Monday, 24 August 2015

What can you see coming?

When I tripped and fell over some weeks ago, the lens of my glasses of my better eye was badly scratched. In the process of getting the glasses fixed, I had another eye examination. The optometrist said that the cataract on my bad eye really should be removed, and he wrote me out a referral to a specialist.

The prospect of having cataract surgery freaks me out. As a young child, I had surgery on my left eye, to correct its habit of wandering all over the place. I have never had normal vision, and, as far as I can tell, the effect of the surgery was probably cosmetic. The brain pattern must have been fixed, with each eye seeing separately, and never in a unified image.

The surgery was done when I was about six. Hospitals all those years ago were not family friendly, and family visits were few. My eyes were bandaged, and I had no idea what was going on. All I could do was to call for someone to come. I think I was in hospital for perhaps ten days, with a painful eye and much boredom. Once home, I did not wear glasses, and in early adulthood developed short-sightedness. Now the time has come to have another go at improving my sight.

Quite simply, I am traumatised and terrified. Evidently the trauma of the surgery is lurking inside me, waiting for anything to awaken it. The mere thought of needles and knives being used on my eyes, even if I am anaesthetised, makes me cry. People - doctors, nurses, and those who have had the surgery assure me that it is not too bad. It makes no difference to me. I remain terrified.

I talked to my GP about it, and have been to see the specialist. During the tests, the measurements and the consultation, I wept and wept. I wept all the way home and all throughout the night. The GP prescribed some tranquillisers, which I am using, and they do help. But I weep in the twinkling of an eye and the tears are lurking. I have had a lot of surgery in my life, mostly for very serious conditions, and none has given me this sort of trauma. This is different.

One of my sisters recommended counselling. She has not listened to me. Her 'solution' is not the one for me. I know what counselling can do to help, having had plenty during various crises of my life such as divorce, step-parenting and bereavement. This trauma is different. I resent her insensitivity and failure to listen to me. It made me very angry. That anger needs to be put aside.

Now that I have made the decision to have the surgery, I will do my best to be rational, to try to be calm, and to concentrate on the things and people who can truly help. After this ordeal, better sight should result. So it is worth doing, and I must bear it, and receive and appreciate the amazing technology and skills that will improve my sight. To those who will help me through this ordeal, that is, my children and friends, I give my grateful thanks and appreciation, and pots of quince jelly and cumquat marmalade.

There will be two separate operations, a week apart. Except from the cataracts, the eyes are healthy.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Warding off brain rot

Recently I re-read some of my old blog posts, going back quite a few years. There are accounts of my travels, and of my life with Dr P, his decline and his death, and all the things that had to be done and coped with in the aftermath. Life is simpler now, but lonelier. And in many ways it feels as though my life has contracted, and that I am becoming? have become? a less interesting person. Although, how does one judge how interesting you are?

This all made me think of that common remark sometimes appended to school reports. Must try harder, a useful catch-all summary.

OK, so I will try harder. And I do try.

There ar lots of things that I continue to do, and to enjoy. Singing, crocheting, music, reading and learning. And I make jam - too much jam, but it is a satisfying thing to do. the quince season has ended and there are many jars in the pantry. Last week I found some cumquats at the market, so I made cumquat marmalade. This is the best marmalade you could ever taste.  However, I suspect that I did not soak the fruit for long enough before cooking it, so perhaps I should not give jars away until I have either reassured myself - or what? It is probably edible.

There are papers to get in order, and bad habits of letting papers accumulate into a distressingly confused and confusing set of inchoate heaps. Yesterday I spent several hours sorting out all the material from the Italian classes. In one of the classes we students took it in turns to write an article. There they all were, higgledy-piggledy. They are now sorted, although what remains to be done, for my own essays, is to write in all the corrections, so that I have a perfect copy. (But I won't throw out the copies with all the mistakes.)

This particular set of tidying came about because the topic of the city of Matera came up, at my Italian class. Our teacher has returned from his Grand Tour, and he described his visit to Matera. And indeed, it is an unforgettable city, where the poor lived in caverns cut out of the rocks, and where they had to work for hours to get to their work in the fields, and had to leave their children alone all days. So they drugged them.

Now, if I were a novelist, I would have cunningly adopted a strategy of working backwards, but instead of such a meaningful and pre-decided strategy,my increasingly haphazard mind is doing quite a lot of butterfly-like flitting.

In a couple of months I am travelling to France and Spain, and I enrolled in an intensive French course. It is 50 years since I did any French, and, unsurprisingly, I was the worst in the class. There is, however, some French somewhere in my brain, and who knows what might pop out if put to the test.

I studied Spanish several years ago, and found it very interesting and appealing. As the knowledge is now well below the surface,  I enrolled in a Spanish class. This clashed with the Italian class I have been attending for many years. Never mind, I though, I will return to Italian next year.

When I arrived last Thursday, half an hour before the Spanish class was due to start, I tried to find its allocated room.  As I stood wondering whether anyone was going to turn up, the lift door opened, and out stepped my oldest stepdaughter. There has been absolutely no contact between the stepdaughters and me since the legal settlement was reached more than three years ago.

We said Hello, but nothing more. I felt very churned up. It makes you wonder about chance - how in such a large city we could encounter each other accidentally like this. I keep seeing her face. And I wonder how her sons are. I was fond of them, and of Dr P's other grandchildren. All the past history is running through my mind. I wish it would not.

I went downstairs to find out where the class was. Oh, the receptionist said, that class was cancelled.
Oh, I said, Nobody told me.

We enrolled you in another class, on Tuesdays. Oh, I said, nobody told me. So, of course, I had missed the first class.

The good thing is that I can continue in my Italian class. It is one of the joys in my life.

Perhaps Esperanto was devised to cope with this sort of concatenation of events?