Archive for April, 2008

The Operation…

April 27, 2008

The operation is behind me. Now, I sport a swollen eye, itchy from the minuscule French Knots which secure the newly carved punctures placed at ten oclock and two-oclock in the white area of my eyeball. Rumpole, bless his little red socks, is doing all the leaning and bending I am not allowed to do right now and being his courtly and endearingly attentive self. However, being courtly and attentive does not preclude him chiding me and bossing me around; this he seems to relish. Martha has been supplying us with a variety of culinary masterpieces – home-made bread, impossibly delicious soups, tempting desserts. Lucky has come to cast her professional nurse’s eye on my newly acquired wound, but she does this subtly, without giving rise to anxiety on my part. She has been encouraging and has said that compared to last April and May’s operation disasters, this recuperation seems to be progressing without hitch so far.

Dr. Seemore, who is Dr. Blindside’s replacement, had earlier asked if I wanted to undergo this operation under local, rather than general anaesthetic. I opted for the local, this time. I wanted to be in the know as to who was performing the surgery, and what exactly went on during the hour or so it took. Dr. Blindside had put me under for all three of the operations he had performed last year, and in pre-op he had introduced different Opthalimic Surgical Residents who would also have a go at my eye during the procedures. This didn’t exactly fill me with reassurance minutes prior to being given the nectar of Lethe.

Dr. Seemore introduced Dr. Sandman to me in the pre-op room on Friday morning. He had rather Puckish ears poking out from under his surgical cap, a dry British wit, and enough miles on him visible to reassure that he knew what he was doing. He slipped in the intravenous needle into the top of my hand with deft economy, told me he was giving me rations of salt water for the operation’s duration, stuck the heart monitor electrodes into place and clipped me into the hospital shroud with well-practiced motions.

“Relax,” said he, tapping me on the shoulder. “You’ll be able to hear what’s going on. If you need more sauce for pain, make a noise.”

Dr. Seemore adjusted my head to the angle he wanted it to be. Surprisingly, he didn’t immobilize my head with straps. this was something I had expected, little realizing that whatever relaxant Dr. Sandman had administered cause a lassitude that would allow any sorts of procedures, including plucking the eyeball out of the head if the surgeon so felt inclined, to be performed, with the complete willing participation of the one operated upon.

It was rather interesting to be able to see the probes in the field of vision; to hear Dr. Seemore order one instrument after another; to follow his directions for the room light to be dimmed, for the operating lights to be calibrated for brightness; and for his orders to have the laser activated. Every, so often, the blood-pressure cuff wrapped around my right arm would constrict, puff off, cut off circulation and then let go with a sigh and a short mechanical ping. My hands, clenched on my chest, started to go numb. I could feel my neck muscles seize with tension. My feet were dull bricks at the other end of my body, but I declined to keep tempo with the awful 70’s Soft Rock that played in the background. That much hated tune of “You are so Beautiful to me…”, for some reason assaulted my ears with its cheesiness. Billy Joel crooned. Carol King warbled, and Oh No!!! Please No!!!, not John Denver. However I was too out of it to gag! Had we inadvertently slipped back to a serious 70’s time warp, with long-sideburned medical professionals swathed in fitted polyester floral scrubs and platform-soled white shoes? Dr. Seemore and Dr. Sandman were of the same vintage as me, early sixties of age, and wrapped the operating room in an aural atmosphere of nostalgia that would be better forgotten.

I wanted the operation to end, if not to put merciful conclusion to the execrable music. The light show in the eye operated upon was somewhat more reminiscent of the light shows in concerts. You know, the kind where coloured inks poured into oil were projected on the large screen behind psychedelic musicicians. However, Soft Rock was all wrong.

At one point, Dr. Seemore adjusted the angle of my head. For all I cared, he could have severed it from my neck. But that Music! That gave me problems during the operation!

“We’re done.” announced Dr Seemore, patting my shoulder. ” I’ll see you in the recovery room in a few minutes.”

Dr. Sandman unconnected the blood-pressure cuff and the heart monitor clip from my forefinger. He pulled the I.V. needle and had me put pressure on top of its site and wheeled me back into the pre-op holding room. The kindly nurse brought a cup of welcome apple juice and watched me sit up, swing my legs over the gurney’s edge and sip away. Dr. Seemore emerged from the O.R., looking decidedly ordinary in his blue scrubs, nary a floral pattern in sight on his costume, no long sideburns, no platform-soled shoes. He looked just like his ordinary, reassuring self. What a relief!

