June 20, 2024

If you need cataract surgery, don’t wait


           Quarterback Buddy Bennett and his 1954 state-championship Yellow Jackets walked the halls of Jesup High School with its squeaking, oil-soaked wood floors.

By the time Len Hauss and his teammates won their 1959 state crown, their penny loafers and high-top tennis shoes were doing the squeaking on waxed tile floors. Jesup High School had been moved to the new flat-roofed complex on West Orange Street.

            And the left-behind Plum Street campus was where my friends and I attended junior high. We climbed concrete steps to enter the main hall. Principal James E. Bacon’s office was on the left. The auditorium—with its musty stage curtains—was on the right, where we were tapped into the Junior Beta Club.

With its high ceilings, oiled-wood floors and heart-pine rafters, it took only a spark to turn the historic building—where my dad graduated in 1941—into smoldering ashes. That was after our high-school graduating class of 1966 had moved across the railroad tracks. I guess there wasn’t enough water or hoses to save the old brick Plum Street school.

            Mr. Bacon’s wife was one of my seventh-grade teachers. During a homeroom period, Mrs. Nanelle Bacon announced, in her commanding voice, “Class, today I’m going to be checking your eyesight.” She hung a chart on the blackboard. Going from top to bottom, the letters and numerals decreased in size.

            My turn came.

Mrs. Bacon covered my right eye and asked me to read what I saw. I heard her exhale. And then she covered my left eye with the same instructions. She didn’t exhale. Instead, she boomed, “Good Lord, son. You are blind. Get your mamma to take you to Dr. Wilson or Dr. Minchew tomorrow!”

            A few days later, I walked into her room and announced, “Mrs. Bacon, I thought the chalk just made fuzzy writing on the blackboard. And look, I can see the individual leaves on the tree.” Those black horn-rimmed glasses opened a new world that had been oblivious to my nearsighted past.

That was 1960.

            Fast-forward 64 years.

            Hello, Cataract Era.

            Mrs. Bacon might smile, knowing that I have shucked my glasses.

            Two surgeries and a month later, I didn’t know how cloudy my vision had become. To get ready for the procedures, my surgeon asked me to wear a special pair of contact lenses.

My left eye was focused up close. The right eye was fitted on distance. Some friends said the mixed prescriptions made them dizzy. I loved the combination and said, “Let’s go, Doc.”

The left eye was the first to get a new lens. After 24 hours of blurriness, I tried Mrs. Bacon’s trick. I closed my right eye. Wow! What a white, bright world was out there. And then I shut my “good” eye to test what my yet-to-be-fixed right eye saw.

It was as if I was looking through amber-lens sunglasses. There was a yellowish tint to everything. I could almost hear my seventh-grade teacher belt out, “Well, son, I could have told you that’s what cataracts do! Why have you waited so long?”

I don’t have a good answer.

But I can tell you this.

I am grateful for my new-and-improved eyesight.

And one more thing.

There are some treasured memories that even the hottest blaze cannot destroy.