As you’d expect, gravity does a number on a body that reposes face down for weeks. A beard and mustache grows. Skin sags. Bruises coagulate. Muscles atrophy. And maybe not as readily visible but certainly the case for a body used to constant movement… the spirit withers.
“I can see it now. I’ll be ‘that blind guy’ who sits off in the corner at the picnic table listening to music,” he jokes. The thing is, it’s hard for either of us to laugh when he says it, even though we can absolutely imagine it.
He’s not blind yet, but my husband and I will spend the rest of our lives working to mitigate the possibility.
It began as a slow-rising curtain of darkness in his left eye. A strange noticing that started on December 25th, 2020. By New Year’s Eve, he couldn’t see anything on that side. It was the gut-punch to conclude a gut-wrenching year.
The start of 2021, the year of our hopeful Park opening, and the reprieve to 2020, was anything but a relief. My husband, who turned 50 in November, set up an emergency consult with the best eye doctor in the region.
The news was devastating. Through tears of fear and a start to the acknowledgment of the gravity of his situation, he had to retell the diagnosis when he got back to the car I had been waiting in outside the hospital. His left eye had a complete retinal detachment and the retina in the “good eye” already had small micro-tears. His eyesight had probably been hanging in the balance for a while, but there was no escaping his new reality. He needed an emergency surgery to reattach the retina.
Our already-upside-down-pandemic-changed world began to spin in disorienting ways.
The injury and subsequent surgery meant he needed to stop all he’d been doing. That and he was instructed to remain face down for fourteen days as part of the healing process.
To eat. To sleep. To sip beverages out of a straw. To rest during the day. To sponge-bathe. To walk.
Fourteen days. Face down.
My active, busy husband lay relatively motionless on his stomach with his head off the foot of our bed and his feet up near my pillow for approximately twenty-two hours a day. Fourteen days.
To say my husband stays busy does not give justice to the physical work he has always done. His first fifty years were spent fixing and flipping houses, building up and running kitchens, hiking tens of thousands of steps each summer up and down the Renaissance Festival hills, skating to coach hockey, fixing literally anything that breaks down in our house, and more recently carving trails, grooming snow, plowing and tinkering at what is supposed to be his project past retirement.
There were complications from the very start of his recovery. Pain. Abnormal pressure levels. A gas bubble meant to act as a stabilizing healer that managed to get into a space compromising his cornea. We didn’t know it wasn’t going as well as it should have. Multiple doctor visits, incredibly compromised vision, continued pain and eventually a floating stitch were what accompanied the multiple rounds of drops. If the challenges post-surgery did anything, they broke up the monotony of face down life.
The fourteen days ended and my husband began to stand and then walk. It was initially slow, but steps in the direction of activity were a source of hope and motivation for him. Neither of us imagined that a slowed version of his normal level of activity was enough to further challenge his fragile recovery.
By March 12th, the curtain of darkness had returned. He was going to have to do it all again.
A part of him was more prepared for the post-operation directives, but another part of him felt as though he had been caught for violating parole and he was headed back to jail, and this time for a life-sentence.
Two more weeks face down. Two more weeks to weaken his muscles, to loosen the pants around his waist, to lay awake each night considering life in still darkness.
We’re both cautiously moving forward post-recovery this time. He’s as reserved and as still as I’ve ever known him. He’s afraid of the blindness, but I think we’re both afraid to think about what the world looks like when my husband is not buzzing around in it, fixing everything in his path.
It’s an ask to re-imagine. A chance to create a new vision because nothing about how we saw the world before will ever be that way again.
We’re not alone in this space of uncertainty. As the world scrambles to rebuild what has been shattered over the last year, we are all faced with incredible challenges. Nothing will look quite the way it did before, but everything has potential to look infinitely better if we choose to see it that way. It’s time to hone our focus, to intentionally pursue what matters most every day, to move forward with curious contemplation about what is to come instead of a head-down drive to barrel through what was obviously never meant to be.
Hindsight may be 2020, but anything worth seeking takes time to see. Surrounding ourselves with the people who are also hopefully seeking in this hazy darkness will ultimately bring us to a new, lit place. A hopeful place we can visualize, even if we cannot clearly see it just yet.
Copyright Meagan M Frank 2021
Choosing to Grow