Sunday, February 22, 2009


I knew for a long time that one day I would need treatment for Glaucoma. But it wasn’t until mid 2003 that the doc said I needed to start putting drops in my eyes. One drop in each eye every morning is what she said. Additionally, I was to be faithful in doing this, and I should do it at approximately the same time every morning. I replied that I would be her most compliant patient, as I have worked to keep my precious eyesight.

Faithfully every morning I crawl out of bed, swing by the medicine cabinet to pick up the eye drops and a Kleenex, and then head to the corner of the couch which is “my place” for medicating my eyes. The directions say to put one drop in each eye and then for a period of one minute place a finger over the tear duct in the corner of each eyelid to keep the medicine from draining off the eye via the tear duct. At the end of the first minute I am continue with my eyes closed for another 60 seconds without covering the tear ducts. I do this, and when I am finished I wipe my eyes with the Kleenex and run for the coffee and the newspaper.

This is a very straightforward procedure, except that I have no way of knowing that a minute has passed unless I count from 1 to 60. I have never seen any kind of a timer that could be set to ring after the first 60 seconds and again ring after the second 60 seconds. When I’m so shortly out of bed, I often have to do something fairly active to keep from falling back asleep the minute I close my eyes. I have made my feet tap on the floor as I counted. I have made a one-second wave with my little fingers while my forefingers were on the tear ducts, as if they were batons leading a beat for a school orchestra. For a while I used Jerry’s electric toothbrush to help me count. His toothbrush vibrated for exactly 60 seconds, then gave a little lurch and then vibrated another 60 seconds. This was perfect, but frankly sitting on the couch holding a vibrating toothbrush was just too silly to contemplate. Within a couple of weeks the toothbrush died and the new replacement didn’t have such timed vibrations, and that was that. So now I have to mentally count from 1 to 60, twice. If Jerry forgets what I’m doing and asks me a question, I have to switch to saying my numbers out loud so he will know why I am not answering him. Oh, he says, you are counting.

Sometimes when I am counting I inadvertently begin thinking of something else and don’t know whether or not I’ve skipped any numbers, so I have to start all over again. I'd rather be safe with too many numbers than not enough numbers, I say. Sometimes I play little mental games -- when I get to “10,” real quickly I mentally say “one-sixth” before I get to the next number….and then of course at “20” I say “one third”…and so on. I laugh when I do that. Except I shouldn’t laugh because it is comforting at my age that I can even remember something like that, considering I never was very good at fractions!

Now if you can imagine, every morning since mid-2003 I have counted to 60 and then repeated counting to 60 again. The number of mornings I have repeated this counting procedure is close to 2010. So you can understand why sometimes when I am standing at the sink waiting for hot water to come out of the spigot I find myself saying 48, 49, 50, 51, 52 for no reason at all. I kind of “come to” and realize I don’t need to count. I lie down on the couch to take a nap, stretch out, and discover that shortly I’m thinking 15, 16, 17, 18, 19…. I give a huff, turn over on my side and drift off to sleep that way. I find myself counting at odd times – a couple of time even when I was on the commode.

Any time there is a period of quiet where I am doing nothing more strenuous than cogitating or ruminating, I am apt at some point to start unconsciously counting away. And since I have a colonoscopy coming up where they put you under light sedation, I am wondering if I am going to come out of sedation counting away out loud. I just might, even though I hope I don’t. I would be embarrassed, and I can just imagine those medical people going home and at dinner during their table talk saying that they had a funny patient today who came out of her colonoscopy counting. I might get written up in a medical journal as an oddity.

Anyway, numbers 1 to 60 and I have become good friends. They are working with me to keep my eyes healthy. I don’t mind doing whatever it takes to be a compliant patient. I always wish I could think of something more productive to do while I am spending all that time counting, counting, counting. If you get any ideas, let me know.

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