Fixed and Dilated

As an avid lifetime reader, I’ve always harbored a fear of losing my sight. As I’ve aged, my vision has degraded and I eventually required glasses to correct for my impaired distance vision. Too many years spent staring at a computer screen has degraded my close up vision and now the only distance that is clear is about two to three feet away.

As I’ve visited with my eye doctor over the years, he has always checked the pressure in my eyes and discussed the inevitability of floaters. As part of his warnings, he has always cautioned me to seek immediate eye care if I ever experience flashes of light.

In early December I noticed an unaccustomed movement in the peripheral vision of my right eye, followed by a significant increase in the number of floaters in my eye. It got to the point it was like looking through a polka dot pattern. The little black dots overlaid everything, blurring my vision and setting off little warning bells in my head. Stubborn as I am, I did my best to ignore the symptoms until the evening of 13th of December when I started seeing flashes in my peripheral vision. That’s when I umm, is panicked too harsh a description?

I was referred to an eye surgeon and bright and early the next morning I was sitting in an examination chair. Over the next couple of hours I found out why interrogators use bright lights to soften up their detainees. An assistant dilated my eyes, took dozens of pictures of my eyes, and then the doctor started in with bright lights and magnifying glasses. It turns out the vitreous in my tired old eyes has started to shrink. I was experiencing a posterior vitreous detachment which resulted in a retinal tear.

I received laser surgery to “spot weld” around the retinal tear. From what I understand, the procedure creates tiny spots of scarring that serve to affix the retina back to the wall of the eye with the hoped for outcome that the tear won’t turn into a detachment. I left the surgeon’s office sporting a fashionable pair of light shielding, throw-away glasses. Not only was I styling, but the dark plastic hid my man-hole-cover sized pupils which had all but erased my irises.

The surgeon told me to watch for a marked increase in floaters, flashes of light, or a curtain effect drawing across my vision. Precisely one week later, I started experiencing flashes of light in my left eye. Another call to the eye surgeon resulted in dilation, pictures, and another totally uncomfortable examination. Yep, the vitreous in my left eye had detached but fortunately this time there were no tears produced in the process.

Once again, I staggered from the surgeon’s office with my disposable glasses obscuring my enormous black pupils. My beautiful bride drove me home, and fortunately we didn’t have an accident. I can only imagine what an emergency responder would have said had she/he flashed a feeble pen light in my eyes. “Pupils are fixed and dilated, looks like this one’s a goner. Too bad, he died with his stories still in’im.”

That’s not the way I want to go, or the epitaph I want to earn, so I guess I’d best get on with my storytelling. I can still see, I can still type, so as long as you keep reading my stories, I’ll keep writing them down.

When Most Needed But Least Expected

This mortal life can be challenging at times. All too often we ourselves, or those we love, face financial setbacks, lingering illness, injury, the passing of neighbors, friends, or family members. Piled atop the big life altering events, are the multitude of little irritants that tend to wear us down. Like the almost imperceptible but constant erosion of windblown sand beating against a granite mountain, or a jagged boulder that falls into a stream and after the passage of years finds itself reshaped into a smooth rounded stone.

Like most of us, I’ve experienced some of both in my life. Job losses that have changed the entire direction of my career and subsequent life. Broken bones, chronic illness, the loss of parents and siblings, dark days that have spanned years with little or no respite.

On the other hand, I’ve also experienced incredible miracles in my life. I once broke my leg jumping off a six foot shed. That experience provided perspective for the time I fell off a twenty foot haystack and landed in the manger below. I woke to find the top of my head all but touching the wooden poles of the manger, a five inch length of steel spike sticking out of a post on one side of my head and a large stone on the other side. Somehow my head landed between the three hazards, any one of which could have snuffed out my life or left me paralyzed. I walked away from that fall shaken, but otherwise unhurt. That was just one of perhaps a dozen times in my life that I’ve passed through experiences that should have left me maimed or dead, but instead left me essentially unscathed.

I’ve also experienced miracles in nature. One Sunday in late summer, while sitting in church, a severe hailstorm descended. The din of the hail pounding on the roof completely drowned out the message from the pulpit. Upon leaving the church, I found two to three inches of marble size hailstones covering the ground. For context, the wheat was nearly ripe in the fields, and the potato rows were closed over and the vines were in blossom. Driving home, everywhere we looked the trees stood almost bare, their leaves shredded and lying scattered on the ground. The potato vines were crushed flat in the sea of mud that hours before had been lush green fields. Surprisingly, the wheat was still standing, but I was certain there wasn’t a single kernel of grain left anywhere among the fields of drooping heads. As the season progressed, residents in the path of the hailstorm had a bounteous harvest of both grain and potatoes from the fields, and produce from our gardens. I can’t explain what happened, but the events of that summer left a lasting impression on me.

This brings me to what is often the least noticed, but perhaps the most important miracles of all. I believe in angels, both those who dwell in the presence of our heavenly Father, as well as those who are currently disguised as mortals, living as our neighbors and friends. One such angel paid me a visit yesterday.

At the moment, I’m recovering from nearly a week of illness, my book sales are less than satisfactory, and my advertising efforts have been all but a total loss. My most recent book review sported a three star rating and called my writing “tedious” while challenging both the premise and the execution of the story. Needless to say, I’ve been struggling with my attitude and perspective.

The doorbell rang yesterday afternoon and my wife called me to the door. Our neighbor was returning a copy of From Out of Nowhere that I’d sent home with her husband. She’d come to purchase her own complete set of the books in the Chet series. She expressed how much she had enjoyed the novella, and I smiled and thanked her for her purchase as I autographed her books. As she left our home, she turned back to my wife and me and said she’d put a note in with the copy I’d loaned her.

As I read her comments, one in particular stood out to me. She said, “The telling of Jason’s passing, with his Grandfather there to assist and guide him, is both heart-wrenching and uplifting. It is a comforting gift to your readers, especially to me.”

Of necessity, writing is a business. Selling my published works is the only way I have to provide a living for my family and to recover the investment I’ve made to produce my books. That being said, the real motivation for what I do is the hope that what I write will be read, and that in some way what I have written will have a positive effect in the life of my readers.

Yesterday, when it was least expected but so desperately needed, I was given a gift. It was a much needed miracle, a tender mercy from a loving heavenly Father, delivered by one of his mortal angels. I’m grateful … thanks Lenea.

Until next time, may we each have eyes that see and hearts that recognize the miracles that abound in our lives, and may we be ever grateful.