Trust Your Eyes

People say this all the time. I do too. It’s metonymy: it’s less about your literal eyes and more about your perception, non-visual as well as visual. But my eyes have been crappy since I was in elementary school, and since for the last four decades and then some, I’ve made most of my living in the print trades, it’s also very much about my literal eyes.

About two months ago I noticed that the vision in my left eye was getting blurry, so blurry that eventually it couldn’t distinguish printed words even when I had my reading glasses on. This was serious. My left eye has made my living for me since my right eye had two retina detach-and-reattachments in 2004 followed by cataract surgery in 2008. Since then right eye has been OK for distance but, thanks to what the ophthalmologist called a “perforation” in the reattached retina, imprecise for close-up work, of which as an editor and proofreader I do a lot.

By early September the blurriness was serious enough that I saw my optometrist. To my great relief the problem was common and the fix relatively simple: the lens inserted in my left eye when I had cataract surgery in 2018 was clouding over, but it could be remedied with a quick laser procedure at the Cape Cod Eye Surgery & Laser Center in Sandwich. Having been to this place many times, both on my own behalf and when driving a friend to her regular appointments for macular degeneration, I could find my way there in my sleep. (I started to type “with my eyes closed,” but thought better of it.)

The good news was that I could drive myself home afterward. This was not true of cataract surgery or retina reattachment surgery. The bad news was that my appointment was six weeks down the road: October 24.

My body as a whole has given me remarkably little grief (so far) in my 71 (so far) years. I’ve never broken a bone, despite a few accidents that could have had serious consequences. In my born-again horsegirl days — basically my fifties — I had a horse flip over on me and use my right thigh as a launching pad. The bruise was dramatically huge, but it eventually went away and all I have to show for it now is a hoof-shaped imprint in the flesh of my right thigh. On a horse-sitting job once, a ladder slipped out from under me when I was climbing up to the client’s hayloft. I fell 10+ feet with no ill effects beyond a sore bum.

My eyes and my teeth have required more attention. I seem to have lost the genetic lottery in those departments, having inherited my mother’s myopia and my father’s lousy teeth. In recent decades I’ve taken better care of the latter, which may explain why I’ve still got all of my originals, apart from the molar that broke and had to be replaced by an implant.

The eyes, on the other hand — well, sometimes I do wonder why I adopted a trade like editing that depends on having reliable eyesight along with a brain that does a great job processing detail. Possibly it was fate’s way of teaching me “Don’t panic! Things will work out.” Which indeed they have, even this time. My right eye, for all its imprecision, turned out to be a pretty good pinch-hitter, even though one of my jobs right now is on un-enlargeable paper and the font sizes used range from about 6 point (very small) to 12 (pretty normal). Thanks to a magnifying glass I could clarify whether, for instance, there were two ts or one and whether there was an r tucked in there between the a and the t.

Driving also presented additional challenges. In its clouded-over state, at night my left eye saw half a dozen headlights approaching when in reality there were only two. Right eye was fine for driving, but left eye, being the more dominant of the two, kept trying to horn in, so I’d sometimes see two sets of yellow lines down the middle of the road. (I should add here that my two eyes have never worked together well, but my brain has compensated for the lack of coordination.) This was easily remedied by closing left eye when the duplication got distracting.

I’ve lived on the Vineyard year-round for 37 years and counting, so though I couldn’t literally find my way around with my eyes closed, I do know the roads pretty well (apart from dirt roads in Chilmark. When it comes to dirt roads in Chilmark, all bets are off, and sometimes GPS is unavailable). Not to mention — after Labor Day, and definitely after Columbus Day, the traffic is less, and less crazy, than it is in the summer.

I did worry a little about driving to Sandwich, regardless of how many times I’d been there. After all, I hadn’t driven off-island since 2019 — or been off-island, period, since very early in 2020, just before COVID-19 shut everything down. I worried a little about my one-eyed depth perception driving onto the boat. Once I’d managed that, on the 8:15 yesterday morning, I stopped worrying.

All went well. The Cape Cod Eye Surgery & Laser Center in Sandwich has to be one of the best organized operations around. I’d filled out the required forms online the day before. I got called for my various pre-procedure tests only a couple of minutes after my report time of 11 a.m. The procedure itself took less than five minutes: from my perspective it was all about holding still (easy, given the apparatus you stick your face into) and staring at the red/white light coming at my left eye.

After lunch at the nearby “family restaurant,” I did indeed drive myself home. Having once attempted to drive with my eyes dilated, I knew better to try it again — the glare is terrible — so I wore the extremely unfashionable sunglasses I had in the car, probably from an earlier eye adventure. With them on, there was no glare; the tradeoff was that the speedometer was too dark to read. I took my cues from the other cars on the road and none of us got busted for speeding.

The 3:45 boat got me into Vineyard Haven at 4:30, and I arrived at Animal Health Care in time to pick Tam up; he’d spent the night at the kennel. He tried to convince me that he hadn’t had supper, though the kennel attendant assured me he had. I bought him off with the popcorn I’d brought home from writers’ group on Sunday, because he wasn’t there to enjoy it on site.

Tam seems to have forgiven me, and I’ve got two working eyes again. Life is good.

Me and my dark glasses. Foster Grants they aren’t.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
This entry was posted in musing, technology, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Trust Your Eyes

  1. Susan Robinson says:

    Thanks for the good description of visual vagaries that are more common in occurrence than written about.


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