Driving Blind

Upon reflection, I don’t think that driving with your eyes dilated is a good idea.

But no one had told me I couldn’t, so there I was, careening through a universe of harsh sunlight and fuzzy objects, my pupils expanded to big, black buttons under my sunglasses.  My eyes take to those dilation drops like Sarah Palin to a crowd of screaming, right-wing thugs, and I knew I could count on another several hours of near-blindness.

My eyes had already been prodded and measured and peered into, and all I can say is that the way they now test for glaucoma isn’t nearly as bad as the medieval torture chamber of tricks they used to pull out.  The ophthalmologist had suggested bifocals, but I figured I’d think about that later, when my pupils shrank back to normal.  In the meantime, I was meeting my friend Bob for lunch and had to park my car.  I kept blindly punching the green button to add time to my parking permit.  By the time I put my nose up to the parking machine, I could barely make out that I’d bought enough parking time to stay till dark.

I walked to the restaurant, less dangerous as a pedestrian than a driver, but still.  Aren’t your other senses supposed to improve when your sight is compromised?  Not mine.  I was trying so hard to see that I couldn’t hear, either.  I told Bob all my problems and tried to make it funny, which is the dysfunctional way I try to handle my life when everything is crazy and painful.  After all, in my convoluted view of the universe, you should always bring something to the table other than grief — and it was way too early for alcohol.

If Bob thought my pumped-up eyes made me look like a drug addict, he didn’t mention it, but he did say he was sorry about my friend Pat’s death earlier that day.

I drove home, thinking of Mr. Magoo and wondering whether anybody but me even remembered him, trying to concentrate on the overly bright, glaring, harshly lit world around me, hoping not to ram into any large, unmovable objects.  Our house, newly on the market, was being shown twice that afternoon, so I couldn’t stay there long.  These days, our house is so pristine and clean and streamlined it’s hardly ours any longer.  I thought, once again, how real estate — which we invest with all our dreams and money and desperate hopes of stability and permanence — never really belongs to us the way we pretend it does.  We’re all tenants and who knows when the damned lease is going to expire?

Somewhere in the living room, I could feel something, some presence, and I knew who it was.  It was there, it was oddly soothing on a sad, tumultuous day, then it was gone.  Just like that.

My eyes slowly began to lose their dilation as the sun went down.  It was a funny thing to contemplate bifocals, to think about adjusting to them.  Look up for distances, down for things that are closer; learn to ignore the line in the middle.  When your pupils get back to normal, theoretically, the light around you shouldn’t be too blinding.  But you never know.  Sometimes, you just have to close your eyes when the world is too harsh.

(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)

15 comments… add one
  • I am so sorry about the loss of friend and I’m guessing it was her presence you felt. It sounds like you’re going through a really rough patch right now. It’s going to get better. The house will sell, you will get used to bifocals, and life is going to keep on chugging with little doses of joy. Hang in there. And yes, I know who Mr. Magoo is. Does that make me old?

  • I could not help but notice the tags: death, dilation, driving, eyes, friendship, grief. This post felt like a ride through life with its crazy ups and downs. We all make our way, half-blind, usually without the drops, careening through experiences, not sure where we are going next or will end up. I liked the presence that visited your living room and give this part five stars: “I thought, once again, how real estate — which we invest with all our dreams and money and desperate hopes of stability and permanence — never really belongs to us the way we pretend it does. We’re all tenants and who knows when the damned lease is going to expire?” So true, so true.

  • Oh, Ruth. Lovely post. I’m so sorry about your friend and the house and just the oddness of life itself. I’m right there with you … using macabre humor and a good dose of closing my eyes to cope most days.

  • Dearest wonderfulest sweetest and most accomplished Ruth,

    This driving experience sounds harrowing. And the house will sell, and you WILL get used to the bifocals.

    I’m sorry about your sad, tumultuous day. And in total admiration of your ability to turn it into a blog post that brings tears to my eyes.

    Hugs to you.

  • I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve learned that expecting it doesn’t really make it easier.

    And yes, I too remember Mr Magoo. Actually I have spent a lot of my life thinking I was Mr Magoo, or at least Miss Magoo (when I was younger) and Ms Magoo these days.

    Varifocals are more becoming than bifocals, because there isn’t that line that automatically makes you look old.

  • A lovely way to deal with what sounds like a very bad day. How did you even see to write this? My husband reacts to dilation in the same manner that you do. I usually drive him home. And, I fondly remember Mr. Magoo. Should you buy one of those little statues that you turn upside down, bury in the yard for real estate good luck?

  • I remember Mr. Magoo!
    I’m so so sorry about your friend, Ruth.

  • Cindy D. Link

    Dear Ruth,
    I’m so sorry your friend Pat has given up her “real estate” for this life. I know you will miss her every day but I’m glad you felt her/a presence in your house. I’m sure you and Pat probably shared some good laughs in that house. You’ve suffered a lot of loss lately and moving out of your house will be one more. Continue to let us know how you are doing so we can reach out and offer our spirits to boost yours. Imagine that all of us who love you are like dolphins swimming around and holding you up while you regain your balance. My friends keep telling me to “embrace the chaos” but its a whole lot easier said than done.
    A sister Mr. Magoo fan.

  • I don’t let the eye doc dilate my eyes anymore–I just can’t stand it. And Ruth, I’m so sorry about your friend.

  • I know exactly what you are talking about – we must have had our eyes dilated on the same day, midday, and boy, that glare is like, ouch! Um, yes, I know who Mr. Magoo is – always loved it when he faced the camera!

    Thinking of you.

  • Having a friend die would make the whole world look overly harsh, even without a bit of wide-eyed optic wonder.

  • When I last had dilation drops I was supposed to have a series of three drops per eye, but when the nurse came round to give the second dose, she said, “Oh honey, you’ve had enough!” Yep, I stay dilated for umpteen hours and often think of Mr. Magoo. Still, he starred on stage in A Christmas Carol, but literally brought down the house at curtain call. (Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol-1962). So at least the restaurant survived your blinding visit unless you’ve withheld embarrassing facts. It’s so un-PC these days to make light of disabilities I’m surprised all things Magoo haven’t been expunged from existence.
    And at the end of that day a feeling of a familiar presence suggesting… “I’m OK now, you be too.”

  • Steve Link

    1. It was a truly excellent obit.
    2. A person of your vintage is not permitted to whine about the need for reading glasses. Normal people of our vintage have needed reading glasses for a minimum of 10 years, and more often 15.
    3. Consider yourself hugged.

  • Ruth, the yearning to look toward home and toward the warmth of memories of beloved friends and places and family are the writer’s lot. And Lot’s wife, too. (One of my first poems was about Lot’s wife, whom I identified with at age 23 or so.) And, well, to bring in the Indian thing, you Chickasaws are close to us Choctaws in certain ways. My people were known as the bone carriers — we were so tied to the past that we literally carried the bones of our ancestors with us when we had to move on. So we carried our homes and our memories with us without having to turn and look back.

  • Yes, dear old Mr. Magoo. You had to feel sorry for him. And now I feel sorry for you and what you are going through. But one thing is for certain: bifocals are a piece of cake.

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