The Eyes Have It

I can’t imagine life without my peepers. Yet foolishly, like most fortunate people with good eye health, I take them for granted. But I’m well into the “Patch Patch Patch” era of my life and little things that I would never have given a second thought to can stop me in my tracks. Like eye floaters.

I suppose I was in my 30’s or 40’s when I first noticed floaters drifting across my field of vision . . . little brown or black fleas that were in my way every time I focused in on threading a needle or reading the fine print. Annoying? Yes. New middle age reality? Oh yes.

The floaters come and go, but when they invade the pages of a good book, they’re particularly frustrating. I had to become philosophical and realize they were just a pesky inconvenience of the declining years and they were certainly no match for arthritic hands, spinal stenosis or knee replacements. Frankly my sagging jaw line bothered me more, truth to tell. So I always just put up with them.

One morning two weeks ago I headed toward the kitchen to put on the coffee and tea. As I walked through the living room I saw a large movement out the side of my right eye. Thinking the neighborhood bear had returned, I stopped to look out at the backyard and the big movement stopped with me. It wasn’t a bear it looked like a bird . . . a big, dark bird flapping one wing as if it were trying to get the cobwebs off the cobwebs that I could also see. Yikes a bird in the house!

I flicked my right hand up to brush it away but it stayed put. The bird was in my eye . . . well, sort of. I rushed back to the bathroom mirror to look. Nothing. I tried to bring it into focus, but it stayed out at the edge, flapping a bit, still covered in cobwebs. Then it disappeared.

I had no idea floaters could be that big, but if it’s purpose was to unnerve me to make me appreciate my good eyes, it worked. It didn’t return while I read the paper or got ready for work. But as I drove to work, checking for traffic on my right at the first intersection, that stupid raven was back flapping in my right eye. Time to see the optometrist.

I had planned to pick up my contact lens order that day anyway. When I explained at the desk about my unwanted feathered friend, the nurse asked if there were any cobwebs. Thirty seconds later she had me scheduled to come back in an hour.

I walked to the car and now there was bright light off to the right behind the bird. I was getting more unsettled by the minute. My late husband had a retina that was luckily detected before it completely detached. The surgeon had been able to reattach it and save his eye. Could this new bright light be a tear? Holy bi-focals!

It disappeared again in the car. But before I returned within the hour I caught myself two or three times trying to brush away the big movement in my right eye . . . a man? a car? Then nothing. My peripheral vision was misbehaving badly.

Doc Keller checked out my bird. And he could see the big floaters yep more than one. “Wow- those are pretty good-sized,” he said. No kidding?

“It’s a pterodactyl,” I offered. I saw him smile. Okay so maybe I exaggerated. It’s probably only an eagle or a condor.

He has a good sense of humor and after all these years he knows I’m not the hysterical type. “It’s actually your vitreous membrane pulling away.” My what?

He explained further: “It happens at this age, it’s not super serious. And it’ll probably happen with the other eye, eventually.” I told him there wasn’t room in there for another flippin’ flapper.

He dilated the eye with drops and checked everything out. He eventually sent me on my way, reassured and knowing just a tiny bit more than when I walked in.

“Oh, and when you’re ready to have those cataracts done, give us a call.” We both know they’re ripening slowly, but that’s been his grinning goodbye statement for the last three or four years.

In the past few days the bird has almost disappeared although he flaps his wing when I least expect it and I still find myself swatting him away with my right hand. Now, at night when I’m reading, the floaters aren’t flea-sized anymore, they’re more like beetles or roaches . . . very invasively skittering across the printed page. I’m positively bug-eyed.

I’m going to have to be careful. Strangers will see the white-haired lady walking downtown, swatting at imaginary creatures. They’ll think I have a bat in my belfry.

Please defend me. Tell them it’s an albatross.

Marcy O’Brien lives in Glade Township with Dear Richard and Ollie the Wondercat – who loves to swat at real birds. She can be reached at Moby.32@