“I see flashes in my left eye. I need an appointment with a
retina specialist,” I said on the phone. “I need an appointment before the 9:30
train leaves Natick for Boston this morning.”
“Go to your regular eye doctor,” demanded the operator.
“If I go to him he’ll tell me to go to Boston to see a
retina specialist,” I pleaded, while keeping my good eye on the clock.
My husband Adam was busy finishing up our taxes, but he
agreed to go with me. I was afraid to travel alone.
I was so afraid I would need an eye operation. How did
people do it?
A year ago, Adam had seen flashes in his right eye, and had
an emergency operation to save his sight. How different things looked when they
were happening to you rather than to someone else!
Adam and I rode the train into Boston, then walked from Back
Bay to the eye clinic on Staniford Street, up and down cobblestone sidewalks,
past the State House with the golden dome gleaming in the sun, past brick
buildings with stone stairs.
The trees practically sung with happiness, displaying reds,
yellows and greens on this crisp autumn day. It lessened my apprehension.
Boston Common was crowded with people, some sleeping on
benches, some rushing off to work, some begging on street corners. Police
pranced on horseback around Beacon and Washington Streets. It was probably the
last time we’d see the horses, since the City of Boston had decided it couldn’t
take care of the horses anymore.
How I loved walking around the city, but I kept saying,
“Let’s take a cab. It’s too far to walk.”
Adam insisted we could make the long walk.
The retina specialist said, “You were right to come.”
“I can only see from the sides of my left eye. I cannot
clearly see what is ahead of me, only a gray cloud. I have trouble reading, I
have to cover my left eye to see the words.”
The doctor scheduled surgery, saying, “Your vision won’t be
the same as before, but it will be much improved.”
The surgery was frightening, as I knew their was a slight
risk of going blind.
A few weeks later, I could see better but not well enough to
On a Thursday evening, Adam felt very tired and went to bed
early. I wondered why he was tired as I readied for the upcoming Shabbat.
The next morning, I awoke hearing Adam saying, “I need help.
My legs don’t move. I can’t get up by myself.”
“How long have you been on the floor?”
“I don’t know.”
“I better call 911.”
“If you do, I’ll make a scene,” he said pulling himself up
by his arms onto the bed.
I dialed 911, hands shaking. “I think my husband is having a
“Is he conscious?”
By then Adam was in the kitchen glaring at me on the phone.
“Yes, he is standing beside me.”
“Don’t give him food or drink, the ambulance is on the way.
Open the door.”
“Okay,” I said. “Adam, sit on this chair. I have to run down
to open the door.”
I ran to get dressed and packed my cell phone, handkerchief
and eye drops.
“For me?” Adam jumped up as the firemen arrived.
They put a tearful Adam on a stretcher.
“Do you have a way to get to the hospital?”
“No.” I said.
“Come with us.”
“You will be okay,” I said to Adam as they carried him down
I rode in the front of the ambulance. It was only 5:30 a.m.,
so they put on their flashing lights without the siren, yet I could hear the
sirens of fear beating in my heart.
When we arrived, the doctor said, “The only way to know if
he had a stroke is for him to have an MRI.”
I waited till they took Adam for the MRI to call my
children. By then it was 7:00.
I heard my son’s tearful voice, then my daughter’s, saying,
“I’ll be right there.”
Sitting together, we all heard a doctor say, “We saw a
stroke on the MRI, he’ll be admitted.”
Later that day, my son drove me home, where I lit my Shabbat
candles in my large empty dining room.
On Shabbat, I could clearly see Adam’s prayer shawl on his
arm chair and his tefillin on his
desk, surrounded by many of his prayer books, Old Spice deodorant and Q-tips. I
could clearly see his special Shabbat prayer book on the dining room table and
the candle I bought for his mother Chassa’s yahrtzeit
this week waiting to be lit.
The mantle over the unused fireplace was covered with
pictures of our family life together. Many of the pictures were of our parents
and my brother, of blessed memory.
On the glass table were Adam’s reading glasses, a bowl
filled with rotting bananas and my black hat with a feather.
I could clearly picture our life of over fifty years in my
mind’s eye. Shortly after we were married, I burned the dinner. How it smelled
and how Adam smiled as he ate it! The happiness and gratitude we felt after the
births of our son and daughter. How blessed we were to be under their wedding canopies.
How my heart sang with joy when I made a collect phone call to my husband, the
new zaidy, after the birth of the
first of our four grandsons.
Early Sunday morning, looking over my deck, there were still
a few stars in the clear blue sky. In the east, the sun sent its flashes of
light through the forest.
I could feel the tears run down both my cheeks as I went to
see my husband.