Cataractophilia

Who would have thought my body would do this? Could do this? I thought it was just something for old people, worn-down-by-Life people… Who knew?

Anyway, I figured that seeing halos around lights was a gift -something sacred, something reserved for special, deserving people. I assumed that being bothered by the glare of headlights on the road at night was just a sign that I should be sitting at home with a book and a glass of wine.

Well, Age is a series of journeys, I guess. It’s easy to get lost, to forget where you are, let alone where you’re going. But now that I know what’s happening, it all makes sense. It wasn’t me deteriorating, and it certainly wasn’t the fewmets of the Grim One skulking just ahead. It was the cataracts my eyes had been busily cobbling together -or whatever happens in there when they’re off-duty. Fair enough -I’ve done stuff I shouldn’t have over the years, so I’m not blaming idle hands, or anything. Anyway, I think of them as little quilts they’ve been busy with. Gifts they were hiding for me until the time was right.

I suppose everybody gets cataracts, so I shouldn’t be so smug, but for me, it’s been an adventure. My eyes have been an issue -ever since I was seven and was presented with my first pair of glasses. I’m not sure why my parents decided I needed thick glasses in butterscotch frames, but there you have it. I looked like a two-picture art gallery. I didn’t graduate to dark brown frames -or were they burgundy?- until I was twelve, and by then I was constantly being mistaken for Buddy Holly, a reference which is now meaningless.

I mention this merely as background -my eyes have always watched from behind the windshield in the front seat for me. They got to know me pretty well -wherever I went, they were never far behind, so it was only a matter of time before they got up to some mischief. I don’t blame them; I mean, I would have beat them to it, but somebody always has to go first, don’t they? Cataracts, though…? Who would have thought?

Anyway, I guess you use what you have, eh? When you’ve got a couple of lenses hanging around that are not making proper use of the retina -blurring stuff willy-nilly , getting O’s mixed up with D’s and mistaking semicolons for colons… I mean, you have to do something before it gets out of hand. So give them up, and Bob’s your uncle. Perfectly understandable.

I don’t see (sorry) cataracts as a failure -more as a project. Like a garbage bag -when does it get taken out? When it gets too full. Otherwise it just sits there like an elephant in the room. Now I wish to cast no aspersions on lenses; I have no idea what they fill up with, or whether they start to smell, or attract intraocular vermin. I am, by trade, a gynaecologist, not a sanitary engineer, so I am as susceptible to eye-rumours as anybody else. My preference is to think well of something until it’s broken, and then try to help -a kind of ophthalmic bodhisattva.

Of course now I am partially bionic. Having put up with an astigmatic reality for years and not conforming to sufficient sphericality to satisfy either of my retinae, my replacement parts were necessarily corrective. I don’t have a clue how the ophthalmologists figure this stuff out, but of course I’m sure they don’t know much about contraception either, so we agreed not to flaunt our respective flags. As far as I know, it’s turtles all the way down.

Although I suppose we have the edge as far as conception methodologies, I can’t help but be impressed with their surgery. It’s almost psychedelic, what with the light show you get to watch with the affected eye as they painlessly do whatever to exchange lenses. If it weren’t for the multiple types of endlessly repeated eye drops, that I could never get to land in my eye on first try, I would recommend it as a pleasant way to spend a Thursday afternoon.

Oh, but then there’s the awkward interregnum in the month before they go for the second eye. Whatever the correction of the glasses I was wearing, one side didn’t work for the new eye -old tech obviously. So, to avoid bumping into things, or trying to close one eye and then forgetting which one for a moment, I had to shelve my glasses. I was pretty confident at identifying things three or four meters away, but completely fey with the rest. Things would gradually precipitate out of a swirl of colour and then dissolve into the Great Cloud of Unknowing from whence they came.

That led to an unexpected consequence: a face without glasses is a stranger to the mirror. You can hide a lot under those old frames -even from yourself. Great swathes of my hitherto hidden cheeks had sagged unbeknownst both to me and to my evidently unrequited mirror. I had no idea that anything had been going on under there, I have to admit. Everything else seemed to have been aging satisfactorily, so it was almost like rolling over a log in the yard. Skin takes advantage of you when you’re not looking.

But, even though I am finally bereft of optical appurtenances, and am seeing at last with neither cane nor walker, I think back fondly to the days when I was clothed with eyeglasses. As grateful as I am for the naked splendour of my unadorned face, in many ways I am not me. There is no protection anymore. I feel the wind; I am not practiced at closing my eyes in a storm…

So, I have begun wearing sunglasses, even indoors, like a celebrity. People wonder what’s going on, probably, but we all need something to hide behind, don’t we? Let every eye negotiate for itself, as Shakespeare’s Claudio once said. Mine, though, are still going over the new contract.

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