By Ferida Wolff
I currently have pirate eyes. That does not mean that I am covetous or lascivious or that I desire to pillage. It means that I am looking through one eye at a time as I try to function day by day, at least for the next two weeks.
Here’s the story: I went to my ophthalmologist for my yearly check-up. Usually she asks me how I’m doing, I tell her fine, I get a reassurance that my eyes are okay and a new prescription. This time I had some questions for her. How come even though I clean my glasses several times (read constantly) during the day my vision still seems cloudy? Why is it getting harder to read, or watch TV, or do all my usual things? Have you seen the lovely halos around the lights at night? We went through the exam and she answered all of my questions with one word — cataracts.
I knew I had them and that they were slowly growing but I wasn’t quite prepared for the immediacy of what my eye doctor said; she could not correct my vision and I would need to have the cataracts removed. That meant operations. On my eyes. I understand that I had worn contact lenses for a good chunk of my life, which entailed putting my fingers directly into my eyes every morning and then plucking the lenses off each evening. I got used to that. This, however, was something that unsettled me. A surgeon would have to cut into my eye, which is a whole different ballgame.
A cataract is a clouding of the clear lens of the eye. The lens would have to be taken out and replaced with a plastic lens. If I didn’t do it, eventually the lens would cloud over so much that I wouldn’t be able to see. I remember my sister saying when her cataracts were growing that it was like having her eyes smeared with a thin coating of mayonnaise. I stopped eating mayonnaise after that.
So this week I had the first of the cataracts removed. The operation wasn’t difficult (or as creepy) as I thought it would be and now my right eye now sees 20/20, something that I had never been able to do in my entire life. I can actually read street signs from a distance instead of waiting until I am almost underneath, not always the most functional or safe way to drive. I can see the birds on my feeders in detail so I can truly appreciate their individuality. I can clearly see subtitles on TV and recognize faces at fifty paces. That is, if I close my as yet, unoperated-on left eye. Which brings me to my pirate eyes. I can see distance with one eye and close with the other so I find myself covering one of my eyes to be able to see what I need to see. The technique works for specific tasks but the discrepancy between the visual distances causes my eyes to cross and my brain is not happy. I can hear it yell, What is going on here?
There is no point in getting glasses because in another two weeks I will have the other operation. The surgeon assures me I will love the results. I should be able to see far and mid-range though I will probably need some cheap reading glasses.
Meanwhile, working on the computer is a challenge. I notice that can read by sticking my nose within inches of the monitor and looking out of my left eye. Or I can use an older pair of glasses by patching the lens of my good right eye. Me and Long John Silver — perfect together.
I know this is temporary but it is trying. No doubt the headaches I suddenly seem to be having are related. And I not alone in my plight. One friend just had a cataract removed and she is experiencing the same kind of disorientation. There was even a comic strip in the newspaper (The Argyle Sweater by Scott Hilburn) showing Little Orphan Annie failing her eye test because of her cataracts. It’s a boomer thing.
Next week I’ll be a different person, someone who can actually see without relying on an external aid. It will take some adjusting, I’m sure. I’ve heard of two people who were so identified with their glasses that they put in clear, non-prescription lenses in frames so they could continue seeing themselves as they were. I won’t do that.
No doubt there will be challenges that I can’t even imagine at this point but I choose to see myself as I am, glasses or not, and to meet the world with new eyes, so to speak. Talk to me after it’s all over when I have a more realistic perspective on things. Right now I am too focused on my pirate status. Arghhh.
Here are some sights (oops, sites) that are helpful in understanding cataracts: