Now Let Us Praise
The Very Old
(And the Very
A detached retina is mostly a nightmare that does not go away when you wake up in the morning. Half of one's vision turns into a big black bobble, looming in (often) from the lower right hand side of the eye.

I was in Mexico, fortunately near the border, so I got in the car and drove directly north without passing Go (or Goa) and was, within an hour, at the offices of my eye doctor. Within another hour, he had me in the hands of a retina reglue specialist, Dr. Ojo.

I think we should pause here and give tribute to the army of unsung heroes: that is, geezers who find themselves sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a darkened room as a doctor prepares to stick a ten- or fifteen-inch horse-needle directly into one of their orbs. And a special tribute should be made to those of us who make the choice not to bolt, nor beg for mercy, nor simply have an heart-attack and pass on ... but who sit gamely on, idiotically, bathed in sweat and terror as the moment comes when....

§     §     §

Something that twenty years ago would have put me in the hospital for a week is now replaced with four hours in room 3-A with an eye-stick, followed by a twenty-minute stapling routine (complete with Bondo), with, as a final gift, The Bubble.

Now I have always been fond of bubbles. My older brother Robert was, for some unexplained reason, given the nickname "Bubbles" until he renounced it, suddenly and vehemently, when he turned fourteen.

In addition, in the late 1940s, the synonym for all that was lascivious in our North Florida world appeared at the Windmill Club over on Blanding Blvd., a lady who danced in the near-dark, accompanied by a ragtag band and a soap-machine. She was universally known by the name of "Bubbles LaRue."

Other naughty pleasures which I will not bore you with at this time also transpired in the bathtub at home filled with warm water into which a package of pink powder had been dumped which turned it into a "bubble bath." Let us just say that LaRue and her bubbles were on hand, in spirit if not in reality.

§     §     §

Dr. Ojo ended our meeting by awarding me a large bubble in my eyeball which was to stay around for six or eight weeks. The technical phrase is "pneumatic retinopexy." The propane gas --- prefluoropromane (C3F8) --- was injected to float there and hold the errant retina in place until it could re-solder itself to the roof of my mouth or whereever it is that retinas attach themselves to. Did you ever hear the joke about what you get when you cross a mule and a jar of peanut butter? A piece of ass that sticks to the roof of your mouth.

Because the eye is upside down, I mean, because you and I see the world as inverted, the bubble floated up but appeared to be down: just around groin level or, worse, at the exact level where one holds a book or tries to see the computer keyboard.

It was quite colorful, this --- what the Spanish call --- "burbuja." It was a translucent blue-grey-green color with occasional exquisite undertones of cinnamon. "Wow," I said as Dr. Ojo washed his hands. "That's beautiful," I said. "Is this laughing gas or what?"

It wasn't laughing gas or what, since it was propane, but it was still quite fetching. I mean if you had to have a bubble stuck in your eye, it was better this colorful one than one that was merely black or red or industrial grey.

At times, I tell you, it looked beguilingly like the moon in total eclipse. Or the morning sun, rising from the floor of the flat sea. Or, depending on the mood ... one could see it as the planet Uranus viewed through a home telescope.

Later on, as it diminished (the gas slowly leaks away into god knows where) it looked less like Uranus and more like one of the planets of Jupiter. In its last stages, it shrunk to the size of a billiard-ball, then a ball-bearing, until, at last, it was no more than a blue-black BB bopping about at the edge of my vision, jittering about every time I moved my eyes.

Dr. Ojo advised me not to go on any airlines while the bubble was in place, telling me nonchalantly that my eye would explode if I did so. I asked him if it was OK to travel back and forth to his office in a submarine. He neither said yes nor no: He merely winked at me.

--- L. W. Milam
Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH