This past Monday my husband Bob had eye surgery. Two surgeries on the same eye, in fact. Bob’s eye had been hemorrhaging and we went to see Dr. William Benedict, who was dressed in a lacy skirt and was having a bad hair-wig day and I think one of his false eyelashes fell off during the consult. We live in a funky county in Colorado so we aren’t surprised by much of anything, but still, we were relieved when we realized it was Halloween.
Dr. Benedict didn’t seem overly concerned about Bob’s issue. He told us that the blood usually drains and that Bob would be left with a few floaters, which your brain adjusts to, and at some point, you no longer even notice them. I know this from experience from about 10 or 15 years ago when I had my first eye exam after I suddenly saw an array of flashing, symmetrical colors that obliterated my vision. I thought I was having an LSD flashback and considered locking myself in my armoire to escape the miniature trolls that would soon be crawling through the pores of my skin, but when I went to the doctor, she told me I’d merely had an optical migraine, and that flashbacks typically don’t occur when you haven’t done a drug for 30 years or more.
Oh yeah, Bob. Dr. Benedict told him to come back if anything changed with his eye and two weeks later, Bob’s eye got worse and we headed back to see the doctor. Over the next few months Bob’s eye got probed and photographed and ultrasounded (that’s a word, right?) and I watched Bob squirm a little while I writhed and stuck both my fists in my mouth to keep myself from screaming and then finally tried to stab the doctors in the back with a cystitome (look it up; I had to). As you might guess, Bob was fine. I was not. I mean, I like these doctors SO much that I consented to an eye exam and then refused to open my eyes for the drops. They also wanted to leave me with a tech who’d only been there for like TWO DECADES but when I whined for the “more experienced” one, she came back in and squeezed the liquid onto my closed eyes, like they do with young children. “Now open wide!” she said, and voila! the drops rolled into my eyeballs. My husband said, “It’s OK, honey, I’m sure they’ve seen worse than you,” and the tech opened her mouth to try and agree but just couldn’t. I have a feeling that, after they’ve tried to deal with me, doctors and nurses and technicians need Valium or cocaine or maybe just a sharp pair of scissors to stab themselves in the heart and die.
But oh yeah, Bob. The blood kept coming back and Dr. Benedict ultimately determined that Bob was having repeated hemorrhages and that it would be best to consider surgery. So we went home and read everything on the internet which scared the crap out of us, so we scheduled appointments to get a couple of additional opinions. All the experts agreed. The old blood in the eye probably wasn’t going to drain, and it was likely that Bob had had more than one hemorrhage, which meant they needed to find the cause of the bleeding. Dr. Benedict felt he needed Bob’s cataract removed in order to do the most thorough job cleaning out the blood, and Dr. Meyers, the cataract surgeon from the same eye care center, kindly adjusted his schedule so that Bob would only have to be knocked out once. Dr. Meyers would remove the cataract, they explained, then Dr. Benedict would follow with the vitrectomy which involves a needle the length of a football field and the circumference of a 100-year-old tree. At least that’s how big it was by the time I drove home and called everyone. I wondered if Dr. Benedict had any other aces up his sleeve, like mud and spit. A famous rabbi in the Christian Bible supposedly once healed a blind man this way and I was definitely game for anything that didn’t involve that needle.
The doctors told us that both surgeries would take about 45 minutes which I filed under the category of bulls–t, so the morning of the surgery I packed my computer, two books, a week’s worth of meals, my journal, my daytimer, a sleeping bag, and smelling salts for when I first saw Bob eyeless and needed to revive myself. The doctors, however, finished the surgeries in 45 minutes and Bob woke up and wanted to go out to eat at Chuck E. Cheese’s so he could show off his eye patch and scare little children with pirate noises like Arrrr! and Avast, ye wench! and Are ye hornswaggling me, you bilge rat?!
The next day Dr. Benedict removed the eye patch and to my immense relief, Bob’s eye was still there and he could immediately see out of it. Wow. By the end of the day, Bob’s vision was almost back to normal, and the next day, you’d never have known we’d been preparing for blindness and imminent death. Bob experienced no side effects: no pain at all, no blurry vision, no bleeding, not even any soreness from the breathing tube. I immediately plastered social media with praises of the doctors and the eye care center, bought gifts for the doctors and staff, and sat outside the office with food offerings and prostrations.
Life can be gracious sometimes. Bob had been living with half his vision for months. The night before the surgery, he was still having thoughts of backing out, of living with the bloody eye. He decided to go for it, however, and everything turned out perfectly. Which gets me thinking about God and the world and goodness and evil and stuff. I do not believe in a God who lets children die of brain cancer and starvation and violence but who would then save Bob’s eye. It’s such utter nonsense to me that I can hardly talk about it. Our world is full of awfulness and inexplicable deaths and chaos. But it also throbs with a beauty so majestic that you think you might jump off a mountainside and fly, love so perfect and deep that opening your heart to it is like standing at the bottom of Victoria Falls without the dying part, and things that go so right that all you can do is sit on the floor and dribble spit because it’s that amazing. And God is in it all. Not in a controlling way, but rather with a quietly powerful presence, a Sistene-chapel reaching out and touching hands kind-of-way. Surrounded by all my distractions and fears and me-ness in that waiting room Monday, there was that, too. A presence I can always hang on to.