I finally got an eye exam and ordered new glasses. My local doctor quit accepting my insurance and since my insurance cuts the cost of glasses in half, I had to find a new place to go. Some of you might remember my misadventure to a new doctor here in town whose office was replete with far right conspiracy literature. In spite of that man’s truly tragic story, I had to walk out.
As the tech took my information today and filled out the forms on the computer, she asked about a bout of uveitis I had back in the 90s.
“Any cause? RA? TB? Anything?”
“No. My doctor decided it was just random, like maybe I got the flu in my eye. My dad had it, too. At the same age.”
“What about your dad? Did he suffer from RA?”
“No special cause. He had MS. The doctor just told us that MS patients get sick easily.” My mind went back to the nights my dad slept in the living room in a recliner because he had to sleep on his back, and one of us — mom, grandma, me — had to put drops into his eyes every hour.
“I have MS,” she said in a soft voice. “I don’t let anyone around me who’s sick.” She laughed.
“You have MS?” asked her. She appeared to be in her late 30s.
Suddenly we were talking about my dad and other vision problems he might have had. I asked, “How are you doing?”
“Pretty OK,” and she told me about meds that are helping her a lot. I would never have guessed. She had words for things, for symptoms and treatments that didn’t exist when my dad was alive (he died in 1972).
My entire heart went out to her and inside I didn’t feel like joking around (which we had been doing). I felt like hugging her, but I knew I had to keep it up. I told her that my dad let himself be a guinea pig for new treatments. I said, “He always said, ‘It’s not for me, Martha Ann. It’s for the future’.”
Then she asked, “Is your dad still alive?”
“No. I lost him a long time ago.” I’ve never referred to my dad’s death that way. I don’t like euphemisms. No one “passes” in my lexicon; they die. But today, I lost him because, in that moment, he wasn’t “dead.” he was in that room with that brave, humorous, open, lovely young woman, our dark humor and exchange of knowledge. I could almost kind of believe that my dad heard her and saw us and knows that things really DID get better.
We talked about the newer research linking Mononucleosis in adolescence to MS, to the theory that Scandinavians are more prone to the illness than others. Plenty of African Americans show up with MS, but skin color does not reveal ancestry. Research into the causes continues and it was a strange relief to talk to someone about it. I’ve remained interested. There’s no reason in the world that I wouldn’t show up with it in my future. I think about it every time I fall for absolutely no (obvious) reason. She was open with me about her fears, another brain lesion which they can now find with the brain MRI. In my dad’s lifetime MS was never accurately diagnosed until an autopsy was performed.
She finished her tasks and went to get the doctor. He was awesome. He asked when I had my last eye exam and I said 2019. “Oh well,” he said, “Last year never happened?”
Not strictly true, but it really does feel like we are picking up where we left off as much as possible. Godwilling, 2021 has found us further ahead than 2019 left us and that in spite of the losses and fears, we have learned a little something. Sometimes when you don’t feel like it, you learn — as I did, today — that we have learned a little something.