Maegan and Gabe Weiler, twins graduating from West Valley High School this week, have always relied on each other.
Maegan has been blind since age 7. Gabe has been her eyes, her advocate and her biggest supporter. Gabe struggled through high school, watching his friends drop out and wondering whether he should do the same. Maegan, who earned a 3.9 grade-point average, gave him a reason to stick it out and get his diploma. There’s nothing they didn’t share with each other.
“He’s always been there for me to confide in,” Maegan said.
Like the time a teacher told her he wasn’t sure she could do well in his class because of her blindness. Or any of the countless times people, either callously or ignorantly, tried to diminish her in more subtle ways. The twins’ parents, Mat Weiler and Shelly Pulliam, were always supportive in those situations, but there was an emotional toll.
“More people than not, once you explain it to them, are more than friendly,” Maegan said. “But the people who were rude were really detrimental to my well-being. My family and friends have been very supportive, and that got me through it.”
Older by two minutes, Gabe is simultaneously protective of his sister and adamant that she doesn’t need protecting. They both love the outdoors. They go hunting together, with Gabe aiming and holding the gun while Maegan pulls the trigger. She knows how to butcher an elk, something plenty of people with perfect vision struggle with. So when people underestimate her, it bugs him.
“It makes me furious,” Gabe said. “I know what she can do.”
That’s why he’s confident Maegan will be just fine next fall when she heads to Ellensburg to study education at Central Washington University. He’s staying closer to home, hoping to enroll at Perry Technical Institute with an eye toward becoming a plumber or electrician. They both acknowledged that navigating a new life in a new home will be tougher for Maegan without Gabe there to help. But neither is too worried about it.
“It’s easier when I have somebody with me who has vision,” Maegan said. “But I can do everything myself.”
Gabe echoed that sentiment, saying he’s not at all nervous about her striking out on her own.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s going to be different for sure, but I know Maegan can do whatever she wants.”
Maegan’s excited too. Her dorm roommate-to-be, whom she has communicated with online but hasn’t met, is also visually impaired. That will be refreshing, she said. There are things that people with vision don’t understand — mundane but important things like being able to read denominations on paper money — so being around another visually impaired person will offer a new level of comfort.
Maegan wants to offer that to others, which is why she ultimately plans to become a teacher for vision impaired students. She had a blind teacher in fifth grade, and that inspired her, she said. She had other good, thoughtful teachers over the years, but it was never quite the same.
“They just didn’t really understand,” she said.
Gabe is sure she’ll accomplish that dream. He’s proud of her. And she’s proud of him.
“He never liked high school,” Maegan said. “But we’re here, finally, at graduation. He was determined enough.”
They both were.
“Yeah, me and Maegan started high school together, and we’re going to finish it together,” Gabe said.