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The Eyes Have It

Cartoon sketch of a man in glasses looking to the left, with a crescent moon, stars, and several letter Es overhead. Sketch by Earle Levenstein.

Just a little background: I’ve worn glasses since I was five or six, with my father discovering that I needed them as we were driving along, chatting, my father pointing at a movie theater marquee and asking me to tell him the names; big zip, him slowing down, drawing closer, asking me again; still zip.

Glasses forever after.

Big letter E, my favorite on the chart.

Still managed to pass the Army draft physical; they tested me with my glasses. Haha. Basic training, firing range: good shot. I always carried a spare pair of glasses; wouldn’t want to pick off a pal.

Footnote: two years later, physical exam at discharge—making sure nobody's sustained any damage—Remove your glasses, soldier; eye doctor laughing; "How'd you ever pass, soldier?" Hahaha. No joke.

Anyway, moving right along; through the years; living here, living there; different eye doctors; stronger distance glasses; sharper reading glasses. At one of my infrequent eye exams—why bother? same old same old, right? stronger glasses, right?—my eye doc of the week freaked; a blood vessel leaking in my left eye; quick call to a laser specialist; like a plumber, only he seals eye leaks.

Race out the door, into the office of some joker with a machine—a laser I guessed—sits me in a chair, retreats to the other side of the office, aims his rocket launcher in my general direction.

Zap! stops the bleeding.

Also blasts a black blot in the center of the retina.

So right eye still dandy, left now delivering images with no middle. Sanity intervenes; I give up driving, adjust to the new reality by walking with my left eye half-closed.

Why don't I race to the nearest eye doc's office?

Don't ask. All I can weakly say is, just go back to my beginning: to infancy, to childhood, with crazed family dynamics; bob and weave; dodge bullets; avoid death and destruction.

Survival my only goal; minor wounds not worth a mention. Complain about a left eye issue? Still have another eye, right?

Don't be a whiner.

But the gods intervened—as they not infrequently do in my life—and after a work-related move back to NYC, someone recommends his/her ophthalmologist, so I make an appointment.

As my late wife would say, "There are no coincidences."

Love at first sight.

Old-school: a pro, calm, insightful, the best of the best; he teaches, performs surgery; his examinations are a revelation. I never knew there was so much to see—no pun intended—he asks questions, answers questions, describes what he’s doing, explains various eye issues in detail; he's a teacher, he actually makes notes.

I've seen him now for years.

Early step was introduction of a prism for my left eyeglass lens; it diverts the view so that I see one image, not two. I'd never even heard of a prism.

When the time arrived, he did cataract surgery on each eye, and for a brief time later, I actually believed I didn't need glasses.

And now, although I live in California and I've been improvising, it's been a while since I've visited and a couple of weeks ago I suddenly felt that I should make the trip back to NYC to see my old ophthalmologist—remember? There are no coincidences—which I did and wouldn't you know it? during his examination he found an issue in my left eye that needs to be addressed.

Of course I immediately agreed; I changed my flight reservation and extended my stay by two days, he performed the first step in the procedure—there will be several more at five-week intervals—we shook hands, he patted my back and I was off to California.

Without sentimentalizing—a challenge—I have to add, that I have a strong belief that this same man, my ophthalmologist for years, was sent by the big Whoever? the Controller, the Boss of Bosses, confirmed for me when I reported for a pre-scheduled appointment which—coincidentally?—just happened to be a week after my wife died.

As I took my place in the seat behind the array of instruments and devices, tears streaming down my cheeks, he stood next to me, the messenger, speaking softly about the Universe, about what we know and what we don't know and will never know.

About life and death and the mystery beyond the stars, and visitations and feelings and intuition, and a presence, and dreams and memory and eternity.

And then he paused and looked at me silently, nodding slowly and smiling and then handed me some tissues, sighed, nodding again, sat, pulled his stool up, moved his scope in toward my eye and began his examination.

Any questions about why I'd travel across the country just to see an ophthalmologist?

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