So I’m sitting at work yesterday afternoon when I see a zig-zagging beam of light to my far left. A couple minutes later, I see it again. It happens maybe 5 times over 90 minutes.
As I prepare to drive to a church meeting about an hour away, as I walk down a hallway, I notice something out of focus in my left eye’s field of vision. I mean, really IN my field of vision. Like, IN my head.
By the time I get to the meeting, this is officially a thing, and I spend half of the time there watching this structure, this blob, hover just outside my ability to focus on it. (The rest I spend listening and offering whatever bizarre metaphors come to mind—if you’ve ever been in a meeting with me, you know, The Usual).
Driving home is good because in the dark I have far less sense of where the damn hairball in my head is. I get home, share a mixture of anxiety and dread with Virginia, and agree to see my ophthalmologist the next day.
Next day, the ophthalmologist is looking in my eye when she says, “This is gonna be uncomfortable.” She proceeds to numb out my left eye, puts gel on the bottom of what looks like a salt shaker, places it firmly against my cornea and looks through it in to my head. The salt shaker has four mirrors, she says, that allow her to look all around my eye. For the floater. Come on, Dr. Jill, you don’t need four mirrors! It’s right there, in the top left quarter of my field of vision!
She sees it.
“Oh,” she says, “that’s a big one.”
“It looks like a bat.”
The bat, I’m told, is a glob of viscous goo that has separated from the retina in my left eye. It’s pretty normal, called “a floater,” and it’s not particularly dangerous—except for that moment of separation, which can tug and tear your retina. Apparently that was the light show in my far-left field of vision. Dr. Jill tells me things look good, but she doesn’t exactly look like it’s good. And when she tells me to come back in a week, and to call if ANYTHING changes, I’m thinking this could be OK but bears non-ignoring. No Thursday basketball this week.
I drive home, sunglasses on, in that hands-groping-through-the-windshield-trying-to-help way that I always drive while my eyes are dilated and I’m too stubborn to tell Virginia I could use a ride home (or even better, to work, 35 miles of physics-defying will). Thankfully, while it’s clear, it’s January, there’s only so much sun, and there’s no reflected light off snow.
So I’m driving home thinking how 18 months ago I basically had never had a “real” health issue in my life. Since then, three visits to the cardiac catheterization theater, three medicated stents—including two in my left anterior descending artery (the proverbial Widowmaker)—as well as a high ankle sprain and co-occurring stress fracture in my lower left leg, and now this damn bat flittering around in my left eye, which has been seeing less and less at night since last winter.
And—duh!—I’m forgetting the basal cell on my nose that was removed 4-5 years ago, with the surgeon suturing me up like stitching together a softball. So ONE health issue in previous 49 years.
Exasperated, I think, What’s left? And I lean on humor, and joke with my wife that I’m almost through the checkboxes. All that’s left is diabetes and sexual dysfunction.
It strikes me that one of life’s mysteries is finally coming into view: the mystery of older men and Viagra jokes, the source of so much of the humor of my dad and his contemporaries over the last third of their lives. I always wondered why so many jokes, told so often, despite the eye rolls and the sighs and the not-agains.
As I stare down and fight back against this creeping obsolescence—heck, this galloping obsolescence—I see the lure of and surrender in the blue-pill joke. The unease expressed in humor. The vulnerability in the repetition and preoccupation with the joke and its deeper truth: age softens us, in different ways. The finality, because, let’s face it, there is not much line left to let out from the great twine-ball of malady-based humor once you’re past the Viagra jokes. Cracks about low-salt diets, about adult diapers, about “Hafzheimers” and fading memories, about St. Peter and the Pearly Gates and what awaits you, and who’s going to miss and not miss you.
So I brush the floater from my attention and set my intention on getting back on the basketball court, and back on the trail, and on writing every day, and making mad, loud, passionate love on a schedule that’s something less than hourly and better than quarterly. And drinking less on weeknights—unless with friends. And cleaning this sloppy desk. And making mad, loud … damn it! I’m repeating myself. The Hafzheimers!
Anyway, so a man and his wife go to the pharmacist to pick up his prescription for Viagra. The man is shocked that it costs $10 per pill, but his wife says …
You’re right. I shouldn’t go there.
“$40 for the year doesn’t sound so bad.”
I’ll be here all year, folks.