By Lydia LaFleur
Not only was it raining with a forecast of heavy at times but the wind was fierce, making it treacherous for me to venture out. When I called the Eye Institute, I was told that if I canceled my appointment, the ophthalmologist wouldn’t be able to see me for at least two more weeks. But I have to see her as soon as possible, because I might have glaucoma and if it’s diagnosed early enough, they can inject medication in the eye so I won’t go blind. Sorry. Rather than worrying for the next two weeks, I said I’d keep the appointment. I’d have to go out come what may, hoping that someone would come to my rescue. That someone was down in the lobby – Marlo who had been my personal trainer for several years, asking where I was going in this weather. My guardian angel was already at her job. The last time Marlo had appeared at my door was over a year ago when I was close to dying from congestive heart failure, taking me to the hospital and probably saving my life. I knew he was on the verge of saying he would drive me this time too, but I told him car service was waiting outside for me. He walked me the distance to the car holding my arm firmly as we battled the wind. I would surely have been knocked down if I’d been by myself. The cab driver, Mr. Gomez, was just as solicitous. When I told him I was wondering how I’d get back home, he wrote down his cell phone number so I could call him fifteen minutes before leaving. When we arrived at the Eye Institute, he got out to accompany me to the entrance getting drenched himself, because an umbrella in this wind was useless. The waiting room was full of patients including several mothers with babies, one looking as if newly born. I wondered how in the world they managed to get here.
I had been there only the previous week for my six months’ check up seeing a specialist for my macular degeneration. Nothing had changed I was relieved to hear. However, further tests when I told her that for the past month I’d been having a grating like pain in my right eye; she said the eye was clear but that I should see a glaucoma doctor to rule out my having that disease. Now I was concerned; I had known a neighbor who lost most of her vision to glaucoma. Hence my return to the Institute four days later. I was there for two hours having more tests, some of which appeared to be a repeat from last week’s. Ophthalmologists seem to have an easy job these days; their assistants doing all the preliminary work, the doctor coming in only at the end for five minutes or so to make the diagnosis. After all that, the verdict was no glaucoma. But why does the eye ache? It’s from the dryness of the air. That’s it? After braving buffeting winds and rain and after two hours of tests, it’s only dry air? I remembered that during the cold spells, I had used a space heater, but some fresh air had surely come in through the window cracks and air conditioners. Solution: increase the eye drops to three times a day, use GenTeal, an eye lubricant at night, and warm compresses.
The waiting room was almost empty by the time I left. I was relieved to see the rain had stopped and the wind died down. Mr. Gomez came to get me and once again got out to help me into his car. When I held out $22 (the fare going had been $12) saying if that was enough, he looked perplexed and asked me what it was for, but when I told him that’s what I was paying him for taking care of me that day, he said, “That’s too much.” I insisted he take $20, but he seemed hesitant. Amazing! I needed to pick up my new glasses so asked him to take me to LensCrafters on 107th St. and B’way. It was now beginning to get dark and had turned very cold. I was wearing my red hood, boots, and voluminous red down coat that is down to my ankles, my having shrunk two and a half inches since I bought it forty-five years ago. I was very tired and remembered that all I’d had to eat that day was the delicious smoothie that my granddaughter Sarah and her husband Chris make me every morning and which usually keeps me going for several hours. But by now, I was walking in slow motion.
At 110th Street I saw the #4 bus at the corner waiting for the light to change. Usually when the street light signals ten seconds or less, I don’t attempt to cross, but maybe this time I could make it and catch that bus. I waved with my cane to the bus driver to wait, but couldn’t see the driver’s face in the dark. At that moment someone took my arm saying, “I’ll get you across.” I looked up to see a young African American youth who could not have been more than 19 or 20 years old smiling at me. “I hope that bus driver waits for me.”
“You want to get that bus? We’ll make it,” and he signaled to the bus driver as he brought me to the bus. Grateful to the bus driver for waiting but at the same time wondering if the young man was going to ask me for some tip money and wondering how to deal with that and get out my bus pass at the same time. The young man followed helping me get up into the bus. Oh, he too was going to take this bus. “I’ll get the card out when I sit down,” I told the bus driver as I heard the young man insert his card. The bus driver said. “Sit down” to me at the same time I heard the young man say, “I already paid for you” and leaped off the bus. I’m sure he saw the surprise and gratitude on my face and my mouthing “thank you” as we smiled warmly at each other through the bus window. I watched him go in the opposite direction, so I realized that he had been crossing the street when he saw me struggling to make it to the curb and turned around to help me. It was an act of Love that I had just experienced, of one human being for another. Such a feeling of love enveloped my whole being! I had encountered love that day from the moment I had left my apartment.