FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS!

It’s going to be a bumpy post! (Remembering Bette Davis’s line in “All About Eve.”) I’ve been trying to finish this for weeks, am still traumatized by a barely missed car crash as my son drove me to Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital for cataract surgery in March. In the following weeks, I was involved in three less serious but still upsetting car incidents. Then — my sweet Honey was diagnosed with diabetes. My mom used to say: “When you think you can’t stand one more thing you’ll get it. And you’ll stand it.”

Just before 6AM on March 20th, when I was expected in outpatient surgery, my son jammed the brakes, jolting the car to a sudden stop. It was still pitch dark, but he sensed the headlights of a car speeding from Exit 83 South, running a red light straight at the left side of my dark gray car. The white car swerved slightly, missing the front end by inches, and kept speeding away. Without my son’s peripheral vision, good reflexes and quick braking — and the idiot’s last minute turn — that could have been the end of us. Both cancer survivors, my son and I learned long ago that life is precarious and precious.

There have been no problems worth mentioning for months, and I’d been blithely saying: “But you never know — I could get hit by a truck some day.” I’d had a delicious taste of the Big Apple in early March — a weekend in New York City where I met friends for meals and enjoyed “Donnybrook,” a musical of “The Quiet Man” at The Irish Repertory Theatre. Then a weekend in Massachusetts where my son, his wife, the baby and I had a wonderful time at my nephew Tim’s annual St. Patrick’s party. The highlight: Tim and Stacie’s three adorable daughters. Never got around to posting about these pleasures, but they buoyed me through the coming ordeals.

Back to March 20th. Very shaken when we arrived at the hospital, I started to tell a couple in the waiting room about our close encounter when my son gave me a look which said: “Calm down!” So we sat quietly till I was called for pre-op exam. My blood pressure, usually 120 over 70, with some help from Benicar, was up to 170. I’ve had glaucoma controlled with laser surgery and eye drops for many years, but when a young doctor told me I was scheduled for glaucoma and cataract surgery, I’m sure it went even higher.

When we discussed the operation a month earlier, my opthalmologist suggested a glaucoma procedure at the same time — adding there was a risk of vision loss. I immediately pointed two thumbs down, declaring if that was a possibility it would probably happen to me. “So, no thanks,” I said firmly. The young doctor seemed puzzled. Then my doctor arrived and said “You agreed to the procedure — don’t you remember?” Too shaken to argue, I weakly said “Okay.” So the anesthetist put me into a “twilight zone” — for me, like someone else after two cups of coffee.

I was alert during the entire operation — which took one hour and 17 minutes, according to the anesthetist’s bill — and felt pressure and prodding. I heard talk of a complication: my pupil didn’t dilate sufficiently. The surgeon had told me not to talk, and I was obedient, but couldn’t resist calling out once: “I’d rather be out!” And I moaned meaningfully twice.

Later that day my daughter-in-law took me to a post-op visit. When the doctor held up his hand and asked: “How many fingers?” I replied: “I can’t see your hand.” Everyone I’d talked to who had cataract surgery said they’d opened their eyes and saw clearly, didn’t need glasses any longer. Hah! My eye was red and sore and my eyelid swollen at half mast.

Are you still buckled up? On March 25th, on my way to a storytime program at Helping Hands daycare center — as a Bel Air library volunteer — I missed a left turn on Rt. 22, drove back again, signaled a right turn from the right lane, and was fully into Rt. 543 when I was startled by a lound clunk — a sturdy Jeep had hit me on the right between the fender and door. I pulled ahead to the side, marched up to the driver and asked indignantly: “Didn’t you see me turning?”

“I was in the turning lane,” she answered angrily. “What turning lane?” I wondered. I later revisited the scene and saw a straight, comparatively short dotted lane, unlike other long, curved turning lanes on the route. My fault, State Farm decided — turning lane has right of way. Ouch!

Then on April 4th, near Johns Hopkins for another post-op, a car in front stopped suddenly and I lightly tapped the back bumper. Out came the driver fuming I’d jolted her and the car and demanding to see my insurance. Her bumper looked fine, and I pleaded I’d miss my appointment, but she was adamant — so I called the police to verify there was no damage.

