As it turns out, a scratch on one’s eye does feel like salty glass being scraped across an open wound. I bet they teach in torture school. Scratch their eyeballs. That’ll get ‘em talkin. Maybe I was just hormonal, using pain, blindness, and random arm-flailing (in order to find light switches) as a feeble excuse for solitude. Anything is possible, especially since I did spend days in the dark, shunning light like a vampire.
It all started early on a Monday. I got a call from the day care, informing me that my daughter had head lice. She needs to be picked up immediately, the teacher said in her best sing-songy voice. I always interpret that phrase loosely, like “pick her up before the world ends” or “really whenever is convenient in-between your 3 o’clock meeting and nightfall.” They might not mean it just that way, but I figure the school has band-aids and gauze and are trained to pull out bee stingers. They can administer Tylenol. Give ice packs. Perform CPR. When you really think about it, they’re way better qualified to handle emergencies than I am. After all – what else are they going to do with my daughter who is allegedly infested with head lice but stick her in a quarantined colony to play with paper dolls? That sounds fun. So I called my husband and said he was on lice duty since I was off to a meeting to train two hundred doctors. “Is it something you can cancel?” he asks. Not a chance. Two words, buddy. Nit comb. Embrace it.
Later that night, I was standing next to the bathroom mirror inspecting my own hair. What if I got it too? What if I had to treat it, making my hair all nasty and greasy? What if I didn’t get them all and they start hatching in the middle of a deposition? We’d have to go off the record while I sprint to the restroom and start smashing the little buggers between my fingers. I was in the middle of my daydream about hatching lice and freaked-out court reporters when I suddenly feel something in my eye. My right eye. The only eye not destroyed by cancer-killing superpower radiation that’s usable for actual vision. I begin to peel my top eyelid over my bottom eyelid in a frantic effort to remove the foreign body that was apparently boring a hole in my eyeball with a jackhammer. I tried to tell my husband, but he just ignored me. I think he was still bitter about the nit comb.
“Oh my gosh, I have something in my eye,” I said.
“No really. It feels like there are little elves dancing on my eyeball and stabbing me with little daggers. Fiery poisonous daggers.”
“Dude,” he says. He flips over in bed and puts the pillow over his head. “You are so dramatic. Just rinse it with water or something.”
But showering, eye dropping, squeezing, and simply not blinking were all wholly ineffective. There was a vague sensation of placing my eye directly in the pathway of shredded scrap metal. Finally, at 3 am, I tap gently on my husband’s arm to inform him that perhaps he might want to clear his schedule – senate hearing be damned – since it appears he would be taking me to the eye doctor at dawn. He’s used to me, so he just nods in his sleep like this is completely normal.
The next morning, the doctor tells me it’s nothing to worry about. Just a scratched cornea. Better in a few days! I had a burning desire to let him know about the lice. To tell him that some little disgusting bug with lots of legs had landed in my eye and buried itself down into my eye-goo to have babies. Lots and lots of babies. But I didn’t have the nerve. After all, he was wearing designer jeans under his white coat. I didn’t figure his kids ever got head lice, so he couldn’t relate.
The next day, I sat around helpless and blind, my eye completely useless. I could slightly open my gimp good eye and could look only to the right, but every blink still felt like sandpaper. But I crab-walked around the house while organizing linens and making large labels that said DIAPERS and WIPES like everyone else in the house was also blind and could only read letters the size of sandwiches. I vacuumed and mopped and did all sorts of really exciting things that could be done while staring aimlessly and vaguely over my right shoulder.
By Friday, I was sick of being home. I didn’t have lice, which was the highlight of the week, and to this day we wonder if our daughter did either. I schlepped around in t-shirts, not being able to read cereal boxes or watch television. I needed to get out. I needed for my friends to be available for long talks and send me books on tape. I needed ice cream. Finally, on Saturday morning, I’d had enough. I called the emergency line and demanded the retina doctor see me regardless of it being Saturday and regardless of the fact that he was probably at Nordstrom buying more of those jeans. He obliged.
As it turns out, whatever (icky, disgusting lice bug) was in my eye had promptly caused a massive scab under my eyelid. Which isn’t that big of a deal unless it’s, say, scraping up and down upon a scratched cornea, making healing impossible and re-injuring the scratch with every. single. blink. “No wonder it isn’t better,” said the doctor. Note to self. Don’t go to doctors that wear designer jeans. Choose those with grey hair and nerdy shoes. He whips out some scraping device, gets out the scab, and informs that it now actually might heal, which of course is great news.
It does heal, thank the Lord. I’d be a horrible vampire.
So I had some time to think as I lay around wondering if I needed a seeing-eye dog. I thought of how close I was to blind. I thought of how a little tiny scratch can put one, who is normally incredibly active, totally out of commission. I thought of how I take my eye for granted, like a good friend you just assume is always going to be around when you need them. I thought of how life-changing it would be to not see my children grow up, or not see the dresses at the Oscars, or miss that sideways glance from my husband at a party that says man, I love you. I’m so glad you’re mine.
I felt a little lost, really, like the time I was lying on my back in the hospital after my daughter was born. After the massive infection that made me so sick I thought I’d die. Or the time I flat-lined on the table after my son’s birth or when I lost consciousness in the oral surgeon’s office. Or when I heard those dreaded words – you’ve got cancer. All of those times, I felt I was losing. All I’d worked for in this life could so easily vanish. I wanted to win. To be successful. And yet at every turn, I was rendered blind so suddenly, I didn’t expect it.
Sometimes, I think of God in human form. Beaten. Taunted. Rendered blind and bleeding, with nails and thorns tearing through his flesh and his body hanging on a ruff-hewn cross. I’m just a wretch that didn’t deserve saving, with my un-plucked eyebrows and arrogant laugh and one barely-working eye. But he did save me, and he constantly does, and I’m forever grateful for it. Maybe I needed to be blind to actually see. Perhaps God’s grace really is that amazing.
Now, I’m all shiny and happy again. And I can see, which helps with driving and simmering onions. But I’m so thankful for the moment in time when I couldn’t. A moment to realize that all we do individually is really quite worthless, but in God, and through his love, all things truly are possible.
When I look back, I don’t think a lice bug can actually survive in a human eye, although secretly, now that I have a little boy, I was hoping so in order to have a good story to tell my son when he got older. Oh – your mom has diabetes? That’s nothing. My mom was blinded by hatching lice eggs in her eyeball.
Try topping that one. I dare you.