Fill my eyes with that double vision. Do you know this lyric? It’s from Foreigner’s 1978 hit song, Double Vision. Christmas time, 1978, I sat at the tail-end of my first relationship. Sue Witt and I hooked up at my high school homecoming rally and walked home together. For the next three months, we toyed with something that resembled being boyfriend/girlfriend.
I can only remember a handful of times hanging out with Sue. There’s that time we went to Burger King on a cold, gray, Sunday afternoon and ate French fries. I had nothing to say because, essentially, I was terrified of girls. We sat mostly in silence and then drove to the back parking lot of an abandoned office building and made out.
For Halloween, we made plans to trick or treat with a mixed group of her friends and my friends. I was the bridge, the key connection. My all-male crowd dubbed her all-female crowd the bod-squad, and they eagerly anticipated the night. Like most of my high-school years, I found myself grounded for some ridiculous reason probably involving grades, and I couldn’t go along. The groups began to forge a bond without my connection, and my importance eroded.
To keep the relationship alive, I needed a home run Christmas gift. It was make-or-break, either wow Sue or fade away altogether. I bought her that Foreigner album featuring not only the song Double Vision but also Hot Blooded. I nailed it, or so I thought. She opened her gift in her basement a couple of days prior to Christmas; her disappointment in my five-dollar investment obvious. She gave me a boxed set of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, something I immediately cherished and still own today. The disparity of our gifting drove us finally apart.
Fill my eyes with that double vision!
The timeline is murky. I can’t remember exactly when my vision began to split. Was it before or after my traumatic brain injury—the day the minivan hit me? My double vision (also known medically as diplopia) coincided with intense discomfort in my eyes resulting in me making straining eyerolls to relieve pressure. I began to see an ophthalmologist to get to the bottom of both issues. Months went by, a dozen appointments with various tests and experimental remedies. At one point, worried about cancer, they biopsied eye tissue. In all that time, no one ever mentioned the brain injury as a possible cause of either issue.
Ultimately, my vision was fixed with surgery, but we didn’t figure out the eyerolling thing—which twenty years later was identified as Tourette Syndrome (something I believe was also jumpstarted by the brain injury).
This is on my mind because the double vision is back. Well, in truth, it’s been coming back ever since the surgery twenty-five years ago. Every few years, when worn out at the end of the day, my vision begins to split. It’s most obvious when driving at night or trying to read a book—two images instead of one. Driving becomes a little dangerous, and reading becomes almost impossible. When this happens, I visit an ophthalmologist and get a prescription for prisms added to my eyeglass lenses. The prism bends the direction of my vision, bringing something out of line into alignment. It’s a simple (but moderately expensive) fix.
Last January, in for my biennial lens adjustment, the doctor said “Huh, I’ve never prescribed this much prism before.” He’s a pretty young guy, so possibly he simply hasn’t seen enough diplopia patients, but he seemed pretty concerned with my degradation. “I don’t think I can prescribe much more prism.”
In May, my vision split again. My initial concern was maybe the doctor shot too high. Maybe he added too much prism, and when my eyes tired each day, I couldn’t handle it. No, a follow-up appointment showed that my diplopia increased again… in four months. I needed even more prism in my lenses. Thank God I was within a six-month warranty period on my lenses, they cost about six hundred dollars to make. The downside is I needed to send my glasses back to the lab to get new lenses cut for my frame.
I’m wearing my old glasses now. I have double vision all the time. I worried it would interfere with my work, which is performed completely on a computer. I scheduled a meeting with my boss: “Let me start by saying that I’m sensitive to the fact that there is literally always something wrong with me.” And there is. I’m always limping through the office or grimacing when reaching to pick something up. Annually, my accounting records need to go up a tight spiral staircase into our attic, something I flat out refuse to do. I’ll blowout my back. Seizures, dizziness, hearing impairment—once in a meeting, the board president said “Jeff, you must have an opinion on this…”
“Um, sorry, I can’t hear well enough to follow this conversation.” Sometimes it’s remarkable that I’m employed at all.
Now it’s my vision. The optician told me to expect the new lenses to take at least a month: “Covid supply-line interruptions and all.” It’s really disconcerting having double vision, it makes me spacey, puts me in a bad mood. Last night at an outdoor concert, I met Eli’s boss. She’s upbeat and dynamic. Friendly to a fault. My vision was so screwed up, I had trouble concentrating on the conversation. I didn’t even introduce myself.
Susan put a sign up in our kitchen: Jeff is not wearing his normal glasses. Help him please! An attempt to remind everyone, herself included, that they should expect me to seem off and cut me some slack. I haven’t needed to bail on work yet, but my nightly reading has taken a big hit. I’ve been reading The Black Painting by Neil Olson for two weeks. I’m slogging through it at a snail’s pace, most nights putting down the book after fifteen minutes. Although the fact that it’s incredibly dull might also be inhibiting my progress.
My new lenses should come in a couple more weeks. Hopefully, the prescription will last longer than four months. Eye surgery is starting to look pretty likely in the not-so-distant future. I don’t recall it being a big deal last time around, so possibly this will be just another minor blip on my never-ending spectrum of medical ailments.