“We didn’t put the lens in. Scar tissue was extensive and was pulling on the retina. So I removed it and put oil into the globe to help seat the retina. In six weeks, I’ll remove that in another operation and then give you the new lens.” He took pains to explain these specifics and warned me to not bend down while healing and to keep my head back for the next couple of weeks. “I’ll see you tomorrow at seven A.M. in my office.”

The Pre-op Nurse chased me off to get dressed. On the way to the changing area, a man waiting for his operation commented “You seem pretty chipper. I hope I feel like that too when I come out.”

I dressed and sat waiting for Rumpole to come back to pick me up. The nurse covered me with a warm blanket and I watched the next patient being wheeled into the O.R. Soon, the pneumatic door hissed open, and there was Rumpole, looking ever so natty carrying my large black purse. No coffee in his hand though. I would cheerfully have killed for a cup of good Joe.

“Coffee!” I croaked piteously. “Please, get me to some coffee!”

Rumpole, obliging as ever, complied and whisked me out of the hospital to partake of that marvellous substance. And so we got through the operation.

Today, as I sit here typing away, every so often I shut my good eye and try to assess what change there is to the bad one. Amazingly, I can see shapes much more crisp than before. Colours are more clear, less hazy. This operation seems to be successful so far and I am much encouraged.


April 24, 2008

A person doing scuba diving is equipped with oxygen tanks which limit the amount of time one can safely stay alive underwater. That is a form of rationing; only a fool tries to go beyond the limits provided by the existing oxygen tanks.

In many parts of the world, but not where I live, people consume rations of food-stuffs. Some rations fall short of maintaining people’s health and well being. Meanwhile, where I live, the most exotic foods are readily available to people of average means. Variety of food is naturally rationed by seasonal availability, by the commonplace transport of foods from all over the world, and cost.

All of a sudden, news has arrived that Costco is limiting the amount of rice that can be purchased by individuals and small businesses. The reality that finally we may have to pay “actual” cost for food – the cost of transpost, storage, middlemen, producers – unleashes the first signs of panic in our carefully orchestrated  unreal reality, our waking dream life. No, I have not made my way to Costco to pick up several bags of Basmati, or brown rice to stockpile in our spare bedroom as a hedge toward scarcity.

I remember walking out with my Mother as a young child and waiting in line for the family ration of rice, which had to be taken in a pillow-case, and once brought home we spread out on the kitchen table to take out the chaff, gravel, and other components of the ration. Flour was rationed; as were sugar; coffee; beans and lentils. We live; we thrived; we played; we bemoaned the shortage of fresh fruit and vegs; we worked. Seasonal offerings were cause for joy and celebration. Living meant labour – daily doings which helped sustain us, offered us amusement and distractions from the rigours of living.

In comparison, my life has been one of almost unremitting ease and, yes, luxury. A suburban woman, I don’t perform one quarter of my mother’s labours. Yet I don’t view her life from the heights of condescension – she certainly didn’t lack in appreciation of the “refinements” of life; her tastes were not less sophisticated nor more pedestrian than my own – her ease, appetites, opportunities, ambitions  and labours were rationed in a balanced way.

I think it is high time to consider rationing my activities, appetites and expectations. Just enough, and no more, will most likely be a pleasing way to live.

The Blind… leading the Seeing…

April 14, 2008

I feel like a dishonest fake, these days. You see, I am still taking painting students weekly, and groping my way through lessons. There is something odd about a teacher of painting who gropes around changing eyeglasses in the middle of intensely gazing out of filmy vision at sections and passages in someone else’s paintings. There must be some worry on the part of students, when I say to them “Get up and give me your paintbrush… this is how to charge your brush, how to scumble, make a clear edge… or this passage doesn’t quite fit, because of….”, grab their brush and proceed to make guess-like stabs in the proximity of their canvas surface. So far, either they have been exceedingly patient, polite and kind in not refusing me to allow access to their materials and have not refused. Or, I am truly and unnervingly pushy with them. I’m waiting for the first “I’m not letting you do that.. to my precious…get the Hell back!!!”

