Blind in one eye and can't see out of the other 2014.10.08


I finally visited the eye doctor last week. It had been two years since my last visit—I was long overdue. I could tell my eyes were taking a nosedive; it was time. 

Besides the bit about trying to figure out if “one” is more clear than “two” or “this” more clear than “and now?” I just hate feeling like I’m failing a test. Read the lowest line. The days of rattling off the bottom row are gone. Many seconds pass as I try to discern what those little marks say. It’s so disheartening—a major test and you can’t even study for it.

“Man, I can just barely tell those little blobs are letters as opposed to dead flies, and you want me to discern their names?” I want to say. 

But worse than my slightly degrading vision is the news that I really have cataracts. The one in my right eye is now at Level 1 and will probably be ready for surgery in a couple years. The idea of that just grosses me out. Everybody talks about how easy it is, how quick and painless, but just the thought of anything close to my eye gives me the willies. 

During the part of the eye exam where my chin is resting on some part of a gizmo I avoid looking at and my forehead is up against another thing and there are lenses and things swivel and blue lights flash, I have to try really hard not to shudder with the afore-mentioned willies. And following the order to not blink? It’s almost cruel and unusual punishment.

And then there is the theoretically fun part because who doesn’t like to pick out new frames? Picking out glasses when my eyes are dilated and everything looks a little wacko to me is bad enough, but what about the people with really poor vision who have to decide on frames when they can’t even see what they’re looking at? 

My vision is still pretty good...but I don’t trust my fashion sense. I tried on a few frames before realizing: the girls will all be home for Jackie’s 90th birthday party (You’re invited! Saturday, Oct. 18, 1 to 4 p.m.!). Couldn’t I just wait to pick out frames until that week? I wasn’t sure when everybody was getting in so I e-mailed Rosie, Maddie and Sarah.

“I need help picking out new eyeglasses. Who will be here Thursday, October 16?”

Maddie responded first that she would be in town by then and could help.

“I have glaucoma and will probably have to get surgery in two years,” I inform her. “Wear your sunglasses,” I urge.

And, then, sometime the next day, I realize my mistake. It’s not just my eyes; it’s my brain. I e-mail Maddie again.

“Holy crap. Not glaucoma. Cataracts. What's glaucoma anyway? Something you get to smoke pot for is all I know. I just get surgery in a couple years. Wear sunglasses outdoors as much as humanely possible.”

And then I wonder if I had e-mailed Ben and Rosie with the news.

“Did I e-mail you guys that I had glaucoma or just Maddie? I don't...and there went my reason to smoke pot. I have cataracts and will probably need surgery in a couple years. So wear your sunglasses outdoors as much as possible...especially you, Ben.”

Rosie writes back, picking up on the reference to smoking pot.

“They might need to give you some so you can handle the surgery,” she says. “Don't you hate your eyes being touched?”

She knows me well—and she knows I’m not looking for a reason to smoke pot. I never have and don’t imagine I ever will, whether it’s legal or not. I’m just joking with my kids...they know my stance on drugs and alcohol, ad nauseam.

Rosie also writes, “Geez aren't you young for that? Seems like you always wear sunglasses.”

“I know!” I yell at the computer. But I fear I am doomed. When I hear complaints about aches and pains and memory from people who are 20, 30 and almost 40 years older than me, I can relate so well. 

But then I read about a couple of promising studies. One, published in “Neurology,” found that “among older people with memory complaints those who walk more slowly are more susceptible to future dementia.” The other study suggests that “your sense of smell, or lack thereof, could be a strong indicator of whether you’ll live another five years.”

My saving grace? I walk fast; and when I stop and smell the roses, the scent comes in loud and clear.