Verse – Driving Blind

The highway is straight
and smooth, only one lane
in each direction…
no barrier in the center,
no guard rails on the sides…
nighttime, no white lines
mark the edges of the road…
no streetlights…
all that can be seen
is the oval puddle of light
from the headlights
of my speeding car.

I jerk awake as I feel
the left tires bounce
on the shoulder of the road…
I have crossed
the wrong lane…I know
my wife is beside me, but
I cannot open my eyes…
I cry out, but her seat belt
holds her too tightly
for her to reach the wheel…
my eyes open for one second,
then all is dark again…
I cannot stay awake…
I whimper and shudder.

The terror remains
even after I realize
we are in our own bed
and I have been dreaming.

– Steve Shoemaker, October 17, 2014

8 thoughts on “Verse – Driving Blind

      • It’s a long story; I’ll try to condense. It was (and still is, to a lesser extent) double vision, and it was very scary. I am now convinced that I had it most of my life; it explains a great deal. Problems sight-reading music; problems sports; problems seeing the blackboard. I first “noticed” it particularly at Oberlin, when I would see two of any solo performer on stage. I never was able to count a number of vertical things — slats in a fence, organ pipes — unless I was right up close to them, almost touching. For a lot of years after that, I was able to just accept those things, and though I still saw, for example, two couples dancing in a pas de deux, I very seldom had any awful breaks when driving. Then sometime in the 90’s I began to see two roads (knew which was the real one, but very distracting), but the real problem was seeing much more frequently every car doubled, including, frequently, an oncoming car on a two lane road. This finally got me to mention the problem to my ophthalmologist, who measured the problem and immediately sent me to an eye surgeon who, rather than do surgery, got me prisms in my glasses, which worked pretty well. i was so excited. Then came 2001/2002. Mom had to move into the nursing center — scheduled and accomplished on 9/11, no less — the first time they had been apart in 61 years. We began visiting both weekend days. Then Dad broke his arm on Feb. 2, and died on Mar. 3, and Mom couldn’t accept or remember it. From Feb. 2 until July 26, when Mom died, BJ and I worked full time, and visited them, then her, basically every day; we missed 6 days. During that time the double vision got much worse (fortunatly, BJ is a poor passenger, so she was driving). After mom died, I mentioned this to my ophthalmologist, who increased the number of prisms from 4 to 7, the most one can use; next stop, eye surgery. This worked pretty well for a while, but gradually things changed. The old symptoms, the roads, which appeared to be the real road going straight and a second road going off from it like an exit ramp from a 35 mph road, cars in two places, continued, but a new, very distressing symptom appeared. When I tried to look at a “crowded” scene — four lane road, five cars ahead, seven or eight approaching — the picture fractured, like a completed jigsaw which has had many groups of four pieces shuffled. Can’t describe it any more convincingly. So…I had a lot of very “interesting” trips in and out of town. I kept on because I really loved what I was doing, and more because I had a wonderful group of co-workers, a lot of very nice people in the library at large, and in the music library a fantastic, and fantastically nice Music Librarian; fantastic public service librarians in the Ormandy Center where I worked cataloging and in MTS a cataloger for scores; and his “boss” who had really nice moments. But I realized that going on driving about 40 miles on highways most weekdays with my right eye closed (the instant fix) was not really a good idea. (“They” (Library of Congress, so many other academic librarians) had decided to adopt a whole new system of cataloging that, in my view, was nearly impenetrable and definitely not worth penetrating. So I had another motive.). I had a specific experience on Gulph Mills in the rain after sunset that really scared me when even closing one eye didn’t work.
        I warned you it was a long story – I realize now I should have jumped to the last paragraph. But it seems like a continuum to me.
        Take care.

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      • Carolyn, Thank you for sharing this longer story, tracing the end of the story back to the beginning in childhood. The end was certainly scary, but your telling of the journey from the beginning and through the middle of your life says so much about a courage that never drew anyone’s attention. It also increases the magnitude of respect for you, already large, when I consider how good a student you were (and are), and how you could have been a concert pianist if only you’d been blessed with bigger hands. Small hands and double vision, but look at the big soul and single vision born, in part, by those two facts of your life story. Thank you so much for sharing this. I remember Gulf Mills. It’s tough to navigate under any circumstances. So is the road of working full-time while visiting your parents (hour-and-a-half each way) every day during their times of need. You and BJ are very special friends and wonderful daughters. Thanks for sharing.

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