I Can See Clearly Now by
200
(272 Stories)

Prompted By The Eyes Have It

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A slightly different version of this story first appeared in September 2020 on the prompt Rites of Passage. It makes much more sense on this prompt.

My vision has been bad for so much of my life, I can barely remember a time when it was good. Until now.

My vision has been bad for so much of my life, I can barely remember a time when it was good. I got my first pair of glasses when I was eight or nine. In high school I got hard contacts, which were not all that comfortable. Then in college I got soft contacts, which had just been invented. Contact lenses were a big improvement for me, not only of my appearance, but also of my vision because I actually wore them all the time, unlike my glasses. For more than fifty years contacts provided me with excellent vision, both close up and far away. However, in recent years they had become bifocal contact lenses, with two concentric circles on each lens. Perhaps the need for bifocals was a sign of advancing age, but still I thought I could see quite well. Then I started noticing that I was having trouble reading street signs. It was hard to see while driving at night if there were headlights from an oncoming car. When I watched television, if there were subtitles, or if they were showing texts on someone’s phone, I had to stand close to the TV to read them, even though the distance from the couch to the TV is maybe ten feet at most. So I knew it was time to get my eyes checked.

I hadn’t been to the optometrist in almost three years. He had given me a prescription for disposable contacts which provided me with twelve pairs, and I was supposed to start wearing a new pair every month, throw out the old pair, and come back for a new prescription at the end of the year. But I could never bear to throw the lenses out when they were still working perfectly well. So I would wear a pair for two months, or even three months. Once I went almost five months before I broke out a new pair. The result was that I didn’t get to my final pair until towards the end of the third year. But as soon as I opened those last two little bottles, I called to make my appointment.

It turned out that my regular optometrist was not there when I went in for my appointment, and a perky young woman was covering for him. She finished the exam and then said “You have cataracts. They are pretty far advanced, especially in the right eye, and you should have surgery as soon as possible.” I was stunned. I think usually people have more warning, get told a cataract is developing, and then each year it is a little worse and ultimately they have surgery, but they have had several years to get used to the idea. I wonder whether, if my regular optometrist had been there, he would have broken it to me more gently.

I went home and cried. It just seemed too awful. Not only because the idea of surgery on my eyes was alarming, but also because cataracts were something that only old people had! I was not ready to be one of those old people! We had been talking about having a party at the end of the summer, and I said we can’t have a party, I’m too upset about having cataracts! Luckily, although we had designed the evites, we had not yet sent them out. So the party was canceled.

I did not want to tell a soul. This was a terrible, humiliating secret, as far as I was concerned.

In between the optometrist appointment and the initial consultation with the eye surgeon, we went to New York for our annual family reunion. I had no intention of mentioning it to anyone, but my husband and my oldest sister always play duets together, he on clarinet and she on piano, and in between pieces they chat. I’m not sure how it came up, it may have been that my sister said something about developing a cataract, and he told her that I was going to have the surgery after we got home. At first I was angry that he had told her, but I ended up having a long talk with both of my sisters about it, and they were very supportive and reassuring. And best of all, they knew of people who were even younger than I was who had needed cataract surgery. So that made me feel better.

When I met with my surgeon, I instantly liked him and felt confident in him. He explained all the different options, because it turns out there are choices to be made about what kind of lens they put in when they take out your own lens. It turned out there was one that would not only correct my distance and close vision, it would also correct my astigmatism. Amazing! That one cost more than Medicare would pay, but of course I wanted it anyway. He promised me that I would never need glasses or contacts again!

On October 7, 2019, I had the first eye operated on. It was my right eye, the one that had had worse vision my whole life. (In fact, my original glasses had only had a corrective lens for the right eye, the left lens was window glass.) I came home after the surgery and slept most of the day. My operated eye was very sensitive to light, and I had to wear sunglasses, not only outside but also in the house. The next night, October 8th, was Kol Nidre, the beginning of Yom Kippur, and I was singing with my choir at services. I was worried that I might have problems seeing the music, but it was no problem at all. The slight bit of bruising had already disappeared, and I could see perfectly! I did wear sunglasses at services, but I doubt anyone even noticed.

I didn’t have my second eye operated on until December 16th. I gather that usually people don’t wait that long between the two surgeries, except in rare cases where the cataracts don’t develop at the same time. But the surgeon was all booked up for the rest of October, and I had too many things going on in November, so I didn’t want to be incapacitated, even for a day. During those ten weeks I just wore my left contact lens and nothing in my right eye, and it worked out perfectly.

