“You haven’t been here since 2018,” the receptionist says when I call. “Have you seen another ophthalmologist since then?”
“No. I had other things going on.” She doesn’t need to hear about a cochlear implant in 2019 and she knows about the Covid lockdown, but I feel guilty about not taking better care of my vision. With hearing loss, I need to see well for driving and for pleasure.
“Dr. Casey has a cancellation tomorrow at 1:45.”
“So soon?” I ask. There’s a pause on the phone.
“Our next opening is in June,” the receptionist says. I feel trapped even if I don’t feel ready to face another medical exam.
“Ok, I’ll come tomorrow.” Hearing is enough to deal with, but friends have macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. It scares me to search for new sensory problems.
I silently praise myself for regular dental visits and healthy teeth. I praise myself for getting my hearing checked at Strong Audiology in Rochester where I learned my hearing is holding steady while they cleaned my hearing aid and replaced a fragile wire. I can’t say why I put off having my vision checked, but I’m anxious about it.
The next afternoon, I drive the valley road to Guthrie Clinic in Corning. The doctor’s assistant Tiffany does the preliminaries with intense lights and eye charts as I explain my double vision and childhood eye surgeries. Her long black hair cascades over her white coat and her smile beams kindness. I breathe.
I tilt my head back while she puts in dilating drops and wait while my eyes burn and tear. Tiffany hands me a tissue.
“Please put your chin here,” Tiffany says, “and your forehead there.”
Why is my heart pounding? Have I waited too long?
There’s a knock on the door and a man enters dressed in casual clothes. It’s Dr. Casey, and he’s relaxed. I exhale again, remembering all the beauty I want to see.
“Can you read these letters? Is this clearer than that?” Dr. Casey inspects my eyes with a bright light, takes a few notes, and turns toward me. “You don’t have macular degeneration or glaucoma and the small cataract you had five years ago hasn’t changed at all. If it’s not causing problems, I wouldn’t do anything.”
“Do I need new glasses?”
“No. Your old prescription is perfect. Let’s check again in a year.”
Back in my car, I sit a while to absorb good news before texting my sons. “My hearing may be a wreck, but I can see.”
I see the moon and stars glittering in the night sky. I see a pouncing orange coyote in the field. I see yellow flowers, bumblebees, and the polka dots on a Monarch butterfly’s body.
That night, the sunset is magnificent as it often is. I walk outside and look west, grateful for every shade and color, thankful I can see.
Do you get your hearing and vision checked regularly? As I age, these visits feel more threatening than they did when I was young and didn’t have Meniere’s Disease. For a post about deciding to get a cochlear implant, see My Friend Meniere: Standing Up To Disability. For a piece about self-care after surgery, see A Healing Ritual in a Sweet Grass Bowl: Self Care After Surgery.