Jews, like people all over the world, recognize certain rites of passage from birth to death. They are usually associated with life’s milestones, such as brit mila, bar/bat mitzvah and marriage. But it seems to me that two, though not specifically Jewish rites, pass under the radar. Like other rites, they definitely impact the individual’s life.
Ask any teenager who has just had their braces removed. They will tell you about the joys of chewing gum and blowing bubbles. They will tell you about eating whatever they want without worrying about what will get caught in their braces. And of course, they will also be able to kiss without the fear of braces also embracing.
But at my ripe old age, I can barely remember that rite of passage. Yet, just recently I have experienced another, and equally important and life-changing one, also involving removal. I have had my cataracts removed. This is literally and figuratively a true eye-opener.
I have worn glasses throughout my life, progressing from only-at-school glasses to full-time glasses and then to multifocals. Despite the endless visits to eye doctors and optometrists. I could never really see very well. Not seeing well means a lot of guess work. Sometimes it could be very embarrassing as I warmly greeted people whom I didn’t know, or waved at someone who looked back at me questioningly. At other times, it could be downright dangerous. Driving along an unfamiliar highway without being able to read the signs is not recommended. It is not always easy to get to the exit lane when speeding along a highway, especially in Israel (where drivers are not known to be particularly polite or understanding).
Shopping at the supermarket could also be challenging. I found there is a definite eye-hand connection and no, I am not talking about coordination. When my granddaughter was diagnosed as being allergic to gluten, I discovered there is a direct link between my granddaughter’s allergy to gluten, my eyes and the length of my arms. Sometimes, despite my super-thick lensed glasses, my arms just weren’t long enough to hold the product far away enough to enable me to read the ingredients.
And then came those blessed words. “Your eyes are ready for cataract surgery,” said my ophthalmologist. It was time for my rite of passage.
After having cataracts removed from both eyes, I discovered a world that had eluded me for the previous 78 years. Vibrant colors replaced muted shades, sharply defined buildings made up the Tel Aviv skyline and even television subtitles could be easily read. No more fumbling for glasses first thing in the morning and panicking when not found. I could open my eyes and see!
But like everything else, the downside quickly became obvious. Where did all that dust come from? What little insect was lurking in the corner? And worst of all, who is that wrinkled old lady in the mirror?