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For first time in 51 years, Bob Edens sees

By
JACK M. KNEECE

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- To Bob Edens, yellow is amazing but red is best -- although he hasn't seen anything yet he didn't like.

He lived 51 years without seeing anything at all, until complicated surgery gave him eyesight. He found it overwhelming.

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'I never would have dreamed that yellow was so ... so yellow. I don't have the words. I am amazed by yellow.

'But red is my favorite color. I just can't believe red,' said Edens, who said the first thing he ever saw was an eyedropper in the hands of a nurse.

'Grass is something I had to get used to,' he said. 'I always thought it was just fuzz. But to see each individual green stalk, and to see the hair on my arm growing like trees, and birds flying through the air, and everything -- it's like starting a whole new life. It's the most amazing thing in the world to see things you never thought you'd see.

'I saw the purple and orange recently in the face of a tiger. I could see the individual hairs and the colors and his eyes.

'I can see the shape of the moon -- and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. And of course sunrises and sunsets.

'I can't wait to get up each day to see what I can see. I am still seeing most of it for the first time.

'And at night I look at the stars in the sky and flashing lights. And I am learning to read and write -- like a first grader. Everything is like a constant high. You could never know how wonderful everything is.'

He had been blind since birth, but graduated from Furman University, learned Braille, married and had a daughter. He even coached a Little League baseball team while working as a masseur.

Fifteen weeks ago, he underwent surgery for a detached retina and a corneal transplant.

His sight has been gradually returning since the day after the Nov. 18 operation. Edens, who said every South Carolina governor since 1953 has come to him for a massage, is opening a private massage clinic.

But he would rather talk about what he can see than what he can do.

'I saw some bees the other day,' confided Edens almost as if telling a secret, 'and they were magnificent. And I jumped a covey of quail. I had heard quail before, but to see them flying -- Ah ... what an experience.'

'I saw a truck drive by in the rain the other day and throw a spray into the air. It was marvelous.

'And did I mention,' he said, genuine rapture in his voice, 'I saw a falling leaf, just drifting through the air?'

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