books fear glaucoma sight

Just Where I Am

I’m typing this while sitting atop a brick red duvet, leaning back against a bright-purple down pillow. On the tv is a re-run of the Saturday Night Live hosted by Tina Fey (blogging troubador Furiousball best described her as “one of the women I’d like to lick the make-up off of” some months back); right now, Carrie Underwood, wearing some pleated and atrocious rip-off of a 1950’s cocktail dress, is belting Idol-style and shaking her unnaturally-golden tresses.

Other times, that screen features the mug of Bawbwa Wawters and her View Crew, Craig Ferguson making me contemplate adultery, and Dinosaur King rocking the youth on Saturday Morning cartoons. Oftentimes, the images on that screen bore rather than entertain, making me glad it’s rarely on.

My gaze wanders to the wall-hung quilt my mom made for Dinko (incidentally, the Niblet has also chosen the name “Paco” for himself; to my delight, I get to holler, at dinner time, “Get yer wee rounded tush down here for edamame and eggs, Paco Dinko”).

The fabrics in this quilt are from my grandmother’s old dresses; Grandma started cutting the pieces for the quilt before she died in 1974. My mom took over her project and finished it in 2007. I think it’s a Dresden Plate pattern, and I adore that my mom can sit in front of it and tell a story of her mother wearing a dress made out of the red-and-white gingham, of her mom making dinner in the flowered calico. I look at this quilt and am reminded my mom’s enduring devotion to her own mother. I look at this quilt and am profoundly grateful that it will follow my son into his adult life (Mom made another of these for my Girl, too, so no nattering about how maligned she is).

On the stand next to my side of the bed are a couple stacks of books. On the top of one stack is my reading lamp, which is meant for a desk and casts the beam too low for bed reading. So I’ve hefted the light up to the peak of a stack of five books: a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (the kids do love hearing about The Showoff Cure), an advance reader’s copy of a book “coming in November 2006” (guess I’m running late); The Boys of My Youth, a Jo Ann Beard book gifted to me by my best reading source and finest galpal; The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser, which I’m sifting through a second time, having just read the light fiction The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (boy, did factual history not restrain that version!); and a book of poetry, Mean Time, a Carol Ann Duffy volume gifted to me last Christmas by one of my favorite blog maidens, Glamourpuss. These are the books that sustain my light. In the other stack on my nightstand, I have my active-reading pile: Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Mineral; The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea, loaned to me by a highly-patient neighbor more than a year ago; and I’ll Drink to That, another advance reader’s copy–this one a story of the French peasant who brought Beaujolais to the world. All of these, plus five thousand more, are my posse.

Behind me hangs a big painting made by my kids one sun-dappled Fall afternoon almost four years ago, out on the deck. They made that painting on one of those rare afternoons when parenthood–when having young kids–felt as easy and gratifying as an episode of thirtysomething would have had us believe. Everyone was happy. Everyone wanted to be doing what we were doing. Everyone was in a groove, got off The Mommy, and painted. Even better, they painted their feet and hands and skated across the huge swath of paper I’d taped onto the deck. It was painting Olympics. It was my life as a highly-rated and -reviewed one-hour drama.

Over on Groom’s side of the bed is everything else, for he is not tidy. He gets the clock radio, as I don’t believe in keeping time or getting up in the morning. He gets the Kleenex box, as my nose shouldn’t run. He gets the stack of Presidents of the United States cards, the fleece “sleeping bag” that a stuffed animal is supposed to inhabit, the hand salve, the massage lotion, the condom wrappers, the cough drops. On the floor beneath the stand is a waterfall of Cook’s Illustrated and Gourmet magazines, fleshed out by a book of NY Times crosswords and a curious bit of non-fiction entitled American Shaolin.

All of this visual gratification inhabits one mere corner of our bedroom, one ten-by-ten foot space. Eleven feet out, there is everything else in the world: the desktop computer; the sleeping children (they of huge blue eyes and mouths that only get wiped when I notice the Oreo crumbs); staircase after staircase; uneven ground in the yard outside; cars that take us to new mundane daily tasks and big life adventures; the fifth largest body of fresh water in the world (two blocks from our house…it collects pack ice in the winter and sparkles with diamond dust in the summer); friends I haven’t met yet; traffic weaving helter-skelter across the asphalt.

It’s all out there: what I know intimately; what I have yet to encounter; the changes that will be wrought by future decades.

It’s all out there. For forty-one years, I have always negotiated the world with a certain confidence, even when I have felt a wreck. At least I’ve always been able to open the front door and take off on a restorative run, no route in mind, just winding and turning along new roads and paths, letting the alchemy of waving leaves and unexpected deer and Spring wildflowers turn my dross into gold.

But now, at the moment of writing this, I question my future as a place of easy confidence. Rather, I feel paralyzed by uneven terrain, by all the options and vagaries of the world.

Three weeks ago, my optometrist, after a series of tests, joined rank with my childhood optometrist, who noted when I was seven, “If your eyesight keeps up at this rate, you’ll be blind by thirty-three.”

Actually, the verdict three weeks ago differed a bit (she’d have to be a pretty crappy optometrist to examine this sighted forty-one-year-old and declare me a blind thirty-three-year-old); rather, her musing was, “How are you forty-one with glaucoma?”

At last year’s appointment, she’d noticed a not-completely-health optic nerve, but a follow-up test proved things were still within normal range. This year, though, she saw a notch in one of my optic nerves, even clearer in photos of my eyes then taken, backed up by a loss of peripheral vision in a visual field test.

The diagnosis was veering, rather frightfully, towards glaucoma. She wanted me to come back for a couple more tests.

In the two weeks of waiting for those tests, I put the poor Google through its paces. On the positive side, a diagnosis of glaucoma is no longer what it was 20 years ago: a sentence that one is on a steady march to blindness. In fact, there are ways to treat glaucoma these days, most often with thrice-daily eyedrops.

Of course, the eyedrops have possible side effects. Like darkened vision. Loss of libido. Depression.

So, should it prove to be glaucoma, it would seem that I can keep my vision, such as it is, so long as I’m willing to spend the rest of my life as a dried-up, flattened, stumbling husk of a gal.

During the follow-up tests two weeks later, the doc checked my eyes’ “superior ridge.” The resulting graphic print out shows a suspicious dip in that ridge. On the other hand, other parts of the testing look okay.

The bottom line is that the doc is reluctant to give me a lifetime diagnosis and start me on 50 years of meds unless everything points to glaucoma. Since only 2/3 of the results do, and since the vision decline is so glacial in pace, we’re in a holding pattern.

I’ll go back in 4 months and retest, and freak it if I can’t cram for or cheat on this one.

Trust me, between now and then, and for every day thereafter, well into my audio-book-rich dotage, I’ll treasure even the smallest glimpse of the fakey Carrie Underwood, the assiduously-maintained Barbara Walters, the loving quilt on the wall, the grins on the kids’ faces, the compost bin in the backyard, the puddles in the alley, the cheese melting on my enchilada, the birch trees flanking the trail, the toilet paper as it swirls down the hole.

I am suddenly and profoundly less casual about it all.

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