By any chance, do you to remember an old movie called The Enchanted Cottage starring Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire? It was released a long time ago, 1945 to be exact. If you don’t remember it, please don’t lie and tell me it’s because you weren’t born yet. I happen to know how old you are!
Anyway, in this film, Robert Young plays a disfigured war veteran and Dorothy McGuire plays a homely maid. The two marry, and as time passes, fall more deeply in love. Within the confines of the cottage in which they live, they begin to appear beautiful to each other.
Well, apparently, I had been happily living in an enchanted cottage of my own. At least until the other day, when a terrorist disguised as an eye doctor blew the whole thing to smithereens!
You see (she punned), I recently had cataract surgery. No big deal, I hear you saying. Just another, inevitable part of the aging process. Everybody does it. So if everybody does it, why didn’t anyone warn me?
My eyes are considerably older than I am. And because of this I accepted the fact that my reading glasses gradually got stronger, and I now needed distance glasses for driving. And at night I did notice that the headlights of oncoming cars had become more distracting. But I figured it was due to inferior workmanship.
So you can imagine my surprise, when, at my last eye exam, the doctor suggested that I consider having my cataracts removed. What cataracts? Who had cataracts? Had he failed to mention this before, or was I just not listening?
Who knows for how many years these insidious little clouds have been gradually forming on the lenses of my eyes, and, unbeknownst to me, eventually causing me to view the world in a gauze-like haze? A little inconvenient at times, but actually not unlovely. A little like a filter used on a camera to provide a mysterious, romantic ambiance. And because the change happens slowly, one does tend to adjust.
Nevertheless, I agreed to the surgery, one eye at a time. So my left eye is now younger than my right, resulting in both good news and bad news. The good news is that I do see much better. The bad news is — that I see much better!
OMG! Would you just look at the kitchen floor! Where did all that dog hair come from? I mean, I was aware there was some dog hair from my two constantly-shedding Labrador Retrievers, but when did they start going bald? Since the surgery, I have progressed from running the vacuum every other day to every fifteen minutes.
When did the walls get so dirty? My new fashion accessory is a can of Ajax and a wet sponge. And, look, the paint is chipping in the corner. And I wonder what caused the scratches on the bedroom floor? We really need to consider whether it’s time for a new paint job, and having the floors redone. Or possibly moving.
Shove over, Morty and Lee. Adorable as you might be, it’s my turn to do a Swiffer commercial. I, too, have been living in a fool’s paradise.
But the excess of dog hair, dirty walls, chipped paint and scratched floors were only foreplay for the grand-daddy of all shockers.
The morning following the day of the surgery, my husband heard a blood-curdling shriek emanating from the bathroom. He sprung from the bed, probably believing that our bathtub had been occupied by an army of Palmetto bugs. Even one of those creatures would call forth a vocalization that could land me a role in a horror movie.
A tub-full of roaches having a spa day in my Jacuzzi would have been preferable. The true source of the shriek was the face in the mirror that was looking back at me. Apparently, during the night, I had channeled the late Dorian Gray.
Who was this stranger? She did look familiar, but the Susan I remember did not have those pouches under her eyes, those deep laugh-lines around her mouth, the sagging jowls, and a neck that Nora Ephron would definitely feel bad about. And where did all those freckles come from? (Were they freckles or something worse?)
As terrifying as it was, I couldn’t take my good eye off that face in the mirror. Whoever coined the phrase “reality bites” should receive a Pulitzer prize. Truer words had never been spoken.
I’ve always been good in a crisis, so as calmness returned, I formulated a plan. There was help out there. I simply had to reach out to my friends whom, because they had been dealing with signs of aging much longer than I, knew the best repair people.
Later that day, the swelling under my eyes did diminish significantly. Unfortunately, I can’t say that for the rest of it.
In two weeks I shall have the other eye done. I can only imagine what additional imperfections await me.
While it is miraculous, cataract surgery can be quite costly. Yes, insurance does cover the medical expenses. But even the best policies don’t include house repainting, floor scraping, moving or cosmetic procedures.
So in the interest of parsimony, I’m considering an alternative to the costly cosmetic procedures.
For the near future at least, I shall choose my companions more selectively. I will hang out only with those friends who still have cataracts. That way, they will still see me through the slightly foggy, but highly complimentary filter, and together we can all return to The Enchanted Cottage.
Which, by now, could probably use a new paint job.