Patience, Grasshopper

For the last few years, my world has been getting darker and darker, and shrinking. I can’t see well enough to drive, so Mr. Bear is my chauffeur. He reads to me the labels on grocery-store shelves, and pays at the check-out because the debit machine defeats me every time. He set the font size on my computer screen to GARGANTUAN.

Life has gone on because Mr. Bear remained devoted while his partner slowly transformed into a baby mole. I know I’m lucky and I don’t mind being a reclusive, subterranean creature — but the baby part is humiliating for someone who used to be an adult.

All this began to change in early February when I had my first encounter with surgery since I was seven years old. In the dressing room, the nurse offered me an Ativan (what’s that?), but, sailing forward in ignorant enthusiasm, I instantly replied, “oh no thanks, I’m not nervous at all.”

I was in a strange state of non-chemically-induced ecstasy when they wheeled me into the space-age operating room. They sealed me from the waist up in an oxygen-filled bubble, with a hole cut out for the eye that was to be operated on. “Look into the light,” said the surgeon, and I did.

Very soon I saw a thin red line appear, and then I saw the lens in my eye being lifted out, and then I saw a hole in my eye and a black grid centered over the hole, and then I saw the artificial lens being put in, and then I heard the surgeon say in a worried voice, “I have very little support here.”

He no sooner said this than I noticed my legs had gone rigid as a board under the heated blanket. I spent the remainder of the fifteen-minute operation wishing I’d swallowed the magic pill.

It’s now been nearly four weeks of recovery, and I’ve gone from the euphoria of discovering that the world is filled with extraordinary light, to the terror of noting that small black dots keep dancing around in my “new” eye, to utter exasperation that now both eyes hurt and I still can’t read the print in books.

When I consider there’s one more operation to go, I feel like smashing pottery. And I repeat to myself what the old kung fu master says over and over to his student: “Patience, grasshopper.”


Published by

Harriet Ann Ellenberger

writer, editor, translator; co-founded the journal "Sinister Wisdom"

7 thoughts on “Patience, Grasshopper”

  1. Patience may be the key to little black dots and all the rest but who comes by that kind of patience honestly -especially when it has to do with our eyes? Not me. I loved that grasshopper, by the way! Imagine his compound eyes! And thank god for Bears who REALLY care.

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  2. This reminds me of when I had lasik surgery in Medellin, Colombia a couple of years ago. they wouldn’t let me go home on my own after the surgery. I said just stuff me in a taxi and there will be someone waiting for me at home. Who’s that, they asked, and I said, “Bruno.” Who’s Bruno, they asked, and I said, “He’s the family dog.”

    Apparently that wasn’t good enough. They refused to do the surgery until a human being came to the office to accompany me home after the surgery.

    And in my first of three post-surgery check-ups, the good doctor Javier projected letters up on the wall, starting with one big, huge letter “Z,” and he asked me to identify it. I immediately said, “N!” and you should have seen the look on his face. It was as if an instant he could see the mother of all lawsuits coming right at him like an out-of-control locomotive. And then a second later, he laughed and said, “Ah, Lorenzo, you got me good with that one!”

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    1. They do it right in Colombia. Here in Canada, I had to have someone drive me home after surgery (I still can’t drive until after the second lens is implanted) and I had one check-up with the surgeon three days after the surgery. And I had an instruction sheet for self-care in the month following surgery. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see well enough to read the instructions, so Mr. Bear read them for me.
      The first time, I was low on information, that’s all. The second eye will be operated on June 22nd, and now that I’m so sophisticated, it should go easier.
      Thanks for the story!


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