“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “The Gift of Sight” Chapter 99
By Bruce Williams
I’ve been losing my sight of late. It’s not permanent as it’s a fixable situation (cataracts in both eyes), but the current rate of degeneration was enough for me to bump up my annual eye appointment by three months to get to the bottom of it. The rather young ophthalmologist was sufficiently nerdy enough for me to trust her schooling—after all, a younger doctor has probably been trained in the finer points of all the most recent technologies more so than some old goat. “20/50,” (with lenses) she deduced…”You need about 20/40 to drive…” I’ve been making do with the squint or one-eye approach, alternating between the cloudy left or seeing-double right. The cloudy one seems like I’m looking through a campfire most of the time, and my fear is that I’ll become one of those old milky-eyed soothsayers with a schlock of greasy grey hair and a staff with an orb on it, greedily telling you what evil awaits you.
I’ve gotten my eye surgery referral, but of course they didn’t call me, I had to call them and then they informed me that since they were out of network I would also need a (redundant) referral from my primary doctor, so that request has been sent as well. Insurance…aren’t they just lovely? So I’m in the process of dotting all my i’s and crossing all my t’s—there’ll be another evaluation and a pre-surgery consult before they get to cutting (-shiver-). The good news is they’ll be able to correct my vision altogether, except maybe for readers, which will be the first time I’ll be able to roll out of bed without reaching for either contacts or glasses since I first couldn’t make out the blackboard from the back of Mrs. Maxwell’s portable in the 5th grade, so huzzah for that.
I don’t want to be one of those old guys that only talks about his ailments. I jokingly complain to my wife, “My baaack…my naaack…my craaack…my saaack”—irreverently rolling down my bodily failures both real and imaginary to achieve the requisite eye roll and smirk as I exaggeratedly Quasimodo up the staircase. It’s all fun. But the eyesight loss is, frankly, a little frightening. Every day I wake up and blur out the window, gauging whether or not it’s worsened overnight. Virtually everything on the schedule will get moved once the surgery date has been set. And if I happen to furrow my brow and vaguely wave back at you across some space, please don’t take offense.
We’ve all postulated the proverbial conundrum: which could you more easily do without—your vision or your hearing? Without vision, I couldn’t read (well, I could learn Braille of course, but for the expediency of this experiment we’ll rule that out), but without hearing I couldn’t listen to music which would be catastrophic. There’s ASL, but so few people know that, that it would be a much-shrunken world for sure. My sister Lisa recently got our mom some hearing aids, but she seems to opt not to wear them for some unknown reason (uncomfortable, perhaps?), preferring instead to wait until I’m halfway through a complicated explanation of something on the phone to interrupt me with a, “Whaaaaaaat?!” This, too, could be my future, if I don’t start turning down the hard rock and heavy metal, but what fun is that?
I’ve now developed a greater appreciation for what my eyes currently drink in; the trees and flowers, the blue of the sky, the shimmer off of the lake, the faces I love. Coming to grips with being on the back slope of my life (do the math—I’m not making it to 110 nor do I want to), there’s a certain stoicism one must adapt to weather on through the various minor calamities that await us. Maybe things that happen to us are neither good nor bad; they just are. I’ll leave you with this fantastic Teddy Roosevelt quote: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Should our bodies fail us, and our minds wander onto other things—chin up, chest out…it could be much worse, so make do with what you’ve got left. And get that surgery.