Just like you and everyone we know, I’ve been spending the past few decades not paying much attention to my ever-worsening eyesight.
This is because it takes a few decades for it to get really bad. But by last summer my vision was to the point that driving a car was like an amusement park adventure, except that on Highway 101 the bumper cars go pretty fast. Not that I could see them of course, but they definitely sounded fast.
When my eyeballs started going south I did what everybody else does, which is nothing. It’s hardly noticeable in the beginning, but ignoring the problem isn’t really the answer. Eventually my eyes were watering, I was squinting at street signs and seeing blurry strips on the road instead of a single white highway stripe. Driving at night I may as well have had a bag over my head.
It got worse. A month or so ago I was looking at the world as if through a very dirty windshield. The problem? For that I had to enlist the help of Dr. Lori Shafer, an optometrist, at her clinic over on Hospital Drive.
She’s got the eye charts, the machines with dials and, most of all, the knowledge to come up with the answer: Cataracts.
To remove the cataracts I hurried over to the Eye Care Institute in Santa Rosa where Dr. Arwa Alsamarae waved a magic wand or used a vacuum cleaner or sprayed some Windex on my eyeballs and presto! The cataracts were gone and I could see.
Well, not exactly. It took a couple days after the 15 minutes of surgery, but that’s not a long time to wait if you’ve been seeing things through gauze a decade or more. And the result is miraculous.
In the old days I saw the world maybe a bit better than Stevie Wonder, but now everything is in full widescreen, Technicolor 3D Cinemascope. I even think my hearing has improved some.
A mere 24 hours after the magical laser optic tricks Dr. Alsamarae performed, I began seeing shades, colors and hues I barely remember ever seeing. It was like experiencing a whole new range of brilliant colors (Magenta! Vermilion! Burnt Umber!) in a box of Crayolas in third grade.
There are drawbacks when it comes to eye surgery. In a small pamphlet handed out following the procedure was a list of activities not permitted following the procedure, but as there was no mention of cage fighting, fencing or boxing, few applied to me. No alcohol for 24 hours meant it was just me and my li’l ol’ crackpipe for entertainment, and the ban on hot tubbing for an entire week temporarily interrupted my swingin’ California lifestyle on Ukiah’s groovy west side.
But small sacrifices bring a big payoff: Breathtaking vision. Today if I stand on my tiptoes I can see Willits, and instead of a grayish blur off to the east I now enjoy a clear, sparkling view. Unfortunately it’s of Lake County.
I see bright, individual leaves on trees; before I couldn’t be sure I was even looking at a tree. Might’ve been a big greenish tarp draped over a telephone pole for all I could tell. Also, I now walk around town and can see inside your house, so either dress right or pull the shades.
My new lenses are designed to provide maximum distance vision and oh boy, do they. Every time I open my front door and step onto the porch I erupt in soft chuckles at the bright new shimmering panorama laid out before me.
Unfortunately I can no longer read things close-up. I suppose the easy fix is to have wife Trophy hold up a book from 200 feet away and flip pages for me. Longterm, a batch of new reading glasses is in my future. That last sentence has Anne Nix breaking into a little dance in her living room. She realizes I’ll be soon be stopping by Mendocino Optical to buy fresh eyewear, and she also knows I’ll be losing my new glasses as fast as I buy them, returning two or three times a month for replacements. Maybe Santa Claus will stuff my stocking with six lbs. of prescription glasses this year.
But who cares about reading? Right now I’m all about seeing objects more distant than a book on a table. The crystal clarity of brightly colored thingies a hundred yards away is still thrilling.
If my vision gets any better I’ll soon be seeing through walls, and maybe in a month or so I’ll be seeing into the future.
Crocs, the other miracle
Restored vision is surely a stunning medical achievement, but I’m here to report I’ve experienced one other such miracle in my life: Crocs shoes.
I was functionally crippled until about 15 years ago when daughter Emily insulted me with a Father’s Day gift of a pair Crocs, the ugliest shoes ever made. Crocs are uglier than Ugg Boots, uglier than platform shoes, uglier than flip-flops on German tourists wearing knee-high black socks.
But Crocs are the equivalent of surgery for ailing, painful feet, and with no bloodshed, no stitches and no driving to medical appointments. So as of today I can see and walk for miles; my vision and mobility both are better now than 20 years ago.
I am one happy, rebuilt customer from the soles of my feet to the tops of my eyebrows. Next I think I’ll get a lobotomy.
(Tom Hine has been writing under the Tommy Wayne Kramer byline for many decades. He’s a licensed private investigator and worked criminal defense for 35 years.)