“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “The Gift of Sight” Chapter 69
By Bruce Williams
After experiencing a pretty extreme drop in my vision accuracy in the last few months, I set an appointment with the eye doctor to update my glasses and contacts prescriptions. I could no longer read the TV when there was any kind of writing on it (squinting to Michelle: “What’s that say…?!”) and driving at night was becoming a little more adventuresome, so I got myself on the schedule over at Kaiser in Federal Way.
The optometrist was an Asian woman of about my age judging by the salt in her pepper and the wrinkles on the meat of her neck that I was forced to focus on while I was commanded to ‘look straight ahead’. She gave my dilated eyes a thorough examination, expressing concern for the precipitous drop in acuity since my last examination—instructing me repeatedly to rotate my eyeballs to all corners of my head while she shined a light into their depths and hmmm-ed to herself as she took copious notes. Her grave manner and too-long pauses caused my butt crack to nervously start sweating in fearful anticipation. Why is she taking such extensive documentation? Am I going blind? Finally, she blurted her diagnosis: “Cataracts…” I’ll need surgery, probably some time next year. She also chided me somehow for having too much gel behind my eyeballs (that’s a thing?) and also for being susceptible to easily detached retinas (which sounds just awful), so I better beware of that too. She went to get some house contacts for me to try so she could measure my eye’s curvature, and I subsequently proceeded to drop one on the ground and since, of course, I now couldn’t see much of anything at all, we almost knocked heads as she helped me scour the industrial carpeting with our palms until we found it. Sensing her mounting irritation at my ineptitude, I hustled them both into my sockets and valiantly stifled the gas bubble that was percolating from all the coffee in my empty stomach while she took her measurements while unlovingly gazing into my eyes from just a few inches away.
On the way home I began best-case-scenario-ing whether it would be better to go blind or deaf. I eventually settled on deaf, though I would miss listening to music, the ocean, and my loved ones’ voices, but as long as I could see I could still drive, read, and avoid people I didn’t want to talk to (though I’d be deaf, so…) I have always thought that the eyes were a pretty good indicator that God exists. As a thorough believer in evolution (I had just read in the newspaper about a new breed of tuskless elephants that had evolved in a single generation by surviving poachers with their ivoryless mutation), randomly sprouting the ability to see out of nature seemed like a tall order, what with the complexity of the eyeball and all, and yet all animals had gone and done it.
I stopped at Starbucks after with sunglasses now covering my saucepan pupils, and happened to drop my wallet on the floor of the truck while I searched for a tip and it immediately got black-holed—leaving me befuddled yet again as I grabbed a big wad of change out of the coin tray and apologetically handed it through the window to the cashier. I had to pull over and find my billfold, somehow now tucked under the mat…was I becoming this old cataracted nuisance that couldn’t find which end was up and was now constantly getting in the way and trying people’s patience?
I have been wearing glasses and contacts since the 5th grade—ever since I couldn’t read the blackboard from my back row seat and started losing regularly to Debby Woodbury in multiplication flash cards in Mrs. Maxwell’s class. My first glasses were the kind that would never quite lighten back up when you came in from recess, leaving you looking like a giant house fly as you sat there and tried to pretend you were as cool as the Fonz. Over the years I went from hard contact lenses to gas permeable to soft, then eventually back to glasses later, mostly when I began needing readers and got tired of flipping them on and off of my face all the time out of my breast pocket. The thought that my vision could actually be corrected during the cataract surgery was appealing, though I was in no hurry to take a scalpel or laser to my second favorite organ(s).
Michelle asked me tonight what I was writing about this week, and when I told her the gift of sight she assumed that I was taking a gratefulness angle, which of course reminded me yet again that she’s a much better person than I am. I guess the theme could be my ongoing battle with aging or my general awkwardness with human interactions, but I’m going to adopt my wife’s sense of thankfulness and just state my gladness that I can still see (and hear), and that they’ll be able to fix it when and if I eventually can’t. Amen.