Brain Strain

Have you ever changed jobs and moved around the same time? Twenty-odd years ago I not only did that, but then my job moved to a different location. I would get into the car and have to think about where I was going.

In late May, I had the first of two surgeries to remove cataracts from my eyes. I had the second eye done in early June. In between I got a new car.

We had been talking about replacing my car for months. I hate car shopping, but knew it needed to be done. I was driving a 2000 Chrysler Cirrus that replaced a 1999 Toyota that was totaled in the wreck on New Year’s Eve 2000. The Toyota was totaled in ’09 a block from our house when someone blew through a four-way stop, spinning me out (I was unhurt). My insurance covered the replacement car, but of course it’s never enough. I hate car-shopping under the best of circumstances, and this time I was traumatized.

The Chrysler, relatively low mileage for its age, seemed like a cream puff—all leather, all power. We did our due diligence—checked Consumer Reports, got the Carfax report and had a mechanic check it out. In three years we nearly paid for it again in repairs. The AC was barely adequate, so by late May I was ready. I asked my husband to research the best rated, best mileage vehicles and let me test drive a couple. I wanted a light color (for coolness), power locks and windows, and cruise for long trips. He had a list of several models; we drove a few and bought a 2012 Hyundai Accent. New cars are pretty generic, and as long as my few criteria are met I’m happy.

I like taupe or bronze cars because they’re the closest color to dirt.

Before I had the second eye surgery, I struggled with the difference between my two eyes. I popped the right lens out of my glasses since my distance vision was now good, but I still needed distance and bifocals for my left eye. I couldn’t read at allwith my new right eye (text looked like Hebrew) so I got a rickety, ugly old pair of hubby’s reading glasses, popped the left lens out and wore them over my (one-lens) glasses. I looked like a freak but it worked. (Sorry, no pictures, for the same reason there is only one extant picture of me pregnant.)

October, 1973: Pregnant, in trendy round granny glasses. My father is holding my older daughter, my mother is, as usual, doing a crossword puzzle, and my younger daughter is a few weeks from entering the world. Notice I’m scowling, not happy to be photographed.

The main reason for the cataract surgery was my night vision had been deteriorating, which was especially noticeable on our holiday trip on unfamiliar highways. It wasn’t the dark that was a problem, it was the glaring lights. To my great distress, there was no improvement in the right eye after the surgery. And during this time I’m getting used to driving a different car.

The original plan was that both eyes would have distance vision and I would need reading glasses. But I didn’t expect to have zero reading vision, and after a lifetime of being near-sighted I felt like Henry Bemus, played by Burgess Meredith in the “Twilight Zone” episode where he … well, it’s such a great story I won’t spoil it for you. Go to YouTube and look for the “Time Enough at Last” episode.

Shortly before the second surgery the nurse called and asked if I wanted to have the left eye with less distance and some reading vision. I quickly agreed, remembering Henry Bemus.

But it was a questionable trade-off. I can use the computer without glasses. But for my phone, small print or close needlework I need reading glasses. I have already acquired a couple of colorful pairs and, of course, leave them where I’m not going to be the next time I need them, an annoyance I avoided for years by wearing progressive bifocals all the time.

At the computer; to wear or not to wear?

Even more distressing, my night vision is even worse than before! And seeing takes concentrating and effort. I have to think about focusing. It’s like getting out of bed every day and having to remember how to walk or breathe. I feel like I have on a pair of someone else’s contacts that I can’t remove.

I called the nurse in distress. She assured me that I need to allow time for healing and for my brain to adjust. But any time I have had a new glasses prescription I’ve adjusted in about 20 minutes—even to bifocals.

Almost everyone I know who has had this surgery has said “It’s a piece of cake. You’ll love it!”

I am trying to be patient, but if it’s not significantly better when I see the doctor July 2 I’m going to ask for a glasses prescription. In fact, this may be partly psychological. I’ve worn glasses since I was 13. I still reach for them in the morning. A friend who had cataract surgery took the lenses out of her glasses and put them on just as she had done every day. I don’t think it would help me, but I totally get it.

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