I had my annual eye appointment on Friday. I still visit the Central Pennsylvania eye doctor I've had for decades, simply because I trust her. The exam is only once a year, so I'd prefer to make the trip and see someone I trust.
This was the year I had to have my eyes dilated, so she could look inside my eye and check on the condition. I have a number of floaters in my left eye.
It's a condition called surface wrinkling retinopathy or macular pucker. Basically, it's a wrinkling of the retina caused by a thin scar tissue on the surface of the macula. It's generally caused by aging and is typically seen in much older patients, but it can also be caused by a severe blow to the head or eye. In my case, the doctors aren't certain what caused it, but I first noticed it eight years ago, a day or two after the Luser hit me in the face right next to my eye, knocking off my glasses, the night I kicked him out of my apartment and out of my life.
Fortunately, my visual disturbance is minimal. There's a dark crescent "floater" in my left eye that I rarely notice unless I stare at something white for awhile. And there is some blurriness that I never notice until I do the annual eye tests. Both of my eyes are corrected to 20/20 with my current prescription.
I wonder sometimes what sort of visual disturbances boxers might experience after years of taking blows to the head.
Thursday afternoon I drove to Central Pennsylvania so that I could do my evening work from my dad's place and be up bright and early for the appointment Friday morning. On the way, I stopped at the new Allentown travel plaza on I-476, which has been expanded to include a large court area for people to sit and eat their food. They've also expanded the restroom facilities.
On Friday morning, Dad dropped me off at the doctor's office. I went through the procedure of updating the medical forms. This was the first time in several years I'd had an insurance card to give them, but I told them I wasn't even sure it was still valid, since my husband, The Gryphon, was laid off from work two months ago. They said they'd run it anyway and see if insurance would pay.
I was bemused to discover my weight was exactly the same as when I'd updated it last year. At least I'm maintaining, if not losing those last 10 pounds.
When the doctor came in to talk to me, after an initial round of eye drops, I spoke to her about the possibility of making my contacts more comfortable. We'd discussed it briefly last year, and she'd said there might be more options. Because of my dry eyes, she knew she couldn't move me to soft lenses, but she opted to do another test to see if that condition had worsened. The last time they performed that test was 20 years ago. According to the results, my dry eyes had had worsened, and she said I was lucky I could wear contacts at all. In truth, I don't wear them much anymore, because they're uncomfortable.
She recommended a number of treatment options. One was an in-office procedure to place silicon plugs in my tear ducts. I wasn't really excited about that one, at least not until we'd tried other options. The second option was the prescription drug Restasis, which is rather expensive. Given our uncertain insurance status, I didn't want to become a new expense, especially not one I consider optional. I don't need to wear contacts, after all. I just want to.
The third option was to start several over-the-counter remedies. Mainly, I can take 1200 mg of fish oil (yum!) every day, as well as cold compresses on my eyes in the morning and hot compresses at night. I would apply artificial tears, available over-the-counter, four times a day.
Despite childhood memories of castor oil, I felt this last remedy was the most appealing option. As I would soon discover, fish oil is now available in gel capsules, which is far more pleasant to consume.
The doctor looked inside my eye and discovered it was stable. In addition, my prescription remained unchanged. So I was given the green light to go. She told me to have the optical shop, which is attached to the medical office, polish my contact lenses for me to remove some build-up.
Several people were ahead of me, most of them elderly. It's always been that way: I'm the youngest one in the office. Most of them are, no doubt, coping with problems precipitated by age. I suppose many young people get their prescription glasses from places like Pearl Vision, in order to save a buck. But even before I had my current condition, I always felt more comfortable with a real professional. It just so happens they have a nice optical shop, as well, and I've never had trouble finding glasses I liked.
Now came the fun part. I had brought with me a pair of large sunglasses which I figured could fit over my glasses (I'd removed the contacts as soon as they'd checked the fit). While I was quite comfortable inside — although it did seem as if someone had turned the lights up — as soon as I walked outside, I felt like a vampire.
I'd thought ahead and, that morning, dialed the number of a local taxi company to ask them if they could pick me up after their appointment. The Gryphon had helped me find the number weeks ago, and I'd kept it in my wallet ever since. Oddly enough, I found that I could read my cell phone better if I took my glasses off and held the phone close to my face. Such is the reality of having your eyes dilated. In addition to extreme sensitivity to light, you have trouble focusing. It looks a little like this.
I told the taxi where I was and where I needed go and then waited. It took so long I began to wonder if they'd forgotten me. I snapped a couple pics with my cell phone while I was waiting. The overblown sky is a lot like what I was seeing.
After the cabbie picked me up, I got an idea of why it might have taken so long. He fielded a call from the dispatcher, sending him to pick up a fare, after me, in a neighboring town about 25 minutes away. They are the only taxi service operating in that rural area, so I imagine it can often be quite a distance between fares.
