Seeing Stars

I studied the stars Thursday night, trying to memorize how they looked that night. I knew I would never see them quite the same way again. Not the stars, not the clouds, not the book I was reading or my own face in the mirror. In the morning, Dr. Haines would operate on my left eye, replacing my cloudy, cataracted lens with a new one and removing a growth on the front of my eye. After 42 years of counting on my glasses to give me 20-20 vision, I didn’t know what I’d be seeing.

Melodramatic? Yes, I know people go through the cataract surgery all the time and come out happy. But this was MY EYE, and this was happening about 20 years sooner than expected.

The adventure had begun last spring when I went in expecting to get new glasses and found out my nascent cataract had advanced to the point that it was ready for surgery. I’m too young, I protested. It turns out you can get cataracts at any age, although most people are in their 70s and 80s. The doctor suggested we wait six months to see if the other eye would catch up. It hasn’t yet, but the left one had to be done. While he was in there, he would remove the pterigium, a fatty growth that had been hugging up against the brown of my eye for 20 years.

Multiple doctor’s appointments, a slide show at the hospital, days of eye drops, eyelid scrubs, stop wearing makeup, no food after midnight, and there I was at the hospital, IV in my hand, numbing drops in my eye, rolling into surgery, staring at the lights above me, three deep breaths . . . waking up in recovery with a humongous patch over my eye.

The scratchy-sore pain didn’t start for a few hours, and the pupil stayed dilated until well into the next day, but I started getting surprising glimmers of vision. Saturday morning, I could see the clock on my nightstand without glasses. I could see farther with my “operative eye” than I could with the other. I could even see the computer sometimes without glasses. As predicted, I could also see new wrinkles on my face and dust in my house.

The eye still hurts and it’s blood red in places. My vision fluctuates, and of course my other eye is still super nearsighted, so I won’t be seeing 20-20 till I get new glasses in a couple weeks. I’ll probably be inserting eye drops until Christmas.

In the old days, folks who had cataract surgery had to lie perfectly still for weeks, but things have changed. I asked the doctor when I could go back to yoga class. Tomorrow, he said. But no headstands. I nodded, as if I could actually do a headstand.

Annie, my dog, keeps staring at my face, apparently wondering what’s up with the glasses on/glasses off business. I stare back, naked brown eyes to naked brown eyes.

As for the stars, they were a bit muted last night, but coming out of the doctor’s office Friday afternoon, I saw the most beautiful sunset I ever saw. With two eyes.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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