It’s been about six weeks since my first cataract surgery, and almost two weeks since my second. I had no idea that some of you look the way you do—all I ever saw were pink blobs. Unless, of course, you were standing on my shoes, in which case I knew your face, your age (and your weight). I am healing quickly, and now my vision is almost perfect.
I’ve worn eyeglasses since I was eight years old. I was used to things being out of focus because, and I don’t mean to brag, my eyesight has always been AWFUL. In 2014, I noticed that there were suddenly three half-moons in the sky at night. My vision continued to deteriorate. I wrote my last novel, The Sydfield Spy, with my nose pressed against the computer screen because that was the only way I could see what I was doing.
My eyesight has been (if you’ll pardon the expression) the focal point of my life for the last year. First I saw an optometrist who said I had cataracts. Then I had to see a family medicine physician to get the referral I needed for an ophthalmic consult, and of course, there was a two month wait for that. When I was at last able to been seen by The Expert, she put me on eyedrops and sent me out for a consultation. Surgery was delayed about six months in total, in part because I was being seen in clinics. I ‘saw’ medication coordinators, patient care coordinators, surgery coordinators, social workers, and an attorney.
I haven’t been this socially active in years! This was how I spent my summer!
The whole surgical experience has been quite sobering. Half the medical fraternity is there to drive you nuts (including a preop nurse who comes into your room and asks you if you know your name); the other half is there to fend the first half off. I thought, from my year living in a succession of hotels, that I was pretty good at adapting, but as my vision continued to decline, I drew on other resources—touch, sound, smell, memory and patience—much more than I had in the past. I used to have visually impaired clients, long ago, and I was surprised not only how much they’d taught me, but how much I remembered.
Of course, I’ve had the surgeries, but more adjustments are required. For fifty-five years, I depended on eyeglasses. Now, when I wash my face or put in eyedrops (which I’ll be using for at least the next six months), I must resist the habit of removing my spectacles first. (I haven’t worn them since the beginning of July). It used to be when I went to church, I could ask my friend ‘who’s that who just greeted me?’ and he’d tell me. Now I have to remember names and faces! (I am terrible at remembering names.)
It’s quite all right, though. Now, I can see Peter, and Laura, and Katherine, and Shelly, and Angie and Olivia, and Whitney and (in Europe) Kerstin and Emanuesla and Rania and Sasha, and…
I can also see my cat Alban. That should be a matter of some concern. He died in 1996.
There is one more surgery, but the doctor refuses to do it. She won’t operate on my Evil Eye because she says that’s what makes me interesting.
(The first half drives you nuts….)
Paul TN Chapman
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