Every so often during sessions, Rumpole emerges from the living room, slouches at the studio door-way and good-naturedly prods “Are you going to take that from HER?” At times like that I cannot help myself and succumb to Annoyed Bitch Mode and turn his mantra of “I do Law; you do house!” into “I do Art; you get lost and mind your business.” After students pick themselves off the floor, madly giggling at this exchange, for some reason they resume their labours, uncomplaining. I resume squinting while juggling pairs of glasses and pretend I can see what I am supposed to see.

So, occupying myself during this process, close to hand, closer than three feet away, I get to note how students go about mixing paint, adjusting to leanness and fatness, systematize their efforts to good end, adjust paint viscosity and brush loading.

What I have noted is that Lucky keeps a chaotic pallette, despite my cautions to the contrary. I bet as an OR nurse she keeps a tight ship of equipment and procedures – so, why the gay abandon of undisciplined material use while painting? She has a lovely looseness to her painting, and she is starting to watch how paintbrushes can make clear and soft edges. She loves colour and pattern, but she is hell on her equipment. She has lost more paintbrushes to improper cleaning than I ever though possible. And that after my riding her ass mercilessly at cleanup time to do a thorough job. “Yes, Mother, my Fuehrerin!” she says in mock apology as I kvetch and carp about her careless slovenly attitude toward her tools. I gotta work on her. What, is she and her family made out of money? Aha! That’s something to mention tonight when she comes for her painting class.

Barb, on the other hand is tidy, methodical and plans ahead. No rude surprises for this gal. Control!!! She is one to give skilled trompe l’oeil painters a run for their money. I swear she knows exactly how many hairs each of her paintbrushes have and how to deploy them. She is sensitive to paint consistency and her pallette looks like an experimentalists careful one. Man, I’d love to loosen her up. But then, I am reminded that we each have our personal tendencies and peccadilloes – our own way we are meant to work. Still, I can’t help but bug her. “Why use a large paintbrush to efficiently cover large space, when a tiny one will make a more satisfactory and laborious work for you,” I’m wont to needling her.

Still, as the blind leading the seeing, I am learning a hellofalot about individuality, human nature, my blind spots and preconceptions. I value greatly what my experiences in the studio with Lucky and Barb have brought to me. Perhaps, when I gain more eyesight back I can give them greater value as a teacher. I hope so!

Maybe a resolution…

April 12, 2008

Upon the advice of numerous friends, several of whom are health-care professional, I have fired Dr. Blindside after an unsuccessful effort to have him explain to me in detail about further eye operations he was planning for me last November. The new retinal surgeon I have been seeing since December has been candid and to the point as to how much he might be able to do for me to restore some vision to my left eye and what needed to be done. His manner with me is good. He has not treated me like some fluffy little old lady who could be satisfied with blandishments and false-reassurances. He answers question I have had, not with the off-hand, ‘don’t you worry, nice little woman, we’ll fix you right up’ or surprised reaction to very specificqueries about treatment and prognosis by Dr. Blindside, but with straight-forward, detailed and patient answers which have given me much more confidence to undergo the knife, yet again.

So, the operation is to happen on April 25 – soon, now. There have been numerous tests up to now, and good follow-up with information about those tests. The date for the operation was set for a specific time, not on an on-call basis depending on cancellations, as was the custom with Dr. Blindside. We can actually plan our lives and doings based on a firm operation date. Rumpole has booked off the day to see me through the operation.

It has been exactly a year since the first of the eye operations. Now, finally, there may be some sort of resolution to the question of how much vision may be improved for me. Even the slightest improvement will be a gift. Right now, my sight is so poor that even watching television, movies or a video is a drag. I have to sit about 3 feet from the screen. I have become house-bound as I feel vulnerable in the outside world where unpredictability reigns. The Spring sights, which previously never failed to thrill me, lack in specificity of detail which increases visual pleasure. I miss drawing and painting, wandering around and looking about. And am cautiously anticipating a small promise of even slight return of my previous freedoms, occupations and pleasures.

Equus in Agrum Est…

April 7, 2008

What a sentence – “the horse is in the field.”

Does it imply a horse-inhabited landscape

of fields rolling,

pocked with wild-flowers, a crop,

as far as the eye can see?

Does it suggest a legion of soldiers

marching by with their kits,

a simple farm-boy among them

who gazes on the browsing horse

with longing for his homestead?

Does it foretell of a scene

where an unmanned horse nuzzles

fallen men, strewn in the casual,

splayed, abandon of the dead?

Does it intimate that a horse is

 a guileless companion to man,

a witness to all that takes place

in fields everywhere?

GM 2004