The taxi driver was a big guy in a plaid shirt and baseball hat. He looked like he'd be just as comfortable riding a tractor or behind the wheel of a semi truck. He told me I could sit in the front seat. The car smelled faintly of cigarettes.
As we drove, I started babbling, which is always risky in my hometown. People tend to be taciturn there. Not so bad as Minnesota, mind you, but near it. I mentioned that it had taken us a while to find a cab company, because the ones I'd known about didn't exist anymore, having gone under since I moved.
So I spoke with him about the area and where I grew up. He'd lived in the next community over, a place where I used to like to ride my bike on a sunny day. His last name was the same as someone from my high school class. I mentioned him and he said, "He's my cousin."
Many people in this area are related and have lived here for generations. My family was not one of them. I'd always felt a little like an outsider until about a decade ago until I worked there at a small newspaper. I really got to know the community better.
I will say, though, after living in Philly, when I return to where I grew up, it's always hard to take the first mullet. For instance, the clerk at the convenience score, who has one down to her waist. At first, you stare, open-mouthed, while the person is talking earnestly. You have to control yourself or they'd all think you were a looney.
I'd been up really late the night before, because I just couldn't get my mind to quiet down, worrying about my eye exam. When the taxi dropped me off, the first thing I did was take a nap for about an hour and a half.
When I awoke, I called The Gryphon and filled him in. We talked for about an hour, until my cell-phone battery died. By that point, when I looked out the window, the light wasn't so painful. I put on some shoes and walked outside to see what I could see. It didn't seem bad, with sunglasses, so since I still couldn't really focus enough to read, I walked our doggie, Una.
No! The sun!
We took a nice walk around the neighborhood, and I snapped pictures, mostly of flowers. First, I tried an experiment where I was going to take two pictures of everything, with one over-exposed to represent how I was seeing. But that experiment didn't last long, because it was time consuming to keep changing settings. Plus, I wasn't sure I wanted a lot of over-exposed pictures, really.
Una and I saw plenty of interesting things. Here are a few.
Salvashun Rmy cat makez gud sign!
Window bunnies long for freedom.
Pretty bleeding hearts
A magnolia, maybe?
Una having a great time in the sun, without sunglasses
I took lot of pics during our walk, so I'll try to share more later this week.
That evening, I'd taken off work, so I got to spend some time with Dad. We stopped over at Mom's first to say hi and so she could give me some things she had for me. Then we went out to dinner at an Irish pub. When I'd lived there, it had been a nice sit-down restaurant, attached to a bar frequented by students at the local university. They used to have terrible service.
Now, under new ownership, service was great. We enjoyed ourselves. I also appreciated the sense of humor, such as a small door near the main entrance, labeled the leprechaun entrance.
At a nearby table were a number of young people who looked like they were in their late 20s. Several of them had small children. I surmised that they were alumni of the local college, back for alumni weekend. They were catching up on old times, talking about somebody they'd seen that afternoon. No one could remember his name, just that he was a nice guy. They also spoke about another woman, whom they were surprised had spoken to them, since she always used to be kind of mean to them.
One of the women, who was very pregnant and drinking an O'Doul's, said she didn't have a lot of memories from college because she'd been so drunk all the time. The woman across the table gave her a significant look and said, "I have memories."
That's the sort of drinking I could never understand. What's the purpose of going out and having a good time if you don't remember it later? Not that my friends didn't drink in college. Drinking was OK; drinking to excess was not. In fact, we found it annoying when somebody did, because someone had to play babysitter for the rest of the evening, making sure they drank water and didn't pass out or throw up on themselves. Not a fun duty.
After the Irish pub, I did a little mental math of what I'd eaten that day and determined I could afford to splurge. I asked Dad if he'd like to get some ice cream from our favorite ice cream shop. They'd moved to a nearby town, where I hadn't been before. It was a cute little shop, painted white and decorated inside and out with vintage advertisements, mostly for Coca-Cola, as well as vintage soda machines and gas pumps. This made sense because the ice-cream shop was in a former gas station.
I found the memorabilia fascinating and snapped a few pics.
I had a dish of the only sugar-free option, a flavor called, I believe, Peanut Butter Heaven. I'd forgotten how large their "small" size is. If I went back with The Gryphon, I'd suggest sharing a small. Can't imagine what a large is like!
Dad and I sat at a table and enjoyed our ice cream, while discussing the decor. Then we went back to his place and watched a movie I'd rented from Blockbuster.com, Frida. We both appreciated it, having just seen an exhiti on Frida Kahlo's live and art. It was amazing to watch it play out in front of our eyes. The visual style was incredible, the way the filmmakers brought her paintings, literally, to life. We also both loved Salma Hayek's acting, which helped us understand something that had been hard to grasp when we visited the exhibition: why Frida stayed with her philandering husband, muralist Diego Rivera.
Whether you already know Frida's work or whether you know very little, it's a movie well worth seeing.
Sunglasses are mandatory after you get your eyes dilated.