updated 07/21/04

The revised devil's dcitionary essay 37


Vision of Wonder

This last year has been a bit daunting. I doubt anyone who has 20/20 vision, or even anyone who has 20/100 vision really knows the wonders of what they see. On the other hand, those of us who see the world through a rippling, cheesecloth veil get mental stimulation trying to figure out just what the dickens it is that theyíve broken a toe on at 3:28 AM in a dark bedroom. I suppose one could call it a trade-off.

Our eyes are on holiday somewhere else so we have to use other senses. Hearing doesnít generally work, though, because of the muffled curses or sobbing. As a smoker, Iím not terribly good at faint smells so thatís out. I canít say as Iíve tried taste yet, not figuring that it would stand much of a chance.  That of course leaves touch.

Sometimes you figure it out, sometimes you donít. In all cases, however, using the toes for high impact Braille is not an experience one learns to enjoy.

Failing eyesight creeps up on you.  This last summer when I found out I had to get a new prescription for my contacts, I was to discover just how adaptable I really was adjusting to failing vision, when I finally decided that perhaps it was time to spring for a new set of glasses.

I got both Door Number 1 and Door Number 2 in one fell swoop.  Big Jackpot. The doctor informed me that 1: I had cataracts and 2: a degenerative cornea disease that made most astigmatism sound positively benign. ďYepĒ, he said. ďGonna need a transplant one of these days.Ē

I think the main reason I didnít worry about a transplant was I was still blinking and considering the idea of cataracts. He noticed my concern and quickly I was assured by everyone who happened to wander by in the next twenty minutes that the surgery was a snap and everybody had a great time with it. People lined up for it at parties, it was so much fun.  So intense was the reassurance that I began to fear that people in the street who barely knew me would venture that they certainly wished they had cataracts so they could have surgery, too.

I wasnít terribly worried.  Terrified, yes, worried no.

You see, after 40 years of very careful flinching any time anything or anybody got within spitting distance of my eyes, I wasnít partial to the idea of inviting somebody with a sharp knife to poke around. Not to put too fine a point upon it, it gave me the willies. And then there was the fact that one had to be awake and actually watch the operation while it was done. They taped your eye open and expected you to hum some peaceful tune while those operating talked about their need for a vacation and how much they were looking forward to getting a really big, powerful overhead light in the operating room. I had little choice, however, though I think I may have made a mistake by turning down the offer of a suitcase of tranquilizers

Of course, the surgery actually went fine even if I twitch sometimes now, still thinking about it. Both cataracts got taken out and replaced with clear plastic of some sort and both of my eyeballs still are round and fit the eye sockets very well, thank you. No dribbling. But, I still have the cornea problem which hasnít improved any, oddly.

I actually never was too upset or stunned about the corneas, partly because I had an inkling of just how bad they were a couple of years before. I remember getting a new prescription for contacts and visiting a optometrist at one of the local shopping centers. He was a nice young guy and I liked him immediately. I think he had curly brown hair and possibly brown eyes but then, Iíve never really been all that good with faces. I match people to environments generally, so there never was a problem identifying my optometrist ó he was the guy on the other side of the instrument making clucking sounds.

He made a lot of them that first time.  He measured a lot of things. Twice.  And after a short stay in his office while he looked something up, informed me that the hard contact lenses I was wearing looked to have caused some damage to my cornea.

Well, that wasnít as surprising as it might be, to me.  My eyes have been through the special forces boot camp training ground for toughness, ever since I started playing football in high school. Dust, grime, grit, and sometimes even small bits of grain or corn habitually made unsoft landings in my eyes.  My tear ducts were in superior shape. They could churn out quarts of tears on a momentís notice. I sometimes washed close friends away, if they werenít holding tight to something solid.

He had a couple of questions for me. First, did I want to switch to soft lenses. Sounded good to me.

Second, he wanted to know how I had managed to get to the mall.  I told him and after he got his color back, suggested that I might want to find a job that didnít require driving.

Third, he wanted to know who my regular eye doctor was, so an appointment could be made.  He pointed out that the corneas really needed to be examined by a MD; they looked odd.

ďIn what way,Ē I asked.  I had a dim idea that they might look a bit like the surface of an ice rink an hour after opening time. He thought for a minute and then asked if I had ever looked closely at a Ruffles Potato Chip. Of course I nodded and then he, too, started nodded, looking at me expectantly. When I didnít seem to be enlightened, he said, ďYour corneas look like a Ruffles Potato Chip.Ē

ďGreasy?Ē Well, I could hope.

He shook his head and said something to the effect that heíd never seen anything like it before. From the look on his face, I had the impression he devotedly hoped he wouldnít see anything remotely like it again, ever.

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So, as I said, I already knew I had problems with my corneas, but I have to admit, considering what Iíd put them through over the years, I could hardly blame them. Paybacks seemed a reasonable response. Now my problem is to figure out just when and how to get myself signed up for a new set of corneas. At this point, Iím afraid Iím at a loss regarding the proper procedure.

What does one do? I mean, how does one approach the subject to a prospective donor?  Do I have to round up my own candidates? Or is there some sort of clearing house, a kind of centralized hub where one can locate loaner corneas? Whatís a fair price, for that matter? And is it covered under Blue Cross, homeowners or theft insurance? The latter seems a bit unlikely to me since I canít really think of anybody dumb enough to want to steal the pair of corneas Iím currently operating with. Nor do I either cotton to or plan on stealing a pair of them myself. My manual dexterity being what it is, I would be wise to at least farm that task out.

Then thereís the problem of healing up. Having just gone through the cataract surgery with the consequent resulting blindness that one has to endure during the healing up process, I canít say that Iím looking forward to another round of A Day in the Life of Helen Keller. Donít let anybody fool you; Helen Kellerís life was not all that it was cracked up to be. Besides, to use a retro but still meaningful phrase, ďBeen there, done that, donít wanna do that no more.Ē

So, at this point, I think Iím going to kick back and let things drift along. The really big danger to this attitude, though, is that I could be accused of doing exactly what Iíve accused my eldest daughter of doing ó ignoring reality and hoping for a miracle. You see, when Cass took her driverís test for her learnerís permit, she managed to flunk the eye test, coming in with a respectable score of 20/200 + vision. Or not vision, if you would prefer a more accurate term. When I asked her what the devil she was thinking, how she could possibly ignore such a problem, she rather lamely said, and I quote, ďI hoped my eyes would get better.Ē

Maybe I was a bit quick to look skyward and shake my head.

I wonder if an apology would square the books?

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