Now it has been two and a half years, and I am still marveling at the results. What is amazing is that I can now see better than I have at any time since I got that first pair of glasses in elementary school. I have no problem with driving at night now, which many of my peers find themselves unable to do, and I can easily see everything, both far and near. Well, I do have to wear those drugstore readers to see really tiny print, or to thread a needle. But that is a small price to pay for being able to see so well the rest of the time. I still sometimes forget that I don’t have any contact lenses to take out when I am getting ready for bed.

And yes, those are my eyes at the top of the story.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy


Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    Great, happy ending story, Suzy. I’m not sure how much of it is our acceptance of our aging and how much is improvements in cataracts surgery, but I know that such surgery has become nearly routine for our generation and I’ve yet to hear anyone have anything short of complete praise (and relief) for the results. I gather the only complaint is of the protocol the few days after the surgery – -wearing sunglasses and having to administer various eye drops all day. Indeed, I have my eyes checked every year and the optometrist just keeps saying “No; not yet…,” but I’m fully prepared for when she says “It’s time” for the surgery.

    Incidentally, I lost a bet with myself, as I was sure your title would be Johnny Nash’s very catchy “I Can See Clearly Now.” But your title is equally fitting.

    • Suzy says:

      I changed the title. Much better. Now you have won the bet, so I hope “yourself” pays off. I will consult you offline about a title for my Banned Books story, as I’m having a hard time with that one.

      • John Shutkin says:

        I’m flattered but humbled, Suzy. And awed by the responsibility. But I have a (really stupid) idea for your Banned Books story that I’ll send you off-line. You will probably regret asking me.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    I’m so happy for you, Suzy. Most people do have great results and don’t need anything but readers ever again. That’s not my case, as you will read, but great that you got excellent results.

  3. I’m a bit late to the party but the title (I guess it’s the revised title) was the hook. Like John I knew what it was going to be.

    Your past is my prologue: glasses from age 10; hard contacts as a teenager. I’ll be adding my own story shortly (really) so I’ll save most for then. But cataract surgery is in my future. I have been a regular optometry patient and I grow ever nearer to the day when it will be Time. I welcome it. Some years ago at a prep school reunion an ophthalmologist classmate showed a video of the procedure.

    And I’m glad its worked out so well for you.

    • Suzy says:

      Tom, you’re not at all late to the party. In fact, I’m delighted that you came to the party at all! We’ve missed you! Looking forward to reading your story too.

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    All’s well that ends well, as it goes. Sorry you had that “oh no I’m old” feeling because, as John noted, cataracts are pretty common and at what I think are not old ages. Unfortunately there are a host of things that deteriorate over time regardless of what we do and it gets harder to pretend we are exempt—rats! Do enjoy the rejuvenated eyes though.

    • Suzy says:

      Now I find out that lots of people my age or younger have had cataract surgery – wish I had known that at the time! And yes, it definitely ended well. Still haven’t had the party we canceled in 2019 though, because Covid intervened.

  5. Dave Ventre says:

    Nice how it worked so well in the end!

    Since medicine can correct all sorts of common vision problems now, maybe I need to stare into my microwave oven until I get some nice, insurance-covered cataracts….

  6. Marian says:

    I felt stunned as well when I was told I needed cataract surgery at what I felt was an early stage in life, Suzy. Glad everything worked out and that your vision is so good.

  7. Suzy, Glad your fears of the cataract surgeries proved to be unwarranted and you can see clearly now! And glad you could perform with your beloved choir.

    I had it done on both eyes years ago but the funny thing is before the surgery I wore glasses only for distance, and since the surgery I need them only for reading – go figure!

  8. Laurie Levy says:

    Your journey is very familiar to me, as I had cataract surgery at a pretty young age. The results, like yours, were good and improved my vision. So if anyone is on the fence about this operation, do it! I knew those were your pretty eyes in the featured image.

  9. Jim Willis says:

    Suzy, that’s quite a lifelong journey you’ve been on toward improved vision, and I’m glad these two surgeries have improved things for you. I made it to 40 until I started wearing reading glasses, then my first prescription glasses came about a decade later. Not sure what’s going on now, but I can actually see better without them when I’m driving.

  10. Cataract surgery. No big deal unless it happens to be your cataract surgery. The whole idea of the surgery, replacing the lens, seems like science fiction (not unlike hip replacement surgery, another of my travels into an unimagined future). In the old days, when reaching 30 was a ripe old age, the niceties of late life seeing and walking were not as important as keeping the fire going and the primordial wolves out of the primordial chicken coop. Replacement body parts were not part of the original plan.

    • Yes am sure you’re right Jonathan, we weren’t meant to drag on this long! I’ve had no replacement parts yet – altho I have some metal in my once broken ankle, a rotator repair on one shoulder, and a cataract lens in each eye. And most of my friends are partially bionic with new hips and knees, yet drag on we all do!

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