Oct 22, 2017

Getting To Know My New Face, at 75

For me, at 75 years of age, it’s always a pleasure to have new experiences, to have life keep on evolving in various ways. But who knew that one could have such fun with a new face at this age?

And no, it’s not due to the cosmetic surgeon’s knife, but to a mild medical condition that needed treatment, namely and to wit a cataract that had grown to an operational level in my left eye. That eye had always been my weakest one, out of my pair of eyes that were so myopic at the age of eight that I was constantly leaving my seat in class to get up close to the blackboard to see what was written on it. This did not go unnoticed by my teacher at that time, and the next step was a visit to a truly lovely ophthalmologist, Dr Merory (who in time became challenged by his own eyes, by going blind, and then retraining as a psychiatrist, which has definitely always continued to be – for me – an inspirational approach to coping with change).

Dear Dr Merory did make one mistake with me, by assuring me that with changes in my eyes as I grew older, I would be able to throw away my glasses. Unfortunately, what actually happened in later years was that I graduated to the far more expensive form of graduated lenses to meet a more complex level of visual needs. Of course, as a young adult I was desperate to be glassless, and worked hard to succeed with contact lenses. Unfortunately, they were just too irritating, and the best that I could manage was a few hours on my wedding day. Even with improvements in such lenses over the years, they never worked for me, and so to all and sundry, including myself, glasses were an integral part of my face.

And also of course, I’d heard of laser and lens operations to the eyes to correct short-sightedness, but being in a family of doctors, one guiding credo was to avoid the risks of unnecessary operations. So, a normal part of my regimen for the rest of my life, to date, was glasses on in the morning and off at night, and for showers and swimming and such.

Until now. When my left eye was in need of a necessary operation. With so many people whom I knew who’d had successful cataract operations, I was pretty sanguine about it until I had to sign off on a list of escalatingly appalling, albeit remote possibilities that could result from such an operation, and heard more details about the laser, and the cutting into the eye ball, and so on and so forth, under light sedation rather than a general anesthetic. All of that information was so distracting (what if I woke up???), that I didn’t really take in the discussion of what sort of distance vision I should opt for in the lens to be inserted. I just went with whatever the specialist suggested, and hoped that I too would have a successful procedure.

And, dear Reader, I most certainly did, in every way. And while I left the surgery armed with painkillers as well as eye drops, I was absolutely painfree from the get go, and – after a day of wearing a patch – found that, weirdly, I could see. Very, very well. Without my glasses. On the first check-up it turned out that my left eye now has 20/20 vision. And what that means is that I CAN SEE WITHOUT MY GLASSES. I can walk about in the streets without them, drive without them, go to the movies without them, actually see clearly without them what a hairdresser is doing to my hair as work in progress. So much so that – as a temporary measure until my final check-up – I had to go to an optometrist to get the left lens removed from them for the few times that I do need to wear them.

Because what has happened is that each of my eyes now has a different function. As my right eye is still short-sighted, that has become my unspectacled reading eye. And who knew, too, that dual-purpose eyes could be so accommodating? So, it’s just for the middle range work that I need some spectacular help. As I am writing on my computer, for instance, I am wearing my one-eyed glasses for the graduated section that serves that purpose.

At the same time, I am so used to the routine with my glasses that right now they are like a phantom limb: My hand goes involuntarily to my face to take them off at night, reaches out for them in the morning, goes to take them off for a shower, etc, etc. Old habits do die hard.

And, even more remarkably, now there is this new, unadorned face that I, and everyone who knows me, have to get used to. What an amazing experience! So why was buying a new pair of glasses one of the first things that I did? Because now, finally, I could chose from the huge range of funky non-prescription sunglass styles that have always been denied me. Such fun!

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