(Originally published August 4, 2011; edited and republished August 27, 2020)
It all started because the highfalutin Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton, Missouri, a well-heeled inner-ring suburb of St. Louis, didn’t have any Diet Coke in the house.
Hard to believe, I know, but true. All they had was Pepsi. I’m a Southern man, and I don’t cotton well to Yankee pop (HQ in NY), its North Carolina roots notwithstanding. I blame my mama. She filled my baby bottle with original Coke so she could get some precious sleep (pretty sure she didn’t read Dr. Spock).
It worked. She caught some Zs, and I caught an addiction and a mouthful of cavities.… Read the rest
The word, appropriately enough, came to me through a text message on my iPhone, one of dozens a day. It was from Number Two Son in Pensacola: “Hey what’s up with your blog? I tried getting on and there’s this weird face and it says you’ve been hacked!”
I was close to a computer, naturally, and even if I hadn’t been, I had my “device” tucked in my white clinic jacket. I clicked on the link to Ocular Fusion–what I saw widened my mouth and caused me to inhale sharply, like a fish out of water, gasping for air.
Instead of seeing 7 years and 75MB worth of middle age angst, I beheld the emerald-eyed, pallid face of a corpse, its mouth covered with strips of tape like a sealed crime scene.… Read the rest
When an eye doctor goes blind, there are no special dispensations or exemptions. He does it just like everybody else–one eye at a time.
My recent self-diagnosis of a retinal tear in my right eye took a colorful, and ominous, turn on July 4th. I was driving around Huntsville when a blood vessel which crossed the area of the retina that was treated with laser burst open like a uncapped oil well. No black gold or Texas Tea, Jed, just blood.
It started with a single red ribbon which began to flow upward from my inferior visual field. Other scarlet streaks soon joined it, each dividing into tributaries and tendrils which filled my clear field of view with smoky-red smudge.… Read the rest
I consider myself a better than average ocular diagnostician. Whenever my technician or an intern comes into my office and tells me a patient’s history and describes the patient’s signs and symptoms, I usually know what is wrong without even looking. I am like Carnac the Magnificent, only with a white coat and head-mounted ophthalmoscope instead of a cape and feathered turban.
In my head, I generate a list of three to four possible diagnoses and rank them according to their probability. If it is my technician, I tell him what I think is most likely going on and perhaps ask him to perform another test or two and then dilate the patient’s pupils.… Read the rest
Jesus said to “Love they neighbor” and “thy enemy.” But what do you do when the person who lives next door to you is both?
I guess there aren’t any special dispensations for that scenario. You’re just supposed to suck it up and go. When it came to Mary Nell, our neighbor from 1995-2011, we tried–and failed–over and over and over.
We first met Mary Nell in August 1995 when we stopped by Corley Drive to check out the 10-year-old brick rancher with the huge backyard that had just gone on the market.
Well, “met” only if you count a dried-up prune of a little old lady glaring at you through window blinds as a “meeting.”… Read the rest
i’ve been in guatemala. i saw around 100 patients and my partner did about 50 eye surgeries. our ortho guy who went with us did a lot of great stuff too. “the lame walked and the blind saw.” it was a great week, until. . . .
we finished up and went for an expedition in the rainforest. it was very primeval, just like avatar, only the people were coffee-brown, not blue, and they didn’t have those long, braid thingies hanging down.
the little children wore loincloths and performed perfect-10 swan dives into the river off a large rock of ages.… Read the rest
A former college professor of mine at Harding, Dr. Joe Pryor, was famous for his bow ties and his nerdy (and charming) way of saying things.
Whenever it snowed or iced in Searcy, Arkansas and the sidewalks around campus grew slick, he would stand behind the podium during chapel and declare, in his best Ben Stein “Ferris Beuller” economics teacher monotone, “Be careful walking around campus today; the coefficient of friction is extremely low.”
I thought of him last Sunday when the coefficient of friction on the roads near my birthplace in southwest Virginia suddenly dropped to near zero. It started snowing that morning, not hard, but enough to capture the attention of my sister’s two curious cats, Twinky and Zinger, who sat on their haunches and stared out the patio window watching the flakes fall.… Read the rest
The Family Holiday Newsletter died yesterday. It was born in December, 1996 when the Family Sons were ages seven, five and three. It may have been before then, but there were no files older than 1996 on the 500GB external hard drive.
It had been on life support for some time, but since this is the third year running that it has failed to make an appearance, the Family finally said their tearful goodbyes and pulled the plug. The newsy, bulleted, Family Holiday Newsletter was one of those “brag sheets” that were de rigueur for “parents of a certain age,” thirty and forty-somethings whose prodigy kids composed symphonies at age five, set age records in the marathon at age seven and cured cancer at age nine.… Read the rest
Mmmhmm. And Herman Cain was merely a harmless flirt. Eyegal was responding to the sight of me, head in hands, my team up 24-7 at halftime in this year’s Iron Bowl. You know, that annual “intrastate scrimmage” between Alabama and Auburn.
In any other universe, 24-7 at the break is reason enough for a trip to the fridge to fetch the wings and that gourmet beer you’ve been saving for a special occasion. But my stomach was churning too violently to enjoy food and drink. I wasn’t quite “Tebowing,” but almost. If 2010 had taught Crimson Tide fans anything it was that a 17 point halftime lead was never enough.… Read the rest
My wife often substitutes at a local private school, one of the area’s finest. It is where many of Huntsville’s professional elite send their children to be prepped and to gain that special leg-up that only money can buy.
Sometimes, she comes home and tells me stories.
Yesterday, she read her 5th graders the short story, “Thank You, Ma’am” by the noted 20th-century African-American writer Langston Hughes. In it a young boy with a hankering for a pair of “blue suede shoes” decides to steal the purse of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, a hairdresser who is walking home one evening after leaving her shift at a local hotel.… Read the rest
“Mulder and Scully came right out of my head. A dichotomy. They are the equal parts of my desire to believe in something and my inability to believe in something. My skepticism and my faith.”
–Chris Carter, creator of “The X-Files”
A friend of mine told me recently that I was “altogether too polite” and that I didn’t ask enough “tough questions.” This came as news to my family, especially my sons who, on more than one occasion, have felt the probing, white heat of one of my infamous, late-night interrogation sessions following one of their nights on the town (“Vee have vays of making you talk!”).… Read the rest
When it came time to pray, the Stars and Stripes stood limp in the back, left-hand corner of the room, out of sight.
Up front was the processional cross, the center of our attention and standard of the hour. I had to crane my neck nearly one hundred and eighty degrees to spy Old Glory. I didn’t feel sorry for her, though. I knew that before the day was over, she would receive her due–and then some. But at that moment, she was merely an invited guest, one among many.
That was the scene as we prepared for common prayer yesterday at Nativity Episcopal Church in Huntsville.… Read the rest
We had assembled at Coleman Coliseum on the campus of the University of Alabama to watch our children “walk the line” at summer graduation. The killer tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa on April 27th, 2011 had also rudely interrupted the academic careers of many of the May graduates, leaving them all dressed up in cap and gown with no place to go.
Now, even though they had received their hard-earned diplomas in the mail a few weeks prior, many of them had returned, along with their fellow summer graduates, to don their regalia and finish in style. Also in attendance: a mess of mamas and papas and memaws and papaws, all of them thirsty for some much-needed closure and a little pomp and circumstance.… Read the rest