Laying on the table. I am given a ball to squeeze. My eye is clamped open. I feel the pressure on the eyeball. I squeeze the ball as hard as I can. The pressure is almost too much. But to be able to see clearly, I will do anything.
Reminders of the past:
- Waking up and not being able to see
- Qualifying on the rifle in Basic Training. I did not want to wear the army prescribed glasses, so I wore my contacts without anybody knowing. I got pink eye in both eyes the week we were supposed to qualify. I had no glasses, so I shoved my contacts into my swollen, infected eyes. I kept them closed as much as I could. On the range, nearly blind, I opened my eyes at the sound of the other guns and the targets popping up.
- Glasses at the age of seven. Hated them. Playing sports with the goggles. All about how I thought others perceived me.
- When I moved in with my grandmother at eleven, I stopped wearing them. For the next two years, I walked around blind. I looked horrible because I couldn’t see.
- Perception was all about not looking bad. But I couldn’t see so I had to do the best I could.
- And then the big reminder, the…
Two friends talked about going up the hill at the construction site. They asked me if I wanted to go. I said yes.
I wasn’t supposed to be on the bike, but I went anyway.
I saw the hill from a distance. In my excitement I wanted to be the first to go over it. My friends stop, but I didn’t pay them any attention. I went over.
Time stopped. Somewhere in the far regions of my mind, I heard sirens. They were distant and threatened to shake me from this wonderful dream of nothingness. I could feel a disturbance in my body. An outside force was shaking me. When I reluctantly opened my eyes, I saw a large pair of scissors cutting away my clothes. Firefighters and paramedics were gathered over my body. What happened?
I was loaded into an ambulance and rushed off to the hospital. Still, I had no idea what happened?
I was transferred to a cold, metal table. How long I lay there, I don’t know. All perception of time was gone. A nurse walked in, her wrinkled face staring down at me. She asked me questions, what they were I don’t remember. I asked her a question. “What happened?” I could see the tears in her eyes. She said, “Son, you tried to fly, but you had no wings.”
It turns out half of the hill at the construction site was cut away. I went over a fifty-foot cliff to what should have been my death.
As I lay on that table, I got scared. I couldn’t move. Am I paralyzed? This was trouble. I knew I was in trouble. I should not have been on that motorcycle. A petty thought ran through my mind. I wanted to ask the nurse if she could unroll the bottom of my jeans. I would do it, but I couldn’t move. My dad hated that and if he found out, he would be furious. This was what I was thinking on one of the most impactful days of my life. This was how skewed my vision was, not only in my two seeing eyes, but in that third eye of my mind. I was focusing on the wrong things.
Seven hours of testing. The nurses rolled me up and down the hallways. They asked me math questions to see if I could answer them. They talked about Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was one of the newest shows on television and even featured a blind guy who used electronic glasses to see. Oh, what I would have given for those glasses.
It was after midnight when I finally made it to my hospital room. The room was dark. I was tired. I knew I was in trouble, but still I wanted my parents. In the corner, in the shadows of an already dark room, sat my father. I was startled when I noticed him but also relieved. Here was my father, my shelter in my time of need. Here was my father, my nightmare. Like a monster he came out of the corner, yelling, throwing things at me. He was furious. “How could I do this to him,” he yelled at me. I don’t know how long the tirade went on. It could have been only a few minutes. But it felt like a lifetime.
That summer I went to convalesce at my mom’s house. Those two months went by way too quickly, and I went back to my dad’s house to start my eighth grade.
The next six months were the most miserable of my life. I woke up, went to school, came home, ate dinner, and went to bed. I had no friends, no one to talk to, except myself. After a few lame, failed attempts at suicide I finally ran away. Eventually, I made it back to my mother’s house.
Over the next thirty years, I saw my father only a handful of times. I moved on and didn’t want anything to do with him. Secretly, I hated him. Any problems I had, no matter what the cause, I blamed him. Even the chronic pain in my neck and back was his fault. Social, psychological, and physical, all him.
Finally able to see
My eyes are checked after the Lasik surgery. I can see clearly. In the next few days as I heal, the blurriness at the edge of my vision goes away. Everything is clear. And as I look on this world with what seems like a new set of eyes, I realize that so much is different. My perception no longer remains the same.
As my physical vision improves, so does the vision of my mind’s eye. Looking back on my past inability to see, I realize there was so much I missed. Instead of seeing what was, I only saw what I dimly perceived and that from my own perspective. Maybe my dad didn’t go about it the best of ways, but he did not take out that motorcycle on that day. I did. He didn’t drive over the cliff. I did. My pain is not his but mine. I own it, just like I should have owned every decision I ever made. For over thirty years, I tried to shift the blame to him. But it wasn’t until I could see clearly that I realized that I was the root cause for all my problems.
Feature photo by J. E. Schoondergang on Unsplash