Here in Maryland, unlike Long Island, drivers exchange insurance information and the police don’t get involved except for bodily injury. While we waited, two women standing at the bus stop told me they’d seen what happened, that it was a gentle tap, and hugged me when their bus arrived. Thanks, Sharon and Charon, for your kindness and empathy. The nice officer’s name was Gabriel. He smiled as I waved goodbye and said: “Go blow your horn!” State Farm paid the cranky woman about $1,000 for bumper damage. She must have gone home and banged it up with a baseball bat.

More… On April 10th, I picked Honey up after four worrisome days at the Bel Air Animal Emergency Hospital where TLC, fluid and insulin drip saved her. I visited her twice a day and dripped quite a few tears, too. On the way home I drove to the former Vet — who’d missed the diabetes — to get her records for the new Vet. I pulled halfway into a nice wide space next to a car parked on the left — and the driver began backing out, turning, and hitting my left back fender with his right. We both got out of our cars and met behind them.

It was all too much for me — I put my head down on my car and sobbed. I told Luther about my troubles, and he comforted me: “Everything will be all right.” Then he shared that he’d recently had triple by-pass heart surgery and removal of an aneurism soon after. And in the previous week someone had hit his back right fender. We talked about God and His mysterious ways and Luther asked: “Do you think He’s trying to tell you something?”

Since I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want me to give up and crawl under the covers, I’m assuming He’s trying to be helpful, giving me so much material for “The Perils.” Luther and I wished each other well, shook hands, and went on our ways. Another pearl from a peril: State Farm gave me a nice check for damages and I put it in the bank to cover some of Honey’s medical expenses. I can live with a few dents and scratches on my Saturn. The backer-outer was at fault. Sorry, Luther, but thank you! I wish everything turns out right for you, too.

I don’t remember exactly when, but sometime in the middle of all this, I dreamed about my husband, which I often do. He died 19 years ago, and I wish he could be with me now in my new home, that he could see his grandson who resembles him. I’ve adjusted well to widowhood, but it’s hard to be alone. He looked young and healthy in the dream, handsome in a trim brown suit. As he walked toward me with his arms held out, I saw his eyes were brimming — something I’d never seen in life. As he hugged me close I felt safe and loved. But, as someone once said: It’s better to hug someone with skin on.

Now I see less well in that eye than I did before the surgery. The glaucoma procedure brought my pressure down to 14 soon after, but last week it was up to 24, the highest it’s ever been. “There may have been some miscommunication,” the doctor commented. My left eyelid is lower than the right — giving me a quizzical look — but may open more in time, he said. However, I’ve met patients with worse conditions, including a cheerful woman blind in one eye and now with problems in the other.

Honey and I are struggling with her bland diet and insulin injections every 12 hours. She’s too smart for her own good, and after her initial docile reaction my sweet little lamb bared her teeth and knocked the needle out of my hand. I bought one of those plastic collars and now give her a treat before and after. We’re doing better but have a way to go.

We recently went to an Earth Day Festival in Aberdeen, strolled around the exhibits and crafts, then sat to enjoy a Beatle’s tribute group, Pro Bono. A free-spirited gentleman wearing a bike helmet and sandals sat next to us, admired Honey, and asked me to dance. “No thanks,” I demured, “I’d be embarrassed.” But people near us clapped encouragingly, so we got up and danced –a combination of my Lindy and his improv. More applause when I sat down out of breath. Thank you, Car Man — that was his name, he said. What are the odds of that after my car calamities?

Coming up next: I’m going to my 60th Queens College reunion in Flushing, Long Island, New York on May 30th. Honey and I are staying at a pet-friendly hotel nearby, and I’m planning to visit friends who couldn’t meet me in the city when I was there. Then my best friend and I are driving east to my late sister’s cottage in North Sea, Southampton where I’ll see cousins and other friends. Honey and I are due for some R & R,

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1 Comment »

  1. d.e.papenfuse said

    i so enjoyed this post, eileen
    thanks for sharing it with everyone
    the line that made me chuckle audibly was, “but my son shushed me”
    you’d think kieran would be old enough to know not to shush his own mother
    have a nice may 12th, i’m confident kieran won’t forget
    your friend,
    david p

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