I began noticing a loss of visual acuity three years ago. Road signs, even on Interstate highways, beckoned me closer before I could heed their instruction. Birds became more difficult to identify or even spot in trees and shrubs. This drove me to experiment with how bad my uncorrected vision became around 8th grade. Back then my coaches realized I would never learn to hit a curveball because my peepers were insufficient to see that white dot surrounded by a blur of red seams on a baseball, the telltale giveaway of a schoolboy’s curve which looks to a right handed hitter like a fastball homing in on his skull. Soon after that the optometrist diagnosed nearsightedness, prescribing hard contact lenses. They were not comfy, but I noticed I could count the bricks in nearby buildings. I just couldn’t wear them more than a few hours a day.
After high school I got some specs. In the army I wore their birth control glasses (so ugly they made one celibate). Nearsighted guys in ‘Nam wore them in those rainy, steaming jungles; were I a squad leader never would man in spectacles walk point for us – if it’s wet they can’t see trip wires or spot even obvious signs of an impending ambush. But glasses in college work well. One can see the blackboard. Sometimes that matters.
In the spring of 2020, as Covid was dawning on the world, a Texas ophthalmologist diagnosed my condition as ‘not ready for surgery cataracts”. A year later I complained to a Louisiana ophther who confirmed that diagnosis, but didn’t want to do the work just yet. This spring he performed laser assisted surgery to destroy both cataracts, replace those clouded lenses with manmade, and cure the astigmatisms in each eye. He assured me that I’d never need glasses again, even to read, and that this is extremely safe surgery. The lead nurse in the surgical center told me “You’ll need someone to drive you home, but tomorrow you can drive yourself to see your surgeon.”
But for what felt like a month my vision was not even as good as my corrected sight the day before he did my first eye, then two weeks later, the second.
Doc kept the faith. “Eyes need time to fully heal and develop the scar tissue that corrects astigmatism. This can take two months or longer; it will gradually improve.” It’s been a bit more than two months since the second eye job, and at last I am beginning to believe him. On a good day I see pretty well. Maybe not well enough to see that white spot in the middle of a curveball, but the road signs are easier to read at intermediate distances.
The Formula I driver Stirling Moss could read license plates from 200 meters and judge a competitor’s relative speed and driving tactics at distance with only his mirrors. I will never get there. But I’m getting happy with our investment in vision.
Now, if those indentations in my face from the legs of 50+ years of spectacle legs would just go away.
*Medicare covers manual cataract surgery. It does not pay for laser cataract surgery, which is safer, and corrects astigmatic eyeballs. You can’t get much of a Cadillac for the price of this eye work, but a high mileage, ten year old Lincoln is close.