Eyes: treasures of a lifetime

Lying flat on my back, I looked into a whirl of changing colours as the surgeon cut into my eye and expertly installed a new lens. Although it sounds like a terrifying experience, it wasn’t.

I felt no pain or discomfort and while in the Guelph General met some fine young professionals, men and women. The next day when the doctor removed the eye patch, I discovered that my right eye worked better than it had at any time during the last 65 years. 

It seems that my eyes have been one of the recurring themes of my life. It started in grade 2 at year’s end when I took home a report card saying I needed to repeat the year. I also took home a collection of school notebooks bearing the teacher’s comment on almost every page: "Why don’t you write what is written on the board?"

Mother assumed I had bad eyes and took me to an optometrist who fitted me with glasses even though we later found that I hadn’t needed them at that time. Decades later I learned that my inability to copy from the board resulted from a learning disability, not bad eyes. However, eye troubles came along later. As a teenager, I went through a spell of poor eyesight, but didn’t realize the extent of the problem until I tried harrowing a field with a neighbour’s tractor. "Follow the harrow marks made by the previous turn around the field,"  yelled the farmer.

I couldn’t see marks the implement left behind. When I got glasses, I discovered things I hadn’t seen for at least five years: leaves on trees, knotholes in the garage door, and harrow marks in the fields. From then on my glasses became my most valued possession.

On March 15, 1953, my new Chevrolet met a large Oldsmobile, grill to grill, on a lonely stretch of U.S. Highway 2. The Chev, suffering almost mortal injury, spun around to face the other direction, coming to a stop in the middle of the road. Even when I think of it 56 years later, my first reaction amazes me. I didn’t check to see if my brother had survived his head smashing the windshield. I never looked into the back seat to determine what had happened to my mother and sister. I didn’t even check myself for broken bones. I frantically searched for my glasses, put them on, then looked about to see if everyone had survived the crash.

On our return from Africa in 1976, our number-three son began to experience blurred vision. The doctors diagnosed uveitis, a disease that, if left untreated, would blind him. When drugs didn’t check the problem, they performed laser surgery.

The surgery damaged the left eye, leaving it with only peripheral vision. But it stopped the disease, saving his right eye.

A year or so ago I had cataract surgery on my left eye. The results that time proved less than perfect and that eye, now dimming, may one day require laser surgery.

So, should I complain that I have a poor left eye even though my right works better than ever? I guess not. My son has put up with the problem for over 30 years, and I may not even have that much time left.


Ray Wiseman