The phone rang, jolting me out of my blessed reverie. My brother was half right when he said telephone calls are either bad news or someone asking a favor.
But I was instantly ashamed when I heard Dad say, “Come quickly, honey. Your mother can’t see.”
For once I was glad I’d left the keys in my car. I drove four blocks to Mother and Dad’s modest home at breakneck speed.
She was in her Mrs. Archie Bunker chair, with only a small table separating her from Dad’s matching worn recliner. I kissed him then quickly knelt before Mother. “What happened, Mom?”
“I was in the kitchen and suddenly the vision in my left eye looked like it had torn, with black all around it.”
Mother had already lost the sight in one eye at age 9 when her older brother Bill accidentally shot her with his BB gun, smack in the eye.
I hurried to the phone and talked fast. “Is Dr. Renschler in? It’s an emergency. Can I bring Mother over now?
I pulled her coat from the closet and threw it over her shoulders. “Dad, you can come with us. I’ll drive and you pray.”
Dr. Renschler’s nurse ushered us immediately into the examining room.
Soon Dr. Renschler addressed me. “The news is not good. Your mother has a detached retina. It’s an extremely thin tissue that lines the inside of the back of the eye. If you look through this lens, you’ll see the size of her tear.
“We need to get your mother to McPherson Eye Hospital in Durham right away. Take her in the largest, most comfortable car you have so she won’t be jolted. Use lots of bed pillows around her.”
“Uncle Bill has a Cadillac,” I volunteered. I used the office phone to call him and he hurried over to drive us to Durham, 65 miles away.
Dr. Johnson and his colleague, Dr. Zoltowski, were prepared to operate immediately. They whisked Mother away while we prepared for a long night at the hospital, sometimes walking, sometimes praying, mostly silent.
Surgery of that type in 1957 was slower and without the advanced techniques of today’s procedures. For four long hours we waited for news.
Suddenly, Dr. Zoltowski came to us through the swinging doors of the operating room.
“It was a bad tear. It’s like operating on a spider web. You do the best you can and wait. She’s still asleep and will be for several hours. Why not get some rest while you can?”
We found a motel but were back at the hospital at 7 o’clock in the morning. A nurse led us to Mother’s room where she was lying on her back sleeping. Her head was held tightly between two small hard pillows to prevent even the slightest movement, both eyes were bandaged, and her hands strapped to the sides of the bed.
“She’ll have to lie this way undisturbed for three days,” she whispered.
“Daddy, she can’t do this!” I cried into his shoulder. “She has a degenerative disk disease, a double curvature of the spine, and hasn’t slept on her back for
We spent every day with her just letting her know we were there. She wanted Psalm 91 read over and over. Her back was so painful but she never once complained.
Uncle Bill told jokes to make her laugh, engaged her in reminiscing about their childhood, and even brought up the BB gun accident. She smiled and said she’d never held it against him. She loved him too much.
Daddy sat beside her, touching her shoulder and kissing her arm often. He
wasn’t permitted to touch her face. The sadness on his countenance added years to his age.
Finally, the day of reckoning arrived. Mother was sitting on the side of the bed. We were barely breathing as Dr. Zoltowski removed the bandages.
“Open your eyes slightly. Can you see any light?”
“That’s all right. Take your time. Now try again.”
“Nothing yet, doctor.”
“All right. Open them wide now.”
He took both of her hands, his eyes welling with tears. “I’m so sorry.”
Mother heard our gasps but said, “My Jesus never makes mistakes.”
With the voice of angels, she began to sing:
“Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”
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