Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I can see clearly now

I can’t imagine not …

My worst fear is …

When I was a young teenager, I stumbled across an insurance application. On the app were listed the values policyholders would receive if they lost or no longer had the use of certain body parts or functions. Some losses were compensated more highly than others, based, I suppose on the value the insurance company actuarial staff had determined they were worth.

The gears in my young mind started turning and I began to imagine the scenarios spelled out on paper. What would my life be like without a finger or foot, a leg or an arm, hearing or sight? I thought of the people I knew or had seen who amazed me with the way they seemed to live perfectly normal lives in spite of disabilities—incredible people. If they could do it, I could, I guessed.

But, as I got to the end of the list, and thought about the value of my sight, this last scenario suddenly became much more frightening. Now, looking back, with no paper in front of me to jog my memory, I can’t remember the value the insurer placed on sight, but I knew that moment that no amount of money could compensate me for the loss of that sense.

Without my sight, I couldn’t read. From the moment I first saw my mother turn the pages of an old, well-loved copy of “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” words on paper and the way they played together on a page were among my greatest joys. Once I was old enough to read books myself, I was more content nestled in the branches of our big willow tree with a bucket of books than I was doing anything else. And, as I began to write, I liked how I could sometimes make the words dance together. 

Last month, I went to the eye doctor for an exam. I’d been feeling a little eye strain. I went through all the tests—“tell me when you see the light,” “read the smallest row of letters you can see,” “is this better or this?”, “1 or 2?” “3 or 4?” 

Two weeks later, my new glasses arrived. I looked at the chart the technician handed me. Everything was blurry.  I could not read it at all. When I expressed my concern, she assured me that sometimes the change in prescription was difficult to get used to and that I should wait a couple weeks. 

So, for two weeks, from the time I awoke and donned my glasses in the morning until I took them off at night, I tried “to get used to” them. 

In the meantime, my eyes, much more strained than they’d been before I went to the eye doctor, hurt every single hour of every single day. I read what I had to so that I could do my work as a writer and editor. I tried to read the newspaper, online news sources and a novel at bedtime, but for the entire two weeks, using my eyes was so difficult, so painful that I began to wonder if I’d ever be able to read or write again without pain. I began to not want to use my eyes—so not me.

I, the one who is rarely without a computer, a book or reading something from a smartphone, could not wait to finish my work and lower the lash-fringed shades over my sockets.

There’s one thing I need to do my job, to do what I love, to read and to write—my eyesight. 

“What if they can’t fix it?” I wondered. “What if they can’t make it better? What if I can’t see?”

Right then and there, I knew that for me, that imaginary checklist I’d run through as a young teen was spot-on. Of all my limbs and senses, I do think I’d adapt, even now, losing all but one—my eyes.

I can’t imagine not being able to sit down and read a good story. 

My worst fear is not being able to see to put words onto a page. 

Fortunately, when I returned to the eye doctor’s office at the end of two weeks, it turned out my prescription was wrong. It was missing the bifocal I needed to read lines of text. 

My sight was going to be okay after all. 

I heaved a big sigh of relief, put my old spectacles back on while I waited for the new glasses to go back to the lab for corrected lenses, and did what readers and writers do—read again from my smartphone in the morning, scanned news feeds, wrote and published stories during the daytime, and sat down with a book before I went to sleep at night.

Even better, I sat down at my computer and began to blog again. I also heaved a sigh of thanks for the sense that for me is reminiscent of those over-imitated credit card commercials—priceless. 

© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012  

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