I can see clearly now, I hope
August 2, 2006
It’s quite possible that I can see today.Or, I’m shopping for a white cane – not an easy endeavor for the sightless, I’d imagine.I rather hope I have 20/20 vision, or something reasonably close, for the first time in nearly 40 years. My life thus far has been a blur, literally.For reasons I insist have nothing to do with vanity, I had laser surgery on both eyes yesterday, though as I write this in advance, I’m still peering at the computer screen through the proverbial Coke-bottle lenses, made somewhat thinner by an obscene markup perpetrated by the optometry racket.I’m so nearsighted, “near” doesn’t do justice to describing my eyesight. I once mistook a coaster wagon for a dog. It did not come when I called.I haven’t been able to see my hand in front of my face, without vastly corrected vision, since I was, like, 10 years old. That’s when I remember being directed, in the fifth grade, to read the caption on a “film strip” and squinting like an albino in the noon-day sun, to no avail. (A film strip, for those of you under 40, is an archaic classroom audio-visual aid in which reluctant students were tabbed to provide the audio.)My uncorrected vision since those days has only deteriorated. You know the big letter “E” at the top of every eye chart? I can’t see it without glasses or contact lenses.From what I’ve managed to grasp of visual acuity tests, what I can see from a distance of 20 feet without corrective lenses, someone with 20/20 vision could see from hundreds of feet away. A person with “normal” vision reading the big E from as far away as they possibly could would be standing out of my visual range altogether.My vision is (make that was) 20/600-something in one eye and 20/800-something in the other. In other words, 20/shitty. Or as my local eye doc put it, I’m “blind as all hell.” I had the dubious distinction of being among the most visually-impaired patients he has ever had who opted for laser surgery in a pricey stab at a more normal existence.And by normal, I mean I won’t accidentally crush my glasses while I’m looking – make that feeling around – for them.During one of my pre-op tests, I was instructed to look through the viewer of some sort of optical device and focus on the dot in the center of a lighted screen. I thought to myself, “Dot? What dot?”But a day before I let someone cut a flap into my cornea, flip it back with a tweezers and point a computer-programmed laser into the only eyes I have, I’m not sure which to fear more – the procedure itself or what I will or won’t see afterward.They make you initial about six pages of waivers, essentially indemnifying the practitioner from everything from blurry night vision to dependency on a seeing-eye dog.On the other hand, one of my household’s dogs has already been volunteered as my loyal guide in the event I need one, which should come in handy if all I need to find as a blind person are the carcasses of decaying animals.In the event the surgery is an unqualified success, though, I’m a little concerned about what I will see – big, ugly spiders in the shower to which I’ve been previously oblivious, for example.For all I know, I’ll discover cellulite in places I’ve never noticed before, on myself and others. I’ve already been informed by my significant other that any newly noticed physical flaws should be neither be acknowledged nor considered grounds for, well, anything.On the other hand, movies with subtitles should no longer remind me of my film-strip humiliation.And, with any luck, I’ll be donating my Coke bottles to some hapless Third-World soul and tossing my contact lenses in the garbage. I’ve been wearing rigid lenses (because soft ones won’t correct my vision) since I was in high school. For the past year or so, I’ve pretty much given them up, even though I can see far better with contacts than I can with my glasses, because they feel dry and scratchy on my eyes. Two hours of contact use and my eyes are criss-crossed with more red lines than a road map.I expect I’ll need reading glasses after the hoped-for laser miracle, but it’s a small price to pay if I can camp in the desert without trying to wash contact lenses in gritty hands. I hope to skin dive without freaking out about wearing contacts beneath my mask, and swim in a straight line in the pool, since I’ll actually be able to see the painted line in the pool.I could even try surfing – something my eyesight has always prevented.But mostly, I want to see the stars. Only a fraction of what is visible with my contacts can be seen with my glasses, but putting contact lenses back in, in the middle of the night in the backcountry, isn’t terribly convenient. I want to sleep beneath the night sky, wake up, open my eyes and watch the shooting stars before I drift off again.Seeing the clock in the bedroom would be nice, too.Next week: What happens when Janet sneezes at a most inopportune moment. In the meantime, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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