Two years ago Michael Merrett penned “Slipping into Darkness,” a novel about his struggle with blindness from retinitis pigmentosa. A year later, he published a fiction novel and is now working on a third science fiction novel.

In 1978, Michael Merrett sold his car, quit his job as a bank accountant and set off for Fort Knox, Ky. to join the military and pursue journalism and photography, but that dream was quickly derailed.

Merrett couldn’t pass the eye exam and was unable to enlist.

“I was in glasses at age 12, but it was only at that time that I realized something more serious was going on,” said Merrett, now 53 and living in Bradford.

Two years later, Merrett and four of his brothers met with a Boston doctor who had done extensive research about the symptoms they each displayed. The diagnosis was retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease of the retina that causes varying degrees of blindness. Some end up losing their vision completely.

Since then, Merrett’s life has taken some unexpected turns, but his diagnosis brought him full circle to his dream of becoming a writer.

In 2005, Merrett self-published his first novel, “Slipping into Darkness,” about his struggle with his disease. A year later, he published a fiction novel called “The F.O.G.,” about a man on a mission to change the face of the planet.

One of 13 children, Merrett was raised in Everett by his father, Bert, and mother, Betty. Four of his five brothers have been diagnosed with the eye disease, all four having to change their careers because of vision loss. Merrett’s youngest brother, Stephen, 42, has yet to show any symptoms.

Merrett’s mother and father had perfect vision, so such widespread vision loss within a family seemed highly unusual. But the disease is hereditary, and Merrett’s mother was the carrier who had unknowingly passed it on to her sons.

The disease causes gradual degeneration of rod cells and cone cells in the retina. Rod cells decipher peripheral and side vision, as well as interpret images in dark and dim environments. Cone cells allow the eye to perceive color and see fine visual detail in the center of vision.

Merrett still has functional vision, meaning he can see adequately in bright light, but the disease still took away his 12-year career as an insurance examiner. For 19 years he had led drum corps and judged marching band competitions all over New England, but that was no longer possible. And his seven-year marriage to Julie Steffen ended because he tried to run away from his health problems. “I learned that you can’t do that. You have to learn to live with it,” said Merrett.

He later started working with the Randolph Sheppard program that allows the visually impaired to run their own vending, concessions, coffee shops and snack bars, but soon realized he needed more creativity.

“That’s when I said, ‘I need to start writing again,’” said Merrett, who had been writing part time for the Everett News, the Malden Tribune and the Stoneham Patriot from 1987 to 1992, covering sports and penning a column. But when the papers disbanded, he was again left without a form of creative expression. It was then that he tried writing full-length novels.

“I started ‘Slipping into Darkness’ because I felt that if I could do it right and present our experiences properly, it might help others,” he said.

It has, and Merrett remembers one woman in particular who was going through a similar situation.

“She said that after reading my book, it convinced her that they (her family) could get through anything,” he said. “I did it, so it made them believe they could too.”

Merrett credits his mother for his inspiration.

“My mom taught us long-lasting lessons as human beings, to help one another, not to hurt one another. She instilled in us a love of learning, the importance of sacrificing for others and being compassionate for others. And my dad was the most honest, decent human being I’ve ever known. From him we learned what the word integrity meant,” said Merrett.

The most difficult part of writing “Slipping into Darkness” was recalling details from over 20 years ago and reliving some of the his darkest moments.

Merrett never had any doubt he would achieve his dream of being a writer, despite the hurdles in his life.

“In high school, it was my calling,” he said. “I developed a fondness for literature and my mother, God rest her soul, instilled in us the importance of reading.”

Many of his characters were inspired by the people in his life.

“Almost everything we do and everything we write is influenced by, or based upon, things in our past,” Merrett said.

Merrett hopes to have his third science fiction novel, “Klatu’s Return,” completed by the end of the year. He is creating it as a sequel to the 1950s classic film “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” and has even been in contact with Ray Bradbury, who Merrett said has been incredibly helpful and supportive.

“You have to live for the moment because no one can see into the future,” he said. “This is the hand we were dealt. It’s what God intended us to have in our lives. Everybody has their difficulties. It’s absolutely essential that you don’t let the feelings of loss and depression associated with it consume you.”

As his vision continues to deteriorate, Merrett continues to take on more and more projects. His creative juices are flowing constantly with new possibilities. Merrett is an author and a musician, a curious mind and a kind soul who is visually impaired but will never be a victim.

“I think of this disease as my enemy,” he said, “and I’m not going to let it defeat me.”

For information about purchasing Michael Merrett’s books, visit www.thefog.com.

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