Black Friday? Not for me

If we’re to believe what we see and hear in the media, everybody is shopping today. Stores opened ridiculously early and in some cases, they opened last night, so shoppers didn’t even have time to digest their turkey and pumpkin pie. I know people who were almost as excited about shopping today as that crazy woman on the Target TV commercials they’ve been airing approximately every five minutes. But I’m not going anywhere near a store today. I hate shopping and I hate crowds. Plus there’s a rumor the sun might make an appearance on the Oregon Coast. After this last week of wild storms, I don’t want to get stuck in a store and miss it.

Instead I’m doing some writing and cleaning up the layers of stuff dumped all over the house. I might dig out the Christmas music, and I might start the Christmas cards.  Or I might just go hang out at the dog park.

This year’s Christmas cards present a dilemma. Not everyone on my list knows that my husband Fred died in April, seven months and two days ago. I hate to break the news in a Christmas card, but I know I’m going to get lots of cards addressed to “Fred and Sue” this year, and I need to explain why my cards are signed by only “Sue.” What a downer. This is actually my third Christmas without Fred because he was living in a nursing home, so it’s not as hard as you might think, but it’s odd not being able to buy gifts for him or sign my cards with both our names. He loved Christmas so much. I know he’d be bugging me today to go get a Christmas tree. But things change and we adapt.

The other big news this year was the publication of my book, Shoes Full of Sand, in July. I like to think it honors the memories Fred and I shared of our early years in Oregon. Don’t want to fight the crowds this Christmas? Buy books. Some of my favorite bookstores are closing at the end of the year because they’re not selling enough books anymore. If you love books, support your local bookseller. Remember, books are easy to wrap and easy to mail, and they last forever.

Two weeks ago today, I had my second cataract surgery, so I’m typing this without glasses. My closeup vision is amazing. I see a lot of things I never noticed before. I’m still going to need glasses for distance vision, and I can’t order them for a few more weeks because my vision has not stabilized yet. It’s frustrating and exciting at the same time.

That’s the Black Friday news from South Beach. Happy holidays to everybody. 

Post-cataract: writing without glasses

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I’m writing this without glasses, and I can actually see what I’m writing. That’s an amazing thing for someone who has worn glasses or contact lenses full-time for 40 years. I keep raising my hand to adjust my glasses and discover they’re not there. Just before I turn out the light at night, I go to take off my glasses, and in the morning, I reach for my glasses on the nightstand. They’re not there. And I don’t need them.
I had my second cataract surgery a week ago today. It had been almost a year since the first surgery. That surgery on my multi-troubled left eye increased my distance vision but decreased my close-up vision. I still needed glasses to function. We waited a year for the cataract in the right eye to progress enough to qualify for insurance coverage. By October it was there.
I reported for surgery early on 11-11-11, which seemed like an auspicious date. The process was familiar, as were the scrubs-clad folks in the surgery department at Samaritan Pacific Community Hospital in Newport. Inevitably, I run into people I know from church, music and writing groups, all doing their day jobs. Lots of smiling faces.
They led me to the bed fully dressed, covered me with a warm blanket, put a blue bonnet over my hair, took away my glasses, hooked me up to monitors and an IV, put drops in my eye and asked me many times who I was and which eye they were doing. Dr. Haines came through and wrote his initials in blue ink under my right eyebrow.
With my right eye taped shut and wires running all over me, I signed a consent form and waited for my turn. Dr. H. does cataract surgeries all day on Fridays, one after another. Now that I couldn’t escape, several people warned me that this time I would be more aware of what was happening. I knew that technically they didn’t put us all the way to sleep, but I didn’t remember being aware of anything during my first cataract surgery, and I didn’t want to know what was happening this time either.
They were right. I was considerably more awake but sedated enough not to be afraid. I don’t remember everything, but I do remember being wrapped up like a chimichanga. I remember Dr. Haines coming in. I remember seeing bright lights and what looked like blue and red squares. Then I remember Dr. Haines telling me it was over and I had done well. Thank God I don’t remember them removing the old lens and inserting the new one.
Afterward I was up and eating a cinnamon scone in no time. My friend Pat drove me home, where I started the laundry and took a nap, then woke up and started seeing what I could see.
The bad news is that I still need glasses for distance. I’m less nearsighted but not nearly enough to drive or watch TV. But I can read, play the piano, work at the computer, and tool around the house minus specs. I haven’t been able to do that since my teens. Colors are brighter, and I can see things like little scars on my hands and dirt around the bathtub that I didn’t know were there. It’s fascinating.
I won’t be able to order my new glasses for a few weeks because it takes the eye time to adapt to the new implanted lens. That part is frustrating. Also, I have had to go without makeup for a whole week now. Talk  about revelations. But when I wake up in the middle of the night and the numbers on the clock are clear, I think it’s pretty cool.
Annie the dog is confused. To her, my glasses were as much a part of me as my nose or ears. She keeps staring at me with a look that says, “What happened to your face?”

A special Christmas gift: sight

It’s three days before Christmas. The rain has stopped, replaced by blue sky and white clouds. Small branches litter the lawn, and my beloved blue hydrangea is nearly naked, its leaves blackened and shriveled from last month’s snow and blown off by recent windstorms. It’s cold and wintry, but it’s still so pretty here I could just look at the view out my window forever. One of the great blessings of living here on the Oregon coast is that we have four distinct seasons, and they are all beautiful.

Earlier this month, I had surgery on my left eye to deal with a cataract and remove a growth that had sat on the edge of my iris for ages. It went well, with some pain afterward but nothing dramatic. After two weeks of dealing with unmatched eyes–the fixed left one and the nearsighted right one– I picked up my new glasses yesterday. I can see better than I remember ever seeing before. Last night, as I looked up at the bright moon and the trees silhouetted against the sky, I saw my first stars since the surgery. What a blessing. I felt like I could just stand around looking at things forever.

Out my window, a tiny brown bird perches at the tip of a leafless alder branch then zips across the yard and over the roof. From the next block, I hear a neighbor hammering. Across the street, another neighbor has hung out his orange slicker to dry.

Today, the day after the winter solstice, we will have slightly more daylight than we had yesterday. As dusk falls, Christmas lights will appear all around. I have lights on my little tree and around my windows. I can look out at the neighbor’s multi-colored lights wrapped around his roof and bushes. Down the road, two families have gone all out, with inflated snowmen and Santas and sheets of lights everywhere. When I make my treks down Highway 20 to visit my husband in Albany, I see lights hanging from mansions and rustic cabins, brightening the way through the rain and snow.

A sad note: My husband is not doing well this Christmas. He has had several worrisome events lately. He is pulling more and more inward as his abilities fail. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease. Unfortunately, most of us seem to have someone in our family with this illness. They may forget you, but don’t forget them or their loved ones this holiday season.

Meanwhile, as I sit here typing, the clouds have thinned, revealing more blue sky. Two bright blue Stellar’s jays soar from my Sitka spruce to the Douglas fir next door. My dog Annie sits gazing out, eager to go for her walk.

There is so much to see!

Whatever your situation, look up. Find the blessings and be thankful. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a blessed new year.

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.