Seeing clearly by Angela Caldin

My husband has had his cataracts removed and a whole new world of light and detail has opened up before him to his delight and wonder.

It had all got pretty bad over the last year or so. He had given up driving, especially at night, because he couldn’t judge distances. Things appeared blurry with milky overtones. In order to read any writing on the TV, he had to perch right in front of it sitting on the coffee table.

Successful surgery

He was nervous about the surgery which was to be done under local anaesthetic, but it was a quick and slick operation and we were home in time for morning coffee. The left eye was done first and even before the transparent eye shield came off, it was clear that he could see a great deal better. The obvious illustration of this was that, wherever he walked in the house, he started picking up bits of fluff from the carpet and looking at them in amazement. I knew I had a choice: I could look at this as a criticism of my cleaning standards or I could take it as proof that the operation was worth it. Reader, I chose the latter.


The next week we were back for the right eye to be dealt with and, with both eyes now liberated from their cloudiness, there was no stopping him. The sun was shining through the sliding doors to the garden, showing up every blotch, smear or fingerprint on the glass. In no time at all he was out there obsessively cleaning both sides until they gleamed. Next, he vacuumed the whole house, eliminating all the offending bits of fluff. Finally, he turned his attention to the bathroom, scrubbing the white basin until it sparkled, even round the plughole. It’s an unusual way to get a clean house, but I’m not complaining.

What’s in a word

All this familiarity with cataracts and the liberation that results when they are gone made me wonder about the word itself. In wondering and consulting the dictionaries, I realised that cataract is a word with two distinct meanings. The first is waterfall, floodgate, rush of water; the second is a kind of portcullis in the sense of a gateway clanging down. The alternative sense of portcullis in Latin probably passed through French to give the English meaning of opacity of the lens causing an obstruction to eyesight.

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