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What a Joy to See The World Again

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Since last Monday, I look at the world in a completely different light.

One of my eyes underwent cataract surgery, and while it is a miracle, I cannot believe what I WASN'T seeing before.

I didn't know people had expressions on their faces

I didn't know street signs had individual separate letters on them. Or houses had numbers.

I didn't know buildings had sharp edges, and decorative architectural details on top, or trees had separate branches.

I didn't run up to kiss and hug any of my loved ones in airports because I couldn't see who they were until they were practically on top of me.

Vanity kept me from wearing my glasses most of the time, but when cataracts get bad, even your glasses don't help much. When I took my 10-year-old grandson to Africa, keeping my prescription sunglasses on constantly until just about the dead of night, he shouted excitedly, "Look at what that giraffe is eating!" and I couldn't see the giraffe let alone his food. He and his dad saw the Great Migration from the plane. The Great Migration was, to my eyes, a fuzzy black blur on a fuzzy brown field. Zebras? What zebras; those horse-like creatures all around us weren't striped in my eyes; they were a dull gray.

It was worse when I was in high school and just nearsighted, refusing to wear my glasses except for class. Contact lenses were a brand new thing, and, I thought, too uncomfortable to use. I was nicknamed The Ice Princess because I never said hello to old friends. I didn't say hello to anyone because I couldn't see who they were. One day I decided I would nevertheless try to be friendly when a carload of friends passed me by on the street and honked. I had no idea who they were but I smiled and waved as if I was delighted to see them.

The car went by and then slowly came back around the block, this time with several boys getting out and heading toward me. Unfortunately, when they got close and I could see who they were, I could see that I had never seen them before but had signaled that I sure would like to get to know them better...that was the end of my friendliness to one and all.

I've had neighbors say hello to me in my elevator as if we're old friends, and when I don't respond, they explain, "Remember, we were at the pool together all summer?" No, I did not remember; I could not see across the pool except to see movement there, meaning some people were in the lawn chairs. The usual people, without faces or expressions. If I were to bump into my yoga teacher out on the street -- the yoga teacher I've down-dogged in front of for years -- I wouldn't know her. I've never quite made out her face.

Eventually I was unable to order sandwiches from the local deli anymore because even with my glasses on, I couldn't read the menu posted in big letters on the blackboard across the counter. Telephone numbers became little black bugs, with no distinction between the "5" and the "8." Recipes were ruined by the fact that 1/4 cup looked to my eyes like 1/2 cup.

When my girlfriends saw windsurfers across the moors to the harbor, I only saw the moors, seeing them the way the French pointilists saw them, through heavily untreated cataracts, as fuzzy green and blue and gray lumps. Pointilism was my permanent view. It's pretty, but friends told me my world was going dim fast, and so I went under the knife, or laser, I don't want to know which, or how.

WOW! is all I can say. What a beautiful, sharp, clear, colorful, bright, sharp-edged world we live in! As the old hymn goes: "T'was blind, but now I see" Thank you, dear Dr. Mellott.

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