Friday, January 6, 2012


“Thank God I only have two eyes,” I said to daughter Jennifer, co-author of my one and only nonfiction book, DEVOTED TO COOKING. Jennifer laughed, knowing it was a joke, but neither of us was feeling very merry. She was driving me home from having surgery on my left eye for a detached retina. This was my second time to have such a problem, and like most unfortunate happenings the timing was extremely inconvenient.

Christmas Eve, 2011, it seemed as if a curl had fallen over my eye. Without thinking I tried to brush this nonexistent curl aside, and nothing changed. My heart sank. It wouldn’t dare, I thought! Three days later the doctor performed emergency surgery and I knew from experience that I was in for a hard two weeks. This was my second trip around the block for a detached retina. The first time was even more traumatic.

Suddenly Blind—April 2008

On one of the best days of my life I went suddenly blind in my left eye. That glorious April day morphed into being one of the scariest days of my life. Along with the other two authors of Statehood Foxy Hens and Murder Most Fowl, I was about to travel back to Tulsa from Oklahoma City. We had just finished a successful speaking engagement at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. But the glow disappeared when an invisible curtain that could have been made of 4-inch black velvet suddenly blocked almost all sight in my left eye. Only a sliver of light was visible in the upper left-hand corner of half of my world.

Terror blitzed my brain and my reasoning powers froze. My mostly-healthy body had failed! Visions of tapping along with a white cane and learning Braille flitted through my writer’s imagination. I was so scared I couldn’t even speak. I felt unable to communicate my dilemma with my co-authors and friends, Peggy Fielding and Paula Watkins Alfred. If I voiced what had happened it would be real. So I retreated into the comfort of denial.
L to R: Paula Alfred, Peggy Fielding, Jackie King
“You’re really quiet,” Paula said, flashing me one of her dynamite smiles.

For a sensible person, this would have been the time to share the unthinkable thing that had happened. But I couldn’t. Making such a shocking declaration aloud would mean that it was true. So I hedged.

“I’m a private person,” I said a bit woodenly. I knew my smile was tight and no doubt phony, but the trauma seemed to seal my lips.

“She’s a Pisces,” Peggy Fielding said from the back seat. “A dreamer, you know.”

Gratitude swept over me. Thank God I wouldn’t have to talk much on the way home. Little did my friends know that my dream was actually a nightmare.


If any of you have suffered a detached retina or other eye problems, I'd love to hear about them. Readers and writers need their sight!




Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry you had to deal with this condition twice, Jackie! My youngest daughter had a small hole in one of her retinas last year. Being an artist her eyesight is part of her vocation, so it was terribly scary for her. Fortunately we got to an excellent specialist right away and the hole was 'patched' with a laser before it became a full blown tear. The doctor said it was very rare for someone her age (20). I hope you are feeling better soon.

Jackie King said...

Hi Kristin,
Thanks for commenting. I'm feeling much better now, but can only stand to stay at my computer for a limited amount of time. My eye begins hurting if I put too much strain on it.

I'm glad that your artist-daughter recovered from her damaged retina. It's wonderful what they can do now.

Hugs to you both,

Jean Henry Mead said...

Jackie, you brought tears to my own eyes. How brave and foolish to continue on without telling anyone. I'm glad it all turned out well.

Jackie King said...

Jean, More foolish than brave, I fear. But thanks so much for your sympathy. That really does help.