Nestled above the Columbia River in Corbett, Oregon is a beautiful place called Menucha. In Hebrew it means “peace and quiet’, and this place is aptly named. It’s rich in history, and rustic ambience, the grounds are simply stunning, as is the nearly century old lodge, now called Wright Hall. (If you google Menucha, you will find it and can click through pictures of what I am talking about. It’s worth a look!)
When I had my first episode of iritis, it was extremely scary. They knew what was wrong with my eyes, but they didn’t know what was wrong with me. And the possibilities ran the gamut of tolerable to you could die. That first week, after seeing the ophthalmologist and learning that I wasn’t crazy, I needed to go to a training for work, and it happened to be at Menucha.
The ladies that I worked with were some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and they all had a sense of humor about my situation and a belief that I could still get something out of this conference even if I couldn’t see. Supportive was one of their top qualities, on a long list of great ones.
Sixty or seventy ladies from all over Oregon sat at tables, around the perimeter of this large lodge facing a panel of presenters, who were also seated. I could see my notepad, so I took a lot of notes, because trying to see the presenters faces made me sleepy. Their faces were just missing. I could see their clothes alright, but the tone of the skin on their faces all blended together. Plus, they all looked like they were sitting in the fog.
In spite of this challenge, I loved every minute of being there. My friends and I played games in the evening in our cozy nightgowns and laughed until we were almost on the floor. During breaks we would stroll around the lawns and the pathways. During meal times there was lively conversation and more laughter.
But, I was a little embarrassed sometimes too, even though I was in terrific company. Every half an hour, even if it was in the middle of someone’s presentation, I had to put eyedrops in both eyes. And, it was hard to be discrete about it. And, the pred drops left this lovely residue that I refer to as bird poop in the corner of my eyes. It’s just this white goop that collects there, especially when you’re on an every half hour regimen.
Another thing that embarrassed me was seeing fruit flies. My friends laughed, it was kind of funny, me swatting at the air. I hate bugs! But, I felt a little silly not being able to tell the difference. The fruit flies that I saw were floaters, little black ones that looked like bugs, and the floaters were swarming, like fruit flies.
Having an eye disease is humbling in a lot of ways, but I’ve found that if you make light of the things that bother you, find something humorous to describe what you’re dealing with, it disarms people and makes them feel comfortable with telling you, “Ah, Deb…you’ve got a little bird poop…right, yep you got it.”
At the end of the conference, the most amazing thing happened…my lenses popped, both of them. And suddenly, the faces of the presenters were there, the fog disappeared and everything else appeared! It was beautiful, and I think I said “Whoa” or something like it right out loud as I blinked and took in everything around me. My friends and I get a few looks, for being a little unintentionally disruptive with a couple of giggles, but they knew, I had been blind and now I could see! It was a great moment.
I think being able to be at a place like Menucha so soon after being told what was wrong with my eyes, and still in limbo for all of the other things still ahead was a huge blessing and perfect timing. There were moments of peace and quiet and reflection, and with that the hope that friendship and laughter bring.
Just for the sake of clarity, in iritis, (which is what I had in the beginning) the lens of the eye sticks to the iris due to swelling in the eye. A good picture might be two paper plates lightly pasted together. It’s damaging and needs to be controlled, because when the lens “pops” off or pulls away from the iris, it’s like pulling those two paper plates apart. It can’t be done without tearing and bringing parts of the one plate onto the other. This is a simplification, but a helpful description of what causes the scarring in iritis.
*A side note completely irrelevant to the topic: That night we went to McMennamin’s Edgefield, all of us Head Start Ladies, and took over a big hall with a live band. I wish I had a pic to post of all those ladies dancing, young old, short tall, fat, thin…all possible shapes and personalities. It was a blast! If you’ve never been to McMennamin’s Edgefield, check out pics on Google. It’s another fantastically beautiful place in Oregon!
Please…feel free to ask a question. Your comment or sharing a thought is also welcome.