by Ben Small
Momma done told' me I'd get cataracts. Said it was just a matter of time. Said those smoke rings I was blowing around her head, tossed out from pursed lips and settling around her ears like a lasso around a steer, would come back to haunt me. Mom wasn't being nasty, just looking for non-smoking leverage, even though she was a smoker herself and ended up dying of smoking-related causes.
So, yeah, I got 'em. Cataracts. Got 'em a bit earlier than I expected. Another nice side effect of Rheumatoid Arthritis, I'm told.
"You're too young for cataracts," my doctor said, smiling of course, as he'd be the principal beneficiary of the diagnosis. But I'd already come to realize the inevitability of his diagnosis. Cataracts grow slowly, most times, but grow they do, spreading a translucent drop-cloth over my eyes, clouding and blurring my vision. Got so bad, I couldn't read road signs when I sat in front of them, all in a matter of months.
So off to the doc I trudged.
I'd never researched cataracts, just assumed the removal would be simple, like carving off a thin slice of apple with a razor blade, so of course, I was terrified, which is why I hadn't researched them in the first place.
Don't like reading about stuff like that. Squeamish. Can't get through House some episodes. Call me a baby; you won't be the first.
So this doctor was gonna knock me out, stand on my shoulders, stick some sort of de-plugger into my eyeball and yank. Then, once the lens was gone, he'd stand on my shoulders again, grab some industrial-sized plunger and jam some new lens into its place.
A writer. Active imagination, you know.
Well, the surgery was nothing like I feared. First of all, it only qualifies as "surgery" because there's a pin-prick. After that, it's pound, suck and blow.
Ultrasound. The prick doubles as an ultrasound shaker and a suction/blower, which first breaks up the cloudy lens like a crushed crack, then sucks it out before finalizing the procedure with a whooshed-in new lens.
They didn't even knock me out. Just dripped me some drops of happy-juice. Indeed! I was so happy, I chattered through the whole procedure like the nurses, doc and staff had all grown up with me.
There was no pain, none at all, not even a twinge I could inflate into a blazing story of bravery under fire. Sure, there was light, even pretty colors to stare at during the surgery. But no stars, no burning, no loss of sight at all. The only thing I felt was a slight pressure as the new lens was pushed into place. Pressure, like when I rub my eye over some imagined itch. Ten minutes after we started, the surgery was over.
I was waiting for it to begin. Thought the slight pressure had been the doc's first touch. I said, "That it?" thinking, Time to brace?
"Yes," he said, "you're done."
Where was the pain, the blood, the bruising -- all the horrors I'd been anticipating?
Well, there weren't any. No big deal. Nothing to even write home about. No stories of courage demonstrated I could relate to my kids or to my granddaughter for years to come. Nothing.
What could I whine about? Having to put drops in my eyes for a week or two? Hardly a test of character, of my endurance and bravery under fire.
My granddaughter would fall asleep as I relayed this heroic epic.
But I got a choice of lenses. Cool.
I selected a specialty item: extreme far-sighted lenses. A shooter, you see. Don't want to lose the beer round at the range. So now, when my eyes stop gobbing up with the various drop-goos I'm forced to apply, I'm assured of spotting bugs on the underwing of an eagle at three thousand feet. Heck, I'll be spotting my wife flashing her credit card from across the mall.
I'd drop my momma a note if she were still alive. Tell her those cataracts were no big deal. But I can't yet see. Too much goo in my eye. Besides, I'm too worried about the second eye procedure.
Maybe the first one was the easy one. Maybe all the pain, the blood, the bruising are all associated with the second eye. Maybe they'll break out the de-pluggers and plungers this time around.
My god! Why didn't Momma warn me?