Samantha Norton

Equinox Staff


Many are blind to what really matters in life. But, when someone is on the verge of losing sight of what is important, life becomes an eye-opening experience. For Tom Proulx, his loss of vision has made him realize who and what he cannot live without.

“Once real life hits you, you are stealing moments you’ll remember. A majority of your life will not make it onto the highlight reel that flashes in front of your eyes that people say when they’re about to die,” Proulx said.

In 2007, Proulx started to have blurs in each eye that would eventually jump percentages each year. 2008 consisted of Proulx enduring nine months of spinal taps, MRI’s, and every type of testing the doctors could think of in order to form a diagnosis, but there was absolutely nothing for results.

“You could put into a countdown my progression since 2007 until now, to half a percent to three percent,” Proulx said.

Now, doctors have diagnosed Proulx with Retinal Dispigmentosa. But, he is still not totally blind. His brain has adapted to seeing contrast. With minimal light, Proulx is able to recognize lines, shapes, and textures. These glimpses of shadowed images help Proulx create a picture of what settings, objects, and even people look like.

Proulx’s handicap left him wondering how he would justify it to the rest of the world. “You are dealt with this sort of thing and the hardest thing to deal with is ‘What does the outside world think?’ When normally people would just be traumatized by it, I was traumatized and worrying about my responsibility in society,” Proulx said.

The responsibility to provide for his family was one that Proulx did not want to be impaired due to his vision loss. Proulx’s family was what got him through the dark times. He could not let this support system crumble before his eyes.

Proulx struggled dealing with “How am I breadwinning for my wife? How am I providing for my kids? When I am now taking from the system. When I am now on welfare and I am receiving assistance with food and all of these things. That becomes the reality of where you never thought you’d be. How do you deal with the relationship with your wife– basically because of me we are now destitute, we are in need of assistance continually for our survival in society,” he said.

The constant struggles of finding a way to provide for his family and a way to be a contributing member of society are ones that left Proulx in a sort of groove. To Proulx, there is a difference between being in a groove and being in a rut- it’s all about perception- perception of whether or not that person lets it become a rut.

“I think that has to be a focus in your life, for me, having basically been to the point where I decided I wasn’t going to kill myself, because I never wanted to. For me I never even thought about, it was just like ‘No, no, no I’m not a quitter,’ I’ve spent my entire life overcoming adversity,” Proulx said.

Music is what ultimately helped Proulx overcome his adversity. “When I used to play music, I didn’t need antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications that I took full time, honestly. Now maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s a bad thing, but understand that’s what music gave to me, it’s an emotional flow,” Proulx said.

When real life hits, the way an individual deals with their trials and tribulations demonstrates their willingness to reach beyond being content with the life they have.

“Everybody has adversity in their life. Some people are better at overcoming it, some people get better at overcoming it, but that really has to be a theme that you keep for yourself, as far as being positive and continually believing you can pull it off, never sort of believing you can be defeated,” Proulx said. Music serves as Proulx’s emotional escape route- a route that prevents Proulx from being defeated emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Proulx, now 38-years-old, has been through and then some.  He was playing music, making money, making mistakes. “As far as my talent, I could have done something and still absolutely might be able to because of the cards that I’m dealt now,” Proulx said.

The direction of Proulx’s music career lies in his ability to remain strong emotionally, psychologically, and physically in order to not let his handicap overshadow the talent he possesses. “In order for me to continue, I sort of have to figure out a way to not let it bother me,” Proulx said.

Proulx is now starting to reintroduce himself to the music world. Since last September, Proulx has been running sound at Fritz’s Fries during Thursday night performances. For him, working at Fritz’s Fries is a type of therapy- a way for him to provide for his family and a way to let his talent by known.

“I took this thing on at Fritz’s as a way to work because the issue is that when I needed that intervention; it was September of last year, of 2010. It was to the point where I had to wake my wife up in the middle of the night and say ‘I’m done, I cant, I’m living in the middle of the woods, I’m not doing for myself,’” Proulx said.

The talent and abilities that Proulx possesses are ones that he plans to use to benefit his Keene community. “I have a real basic idea that you can’t be taking; you really need to be giving as much as you can. I want to be a viable candidate for consuming food and oxygen, rather than just exist because it’s my right to exist,” Proulx said.

But for Proulx, business is a necessary evil. If Proulx didn’t constantly worry about making money to provide a home and food for his wife and family, then money would not be an issue. But, because of society it is a big deal, especially to Proulx.

“You got to take things serious. When I’m rolling around with my kids on the floor in the living room, what am I thinking about? What is more of a priority than that? Than when you’re sitting around at a kitchen table and everyone is laughing they’re butts off because somebody said something. Your family and the people around you are the most important. It’s your own little melodrama and T.V. show and if you want it to be ridiculous and melodramatic and useless than that’s what it can be,” Proulx said.

Useless is a term that cannot be found in Proulx’s vocabulary. He feels responsible for the things that are here. Rather than hoping to gain his sight back, Proulx hopes to give back.

“I wouldn’t change anything. Because my life at the end of the day, when I am on my deathbed, I will guarantee you that at the end of the day, I will be much better off and a much better person and a much more well-rounded and understanding individual that can contribute much better, than if I had just gone through my life in the gray zone,” Proulx said.


If interested in being involved with Thursday night performances at Fritz’s Fries, please contact Tom Proulx at



Samantha Norton can be contacted at

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