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Jim Bishop: Be thou my vision – the eyes have it

“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone . . .” proclaims the 1972 hit by Johnny Nash, and I am more than delighted to second that emotion.

Well, almost. I had just completed my annual visual exam with my long-time ophthalmologist Dr. Capstack and given an “all clear” signal for another year but, thanks to drops administered to dilate my favorite pupils, everything appeared rather blurred and muddy.

I put on sunglasses, stepped outside and was “blinded by the light,” a la Manfred Mann (the 1977 song written by Bruce Springsteen, by the way). I sat in the car awhile until I felt more adjusted to the brilliant scenario.

En route to my office, I closed my eyes – waiting at intersections, not while driving busy E. Market St. – and breathed a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of good eyesight, especially at this elder life stage.

A year ago, I was told that my eye pressure was “slightly elevated” and that the doctor wanted to keep an eye, as it were, on my situation. One year later, I’m told that my eye pressure was “within acceptable range,” that my eyeglass prescription didn’t need changing and a test found no sign of glaucoma, which runs in my family history.

I am making notes for this column on a yellow legal pad while waiting for the dilating medicine drops to take effect and am having some difficulty deciphering what I’ve written (and reading my handwriting is a challenge even under normal conditions – for myself and others who have the unfortunate task of trying to interpret my hieroglyphics).

Yes, I need to wear glasses, bifocals, if you will, but again am grateful that these corrective lenses ensure sharp images both at a distance and for close-up reading. More recently I’ve had to enlarge the font size on computer screen copy,, especially for email texts, but that’s a small price to pay for easier reading even though many messages translate into more work to do.

Seeing clearly, even if our vision isn’t perfect, is truly a gift too easily taken for granted. (When it comes to hindsight, we all are 20/20).

Ever done the exercise where you are blindfolded and someone else leads you around, trying to direct you verbally towards a certain object or destination? You begin to get an idea of what persons face every day who have deteriorating vision or are totally blind. They learn to compensate and attain remarkable levels of achievement, but it takes special effort.

Of course, some persons with perfect vision quickly learn to act as though they’re blind towards other people and needs around them.

At checkout, the staff assistant asked if I wanted to schedule another eye appointment a year from now. “Sure,” I said, “Can you make it for as soon as you open at 8 a.m.? I like to take care of this and then go directly to work.”

The little white card reads 8 a.m. 8/02/2011. Only after leaving the eye doctor’s office did it hit me: “Uhhhh, a year from now will it matter that the appointment is first thing in the morning? I’ll most likely be stumbling around at 8 o’clock telling myself to put my pants on before my shoes and wondering what’s for breakfast. I’ll be retired. It won’t matter what time of day the appointment is.”

That’s a reality that’s just now slowly sinking into my thick skull. The bigger issue then will be, will I have adequate coverage to pay for regular eye exams and other health-related care?

Each of us needs to care for our eyes and other vital organs with regular checkups, especially as we age. While you’re at it, consider becoming an organ donor and make sure that designation appears on your driver’s license.

On this point, may we all see eye-to-eye.

Column by Jim Bishop. Jim can be reached at