“Your blood pressure is a little high,” the nurse said.
I smiled. “Could it be that you’re about to stick sharp objects in my eyeball while I’m awake?”
My flippant answer belied the fact that I was certainly nervous, since the surgeon would soon be probing the inner recesses of my eye which a scalpel, a tiny ultrasound wand, and an itty-bitty vacuum cleaner. That I had waited patiently for my insurance company to cover the surgery for years did not make me feel any better as they wheeled me into the operating room.
My vision had been deteriorating for a decade. I can now hear those coaches who have complained about my officiating screaming in unison: “We always knew she was blind!” Admittedly, while I could certainly see all those behemoths holding on the line and the players who felt it necessary to dump a defenseless quarterback on his butt for no reason, I did sometimes lose sight of the ball in the hazy glow of the stadium lights. Don’t ask about baseballs. I tried to always work the plate, because, in the field, those flying projectiles would periodically fade and, more times than I’d like to recall, I ended up with a bruise, replete with seams. Off the field, nighttime driving became difficult: headlights in the dark were punctuated by colorful sparks shooting in all directions.
According to the National Eye Institute, a cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. By age eighty, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. While my parents did not undergo the operation until they were in their eighties, my turn came at the tender age of 59.
What caused me to begin losing my vision at a relatively young age? Officiating. It was once believed that sports officials should never wear sunglasses, an effort to cut down on the above mentioned, “Geez, ump, you blind?” quips.
Today, especially here in the Arizona desert, the idea seems ridiculous. Then again, you may recall coaches used to think it was a good idea to deny players water during practice. Thankfully, philosophies have changed. Sports officials now often wear sunglasses, but those years without eye protection took their toll.
While cataracts can result from certain health issues like diabetes and from tobacco and alcohol use – I’m hoping Chardonnay doesn’t count here – prolonged exposure to sunlight is definitely a cause. I probably spent the first twenty years of my officiating career squinting in the sun. And, since my eyes are a light blue, I was the poster child for cataracts.
As it turned out, the surgery was a breeze: quick and painless. As a bonus, while the surgeon was mucking about in my eye, I was treated to a color show reminiscent of an Impressionist painting. The drops used to dilate your pupil are heavy-duty and last twenty-four hours, so driving is out. After that, there’s only a little scratchiness and a regime of drops for about two weeks.
There are a few shocks when your vision adjusts. There’s a depth to objects that had been missing, the loss of which was so gradual I didn’t know it was gone until I stood before my rock box. I’m a mineral collector. Hundreds of specimens I’ve gathered since I was a child rest in a pine and glass case in my living room. Each night before going to bed, I look at the rocks. My friends know to be wary when asking about the specimens, since – given the right amount of wine – I am apt to tell you long stories about where and when I got them, whether you want to know or not. The night after my surgery, I approached the box to take my nightly look and turn off the lights. Colors leaped out, richer than I’d seen in years. Crystal facets glittered. It was like meeting old friends after a long separation.
However, my new peepers have also prominently displayed a few things I’d, quite frankly, rather not have seen. My house is not quite the paragon of cleanliness I’d always imagined. Dust bunnies and not-so-immaculate tile floors accuse me of shirking my domestic responsibilities. But the biggest surprise came when I looked in the mirror. When did all those wrinkles appear? Like an aging on-camera news anchor shot through a gauzy filter, I’d been seeing myself through a similarly cloudy lens for years.
And here I thought I’d been aging so gracefully.
Anne Montgomery’s latest novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.