An Unblinding Light

Oprah is smiling at me from the magazine rack across the waiting room at Barnes Retina Institute in St. Louis.* With her arms flung wide, her body slightly bent at the waist, she looks ready to laugh with her whole body. I stare at her for awhile, wanting to be in on the joke. When she becomes blurry, I will know that the eye drops the technician put in several minutes ago have taken effect.

Maybe if they dilate soon, we can get this over with quickly. It’s my sixth surgery to correct diabetic retinopathy, but I am not used to this procedure. I can’t shake the anxiety of waiting. I close my eyes to help speed the process of opening my pupils wide so the doctor can shine his bright light into them and cauterize the swollen, leaking blood vessels behind the retina and prevent any potential vision loss.

“I’ve had about 67 of these surgeries,” an older man’s voice invades my thoughts. Sitting behind me, he tells his friend about his struggles with diabetes. “I just can’t get it under control,” he says.

I try to remember when was the last time I monitored my blood sugar…and did I remember to take my medicine today? What about that donut I had last night? “I’m killing myself from the inside,” I chide myself. “God, don’t let me go blind,” I almost whisper. I shift in my seat, check my watch and survey the overflowing waiting room. It’s going to be a long afternoon.

The waiting room is nearly empty when my name is finally called. I follow another technician to a smaller room with a lot of strange equipment that has begun to at least look familiar. The doctor greets me kindly, if not warmly. His name is Dr. Blinder. Even in my anxiety, I always want to tease him in a voice reserved for close friends, “so, Dr. Blinder, anybody give you a hard time about your name?”

But he doesn’t invite such familiarity. Soft-spoken and reserved, he looks like he takes his job way too seriously. Today, though, I’m glad he does, so I decide again not to broach the subject.
More eye drops go in, these to numb my eyes. The doctor adjusts the chin rest so that if I lean forward a bit, I can rest my head in front of his machine almost comfortably. The technician fastens a cloth band around the back of my head, “just to remind you to keep your chin down during the procedure,” she says.

During a series of equipment adjustments and murmured communication between doctor and assistant, my heart begins to beat faster…almost imperceptibly at first. “Breathe,” I tell myself as the doctor puts a sort of monocle in my left eye to keep it open. “Don’t forget to breathe.”
It’s a brief warning before the flashes of light begin The intense white light seems to bore through my pupil and into my body. My toes curl and lift my heels off the ground. My fingers clench around the armrests. I concentrate on my breathing again to suppress the scream welling up in my chest.

“Just breathe,” I urge myself as the laser flashes over and over. “In…out; again, in…out.”

“Try to keep your right eye open,” he says gently. But it is almost impossible, as it tightens defensively against the tortuous light. Twice before, my opposite eye squeezed so tightly, the monocle popped out.

It seems like an eternity, but it couldn’t be more than fifteen minutes before the doctor turns off the light, moves his machine back and says, “OK, all done. You did great.”

Unstrapped from the chin rest, I look around the room. Everything is bathed in red. I know it will go away, but it always startles me. I nod as the doctor tells me to “take it easy” for the rest of the day. We exchange pleasantries.

Walking back into the empty waiting room, I fish around in my bag for the sunglasses I am almost positive I dropped in there this morning. I’m going to need them. It is so bright in here.

*NOTE: Since writing this in 2002, I have had several more surgeries in both eyes. I have some permanent vision loss in my right eye, and I have trouble seeing clearly with both eyes. My diabetes continues to be a struggle, and I now take insulin to control it.

I am Grape!

You Are Grape

You are bold and a true individual. You are very different and very okay with that.
People know you as a straight shooter. You're very honest, even when the truth hurts.
You are also very grounded and practical. No one is going to sneak anything by you.
People enjoy your fresh approach to life. And it's this honesty that makes you a very innovative person.

If its Good News, Why Aren't You Smiling?

I love Eddie Izzard. I just happened upon him as a stand up comedian a few years ago when I was flipping channels. This routine was the one I saw. I laughed hysterically.

I especially like this piece, though, because it talks about religion, specifically Christianity, even more specifically, the Protestant Church and how we tend to belie the joy of the Gospel with our spirit-less voices.

I realized recently that Eddie is now an actor and plays the husband in "The Riches" on FX. That is a great show--a little too complex for me on long, exhausting days when my brain is not working, but really well written and acted.

It's about a fmaily of "travellers" who get caught up in a web of lies when they impersonate a wealthy family in the burbs. Minnie Driver plays his wife, and they have three children. The youngest, a boy, is a cross-dresser. It's just part of his character, and doesn't show up as a major part of the plot. I like that.

Anyway, enjoy this unique take on Christianity...and if it offends you, lighten up!



Deliver us, oh please

Susan Werner--The Gospel Truth

You must listen to this woman's songs. Go to the "Our Father" first. I think it's brillient and wish I had written it.

More later...



I know someone famous and funny

I just discovered comedy writer/performer/cartoonist Dan McCoy's blog. He was one of 'my youths' in the 90's when I was Christian Youth Fellowship sponsor at Eureka (Illinois) Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). His dad was my religion professor at Eureka College, and I know his whole family. In fact, I think I even babysat him when I was in college. He was quite self-sufficient. We called him Daniel then.

When he was in high school, he began drawing and writing a comic strip for the school paper, which was published in the town paper where I was editor. Seeing how good he was, I shamelessly stole him from the high school crowd and gave him his first professional gig as an artist. We published his comic strips on the editorial page, and I think we paid him $10 per week(?) Maybe $5. Hell I wasn't making much more than that myself!

As I was moving here recently, I went through boxes of stuff I had carted around from place to place since I left Eureka in 1997 (before that, really.) I threw away far more than I kept...I even tossed out old letters and cards. But when I got to a stack of original Dan McCoys...well, I couldn't part with them.

I wonder how much they are worth now that he's famous? Maybe I should wait until he makes it on Saturday Night Live. ..not that I'd sell them, of course.

I am sure Dan would rather speak for himself than have me reminisce about him and his fellow CYFers. So go look at his blog. And check out some of his more recent comic strips.

And this parody of On Star commercials.


Ross and Perez

I fell in love with Ross Mathews (Ross the Intern) during "Celebrity Fit Club," one of my guilty pleasures. He is so genuine. I usually don't like perky, but it works for him. He was the only one on fit club who was still talking to Dustin Diamond by the end. He stuck it out far longer than I would have!

The combination of him and Perez Hilton is almost too much to bear, but they are so cute together. It's refreshing to see people willing to be themselves.



Easter Prayer 2005

National City Christian Church Rev. Arlene Franks O God of life, God of love and laughter…we, your Easter people greet you thi...