The ravages of old age tend to make themselves known gradually. Every glance in the mirror or journey up the stairs offers a brief glimpse of the future, so when you notice that crease slicing across your cheek that maybe wasn’t there yesterday or feel the stiffness in your knees you once only felt after a couple hours on the basketball court you’re not surprised, only vaguely disenchanted.
Sometimes, though, old age just slaps you in the face.
Sunday afternoon, quite out of the blue, a fuzzy, green, wormlike creature took up residence in my left eye. At first it seemed like an eyelash or a strand of hair had dropped in, but no amount of eye rubbing or blinking moved it along. No matter what I did, the little worm just flitted about, like a tiny Protozoa under a microscope.
It’s important at times like these to not panic, so I didn’t. But I did spend the next hour or so doing everything I could think of to evict the tiny trespasser from my eyeball, while briefly imagining what life would be like as a blind man. Finally, I described my symptoms to My Lovely Wife, who recognized them at once as eye floaters or, as she prefers to call them, “eye pets.”
MLW has been harboring her own tiny eye pets for several years, with no ill effects. “You just get used to them,” she told me. “You don’t even notice them after a while.”
I’ll have to take her word for that, I guess, as the tiny worm’s random movements seem to be quite riveting — sort of like a National Geographic special on microscopic life forms. All that’s missing is Leonard Nimoy’s voice-over.
It’s a pretty common condition among us geezers, according to the folks at the Mayo Clinic. As you age, the vitreous substance in your eyes gradually liquifies and microscopic fibers begin to clump together, casting shadows on your retina, which appear as something you might prefer to see under a microscope rather than floating around in your aging eyeball.
They’re not considered dangerous; I’m not going to go blind. I’ll probably get used to it, just like I’ve grown accustomed to these bags under my eyes, my creaky knees, and the tiny amplifiers I stuff into my ears every day so I can hear MLW remind me that I really have nothing to complain about. Which is true. I’m just getting old — sometimes gradually, sometimes all at once.