Aussie TV legend Jean Kittson shares her family misfortune

My dad was determined to help Mum, but then tragedy struck him too.

By Brittany Smith
Aussie TV legend Jean Kittson shares her story with Take 5. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Aussie TV legend Jean Kittson, 63, has starred in dozens of shows over the last 30 years including The Big Gig, Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation and The Glasshouse.
But recently the Sydneysider has been dealing with a heartbreaking family crisis, and is facing up to a very uncertain future.

Jean Kittson, 64, Sydney, NSW shares her story;

My heart raced as my mum, Elaine, 51, sat me down in the lounge room with a sad look in her eyes.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
Mum had always been so positive and determined but she seemed seriously shaken up.
"I've just come back from the specialist," she said. "I'm going blind in my left eye."
I shook my head in confusion.
Docs had never worked out why, but her left eye had always been perfectly fine.
"That can't be right," I argued.
I was only 21 years old and although I'd moved out of home, I still saw Mum and my dad, Roy, 49, regularly.
Mum hadn't shown any sign of losing her sight in her good eye, at least not around me.
"I was driving the other day when the lines on the road started swirling," she explained, concerned.
She was diagnosed her with macular degeneration.
Over time, the nerves in the centre of her eye had deteriorated and would continue to, until a big black dot replaced the centre of her vision.
There was no cure.
Docs didn't how long it would take for it to get that bad – all they knew was that it was inevitable.
"Maybe they're wrong," I suggested, trying to stay positive.
I was couldn't bear to think of Mum relying on others, she was the most independent woman I knew.Right after World War ll, when she was in her 20s, she travelled to London on her own.
Most women were married by then, but Mum instead explored the world then came home and opened her own boutique shoe store.
She didn't settle down and get hitched to Dad until she was 30.
My Mum as a young woman. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
What would she do now if she had to give up her shop?
She was too headstrong to let other people make a fuss of her.
But docs were right and Mum's sight declined over time.
After 10 years, she had to sell up her business and retire.
"It's for the best," she said, putting on a brave face.
I could see the subtle flickers of sadness when she thought I wasn't looking.
My brothers and sister and I married and had children of our own but Mum couldn't help out as much she wanted because the black hole in her vision was getting larger.
"Look Nanny!" my daughter, Victoria, four, said one day, running up to Mum with a picture in her hand. "I drew this for you."
"It's beautiful," she said, smiling.
But I noticed her eyes darting left to right, trying to see it.
I knew she couldn't.
In her shoe boutique - it was her dream. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Soon after, Mum had to give up driving.
It was another tough blow as our fiercely independent Mum had to rely on Dad to ferry her around.
But she stayed strong and stoic.
Before long, Dad became Mum's full-time carer.
She often got frustrated with him because she was determined to do things on her own, but she saw the funny side too.
"I've always told you to marry a younger man who can look after you when you're older," she joked to me.
"This just proves I was right!"
I could help but laugh.
Dad was only two years younger than her.
He was hardly a toyboy!
When my parents reached their 80s, Dad started to struggle with his sight, too – relying on magnifying glasses and bright lights to read the electricity bills.
I took him to the eye specialist.
"You have macular degeneration," the doctor said.
Not him too!
My stomach sank as Dad nodded sadly.
I was terrified.
He'd been Mum's eyes for years.
What would we all do if he couldn't care for her anymore?
"They'll have to give up the family home," I told my brothers and sister that night.
"Dad'll lose his driver's license and the shops are too far to walk."
We couldn't wait until Dad lost his sight completely – we had to act right away.
Thankfully, dear old Mum and Dad understood our concerns.
They sold their house and moved into a retirement village, where mobility wouldn't be such an issue.
I just want to be able to support my amazing parents. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
It was hard for them to adjust to living in a small two-bedroom unit.
As in love as they were, they weren't used to living on top of one another.
But as the months passed, Mum got used to her new surroundings.
She memorised the number of steps from the dining table to the kitchen and made sure all her belongings were put back in the right spot so she could easily find them again.
Over the next six years, Dad's sight deteriorated further until he finally had to give up his license.
His vision was slightly better than Mum's and he refused to let macular degeneration get in the way of caring for her.
Aged 92, he still sets her tablets out on the table every day.
On Valentine's Day he even put them in the shape of a heart, which she loved.
Sometimes, Dad's kind attempts aren't as successful.
Recently, he cooked some chicken legs for Mum then put them in the fridge for later, next to another plate of raw chicken.
When he served dinner up that night, Mum spat it straight out.
Mum and Dad never lost their sense of humour. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
"Roy, love, it's completely raw!" she yelped.
He'd accidentally given her the wrong one.
They couldn't stop laughing about it but I was horrified when I heard the story.
They could have become really sick!
Now I've become an ambassador for the Macular Disease Foundation Australia, helping to raise awareness about this disease.
People think vision loss is just a normal part of growing old but it's not.
So often people brush off their symptoms, which only makes the condition worse.
Since Mum and Dad both have macular degeneration, I have a one in two chance of getting it at any time, too.
But I'm not worried about myself.
I just want to support my gorgeous parents while I still can.
Vision loss has hurt my family for 40 years.
I'm going to use my voice a comedian and entertainer to raise awareness about this cruel disease.

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