My eye doctor, who writes science fiction, had been urging me to get cataract surgery for three years. I delayed. These eyes are my main tools as a writer, I told him. I don’t mess with them. Just the thought of someone cutting into my eyeballs rushes me right to the worst case scenario – blind and dependent on others to help me organize and create. And I love LOOKING at words. Even in church, knowing the magnificent poetry of faith by heart, I still want to follow the bulletin insert or page 358 of the Book of Common Prayer.
At my eye checkup in September, however, the doctor asked, “Is your lifestyle hampered by your sight?” I told him I couldn’t drive at night anymore because of the glare of headlights. That meant missing the weekly critique group at Books-a-Million, with five of us writers, trading manuscripts, laughing and drinking coffee. He said, “It’s time.”
So I met with an eye surgeon and scheduled two surgeries, a week a part, at a medical center in Goldsboro. The surgeon would implant new lenses in a 15-minute operation, and I would barely have to be under anesthesia.
All went well. My husband was with me for both surgeries, and an Uber driver named Tammy drove me to the next-day checkups. When the first patch came off, I was amazed at how clear and full I could see. Blue was REALLY blue. Landscapes were detailed 3-D splendor. When I shut my “new eye” and looked through the old, it was like seeing through the bottom of a dirty coffee filter: brown, flat, depressing. I spent a week squinting one eye shut so I could see to walk, the vision difference was so profound. The biggest challenge was walking up steps to the communion rail at church. But I made it, and eagerly faced the second surgery. Who knew there were purple plastic nibs at the ends of the bristles of my black hairbrush? I didn’t. Why had I waited so long? What else had I been missing?
A week after the second surgery I was driving again, this time to a Golden Corral, where I was to brunch with other members of the Episcopal Church Women. True, I now had to wear a cheap pair of reading glasses, bound by a chain around my neck so I could see up close. But how the colors popped! Just standing in front of a rack of cherry coral and gumdrop green plastic plates and cups was amazing. The only thing that pushed me to finally choose a plate was the herd of I-95 travelers and Carolina Premium Outlet shoppers who wanted their third and fourth plates to heap with fried foods and hot biscuits, unfazed that I was experiencing rebirth amid their excess. I shuffled along, filling my coral plate with golden eggs and emerald spinach, the foods as dazzling as diamonds in a jewelers’ case due to the heat lamp lighting. The only other bottleneck I caused was when I became mesmerized by an enormous six-tier chocolate fountain, where children dunked marshmallows and brownies on wooden sticks under the cascading sauce. It reminded me of the Scalicis’ Christmas party years ago, when their mini fountain started careening out of control and spattered chocolate from buffet table to guests to lace curtains before Joe could dive behind the dining room hutch to unplug it.
Ironically, my new world is now framed between thousand dollar implants and a $2 pair of Dollar General eyeglasses. But I love the infinite and beautiful range in between! A 1999 song sums up my feelings, “Never Saw Blue Like That,” by Shawn Colvin. Some of the lyrics are: “And I never saw blue like that before / across the sky / around the world / you’ve given me all you have and more….” Here’s a link to the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cmdUGn9FRE
That’s what it’s like to see through new eyes! I am so grateful.
Merry Christmas to all.