Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Seeing Things in a New Way

I am writing this today because a friend of mine and her serious eye problems have been much on my mind of late. Also, most of my current editing clients are blind, so I think a lot more about eyes and eye health and blindness these days than I used to in years past.

My friend has to have surgery soon on her left eye for very extreme glaucoma; if she does not, she will lose her sight in that eye. The glaucoma came many years after an injury to that eye; some kid threw a rock and hit her in the eye.  She has suffered from that injury ever since, and she’s now middle-aged.

When I was in 5th or 6th grade, a kid named Kevin threw a rock that hit me in my left eye, too. But it did not affect my vision. I do remember, though, that it hurt, frightened, and angered me. The eye bothered me for some time after that, but it eventually got well.

Kevin was quite troubled, I think – although I don’t know if that was the standard term for children with emotional problems back in the 1950s. He was an only child. His mother was poor and single, and she died not long after the rock-throwing incident. Our class had to go to her funeral. I remember the boy crying bitterly, all broken down with grief and probably fear.  He was left an impoverished orphan.

Kevin left our school after his mother's death.  I hope he had relatives to go to, that they treated him well, and that he became happier and better adjusted. I remember him as a skinny, poorly dressed kid who did badly in school and had no friends.

Why he threw the rock at me, I don't know. I was not his friend, but neither was I his enemy. In general, I tried hard to be nice to others if they were nice to me, and I tried to stay out of the way of the others. No one seemed to want to even try to befriend Kevin.

I have often thought of him in the decades since then, and I have often wondered what became of him. I was and am sorry for him. Nonetheless, I am glad, of course, that he did not injure my eye badly. I have glaucoma, but it’s a mild case, well controlled with medication (Combigan drops), and I assume it is unrelated to any past injury. I’m now 68, so some eye problems are to be expected.   

In addition to her physical problems, my friend with the very serious glaucoma is also out of work right now. She lost her last two jobs -- or rather, she lost one and had to quit the other -- due to eye pain and stress. Her eye is in really, really bad shape; that’s plain to any observer. It must hurt a lot. So, after her surgery, she will have the urgent need to try to find another job. What a dual burden to have to try to bear by herself! She is unmarried and has no children.

My husband and I have certainly had our share of problems, some of them physical. I have had nine major operations in my lifetime, and I’m a 16-year breast cancer survivor. David has had a few physical problems of his own, but at 70, he’s in great shape, and he has none of the chronic health problems that so often plague men of his age: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart trouble, diabetes, etc.

So very often, I have to consider how fortunate we are compared to so very many others -- and I don't mean just miserable, poverty-stricken people in third-world countries. I mean people whom we know personally, middle-class people with good educations who have fallen on hard times of various sorts. It often makes me very sad, because I can usually do nothing to alleviate their problems except be their friend.

I hope that my friendship is of some help to the woman who needs the eye operation, which she will have soon. Then I hope she recovers well and rapidly, and that she can find a new job very soon, as well.

I cared about her and her fate before all this, as I have known her for some time, and I care even more now. Looking back across the decades, I know that my long-distance caring about Kevin cannot help him (if he’s even still alive), and I doubt that I or my family could have done much for him back then, either. But the odd, coincidental connection between him, my eyes, my friend, her eye, and the stories behind the blindness of some of my editing clients has made me think a lot these past several days and weeks. It has made me see several different things in new and different ways.

If you have been so kind as to read this far, please go here to see the website of our latest blind client, Patty L. Fletcher:  www.dvorkin.com/pattyfletcher/

Her book Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, will be published by Aug. 1, 2014 or before. Her blindness was partially caused by glaucoma, as well.

Go here to see some recent pictures of my husband and his astonishing physique, the result of almost 50 years of weight training. Click on the photos to see them larger. My favorite is the photo of him in the red shirt.


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