?’ Winsome often says in awe. 

Pete and I both have a guide dog – I have Gracie, and Kobie is Pete’s. They’re smart animals and make a big impact on our lives. If I lose Pete in the supermarket, I’ll say to Gracie, ‘Find Pete, find Kobie,’ and she’ll work her way around the store until she finds them. 

Gracie and Kobie enable us to experience so much; simple things like going for a coffee or enjoying a walk. 

Pete and I have been married for 55 years now. 

Like any marriage, we’ve had our ups and downs. 

Pete sometimes quips, ‘Love is blind, but marriage is an eye opener!’ 

But we both know we are so lucky to have each other – we’re kindred spirits. ● 

Support Guide Dogs Australia by walking for their Pawgust campaign.  

Related stories