Dear Family and Friends

It has been difficult for me to sit down and write about the second eye surgery. Overwhelmed and in a state of sensory overload, it has taken me longer than I expected to stop and gather my thoughts. Somehow major and minor events in my life have surfaced to be examined and re-examined in a different light. Significantly, the first corrective eye surgery I had, shortly before my sixth birthday, has played across my mind repeatedly, and it occurs to me that the psychological impact of these two events are somehow connected.

Prior to that surgery, my crossed eyes made it immediately obvious that I had a problem with my eyes. Although at the time they liked to wait until age ten to operate, the teasing had gotten so intense by the time I started first grade that my parents decided they were unwilling to wait any longer. My brothers helped to prepare me for the surgery, explaining how the way to reach the eyes was to remove the top of the head. I remember the dream I had during surgery, where my the top of my skull was sawed off and then the doctors went to work with wrenches and screwdrivers to tighten up the loose nuts and bolts. I was sent home completely bandaged and imagined myself blind. My memories are actually incredibly vivid, almost palpable, in some ways. And I reflected on the meaning that experience had in my life, as I learned and examined much in the week between the surgeries. Repeatedly I heard from friends how unaware of the extent of my vision impairment they had been. Although I often felt like Mr. Magoo, I guess they hadn’t noticed the incredible resemblance. In retrospect I have had a stunning realization, that it is just those types of impairments, the ones that others are not immediately aware of, that should be talked about and explained to those who care about us. It isn’t a problem for those who have obvious problems, as people readily adapt to that which they can see. I can understand now that I simply spent years feeling embarrassed for clumsy behavior unnecessarily. Easy to say, now that I can see. I never understood how different things look with depth perception. Even just in the house things look different. I like the fact that I can see things coming now, and they don’t just suddenly “pop” into my field of view.

With all of that time to reflect, the second surgery loomed ahead of me in a far different way than the first one did. I had spent a week covering one eye and then the other, switching my view from my left (-corrected) eye to my right, with my prescription contact lens in. It felt as though I was wearing a Vaseline smeared sunglass over my right eye, the difference in clarity and light was so intense. I understood, more and more, how unimaginable this transformation was to be. That light dawning in my pea brain left no room for sleep. I became so excited that it was impossible to rest or even sit still. The night before the surgery, although I had made great efforts to retire early and get as much rest as I could, I could barely sustain sleep for three hours. Too enormous and too exciting a future was in store, and I was really finally comprehending all that it entailed.

The second surgery was more difficult for me to sit still through, for that reason. I tried my best to give my assistance, as much as possible, to Dr. Salz, but I think that my excitement was just a bit distracting. The poor nurse thought I was in pain, and made efforts to calm me and hold my hand. I was just happy, and trying to concentrate at the same time. I was hoping like mad that the results would be as good in my right eye as they were in my left.

What can I say? The world has changed. The colors are so bright that I feel like I exited a world or two color process printing and entered a Maxfield Parrish gallery. The contrasts are stark and amazing. My brain is having quite a time just keeping up with all the thoughts that bounce around like so many ping pong balls in the lotto machine. I am spilling over with thought, and for the most part find it difficult to do much else. My time is spent taking in the sights, and trying to digest the entirety of the change I have undergone.

Evening events will no longer keep me home, as I can now read street signs EVEN AT NIGHT. Driving home from Berkeley, the skyline of Oakland was so beautiful. I could tell where in space the buildings were, and the approximate location of the airplane flying overhead in relationship to them. I sit in the car and drive, listening to music, unable to speak, looking, thinking…

Someone has unlocked the door and I am free now to go. In two or three weeks my eyes will have healed to the point that no one will even know that I am so bionic. Amazing world. Incredible vistas. Pinch me and make sure I’m not dreaming. Words don’t even come close.

I add these words, sent to me by a friend, penned by the poet and composer Rabindranath Tagore:

The sunlight opens for me the world’s gate, love’s light its treasure.

Wishing you great delight,