Driving With One Good Eye
First Written 2010; Revised Feb. 2015
By Jane Tawel
I was born with strabismus in my right eye. That took me an extra second to write because I still have to close one eye to figure out which one doesn’t see well any more. A human’s ability to either adjust or live in denial is amazing, is it not?
Strabismus is when your eye is supposed to go left and it sometimes detours right and vice versa. My right eye used to go all wiggledy-woggeldy. When I was four years old, my parents bought me an operation that corrected the errant eye, and the operation made me look normal but unbeknownst to me it didn’t correct the actual sight in my eye.
I didn’t know I was sight-impaired and defective until I was twenty-four years old. My future father-in-law, Gaston Tawil, took me to a hot -shot young eye specialist at John Hopkins who with flint in his egotistical 20/20 eyes asked me if I knew I was legally blind in my right eye. Legally blind!?!?! Wow, I felt like I’d just been asked, “Did you know you are legally stupid?” I had been legally tested and been found to be legally faulty. Dr. Hotshot furthermore told me there was nothing I could EVER DO to change my blind eye because some (and he implied) Podunk doctor had corrected the alignment and had thus ensured that the higgledy-piggledy corrected eye would never ‘learn to see’. It was a life sentence of lazy eye, which is ironic, because they used to call my higgledy-piggledy eye, “lazy”.
The irony was that although I no longer looked as if I had lazy eye, I actually had such a lazy eye that it didn’t do a decent day’s work ever. I had bum-on- the- street eye, homeless guy eye, lazy good-for- nothing eye. Good thing I like irony. Except when it has to do with me, of course. The young hot shot doctor who took great pride in freaking out the little blond bimbo, also told me I better take very, very, very good care of my one, solitary good eye, because if I lost vision in my one good left eye, I wouldn’t only be blind in my right eye but permanently blind in both. Two lazy good for nothing homeless guy eyes.
I thought maybe I had suddenly lost my hearing as well after this news as all I heard after that was, “Thank you very much, Blind Girl, and that prognosis will cost you five hundred billion dollars”. I was blissfully happier and wealthier before I ever went to John Hopkins. I took my little homeless guy eye back to my future in-laws, and told them, thanks yes, every thing went well. It is important to realize that future and current in-laws must always be kindly told lies if you want them to like you. After you get married, you realize that lying to in-laws is often part of your job description if you want everyone to be blissfully happy.
When I told my mom about this event, she felt so bad. You can imagine. Of course it didn’t help that at the time, remember, I was in my mid-twenties, which is the universal age of “Blame Your Mother for Everything that Ever went Wrong in your Life” Age. Being my mom, she tried to rationalize and explain our way out of this and when she did that, (which was often) she always knew that at the end of hours of discussion, when we understood what was going on, then she always felt that The Thing (whatever it was) would have been reasoned out of existence. Mom’s great inside joke with God on me is that I got four children just as my Mom did, all of whom have enjoyed hours of my reasoning discussions.
My pretty and wonderful Mom, Jane Cook, who did not do everything wrong:
But of course by the time I told my mom about my legal blindness, I was getting used to feeling sorry for my poor newly handicapped little old self and looking for someone to blame. Remember, all kids no matter the age have a hard time not hanging up their parents on giant Guilt Tenter Hooks.(I always thought this was tender hook, as in meat tenderizing hooks. Thank you, Amy Brallier.) I strung up my parents, the Podunk doctors and perhaps a few random strangers passing by and I refused to let them off The Guilt Hook.
I think the guilt hooks we make for other people are those big, galvanized iron kind you can buy at Home Depot that have the clicky bars that go across and you have to do something fancy to release the hook. If we can string someone up with guilt about our iniquities, infirmities, or just plain old bad choices, then we are going to string them up on a giant butcher’s meat Tender Hooks (see)—think Rocky meat room hooks. Then we can take boxing swings at them for the rest of our Blame- Someone -Else Lives.
Those guilt hooks we make for others are strong – kryptonite-infused big crane hooks.
The guilt hooks we make for ourselves, should we ever feel the slightest twinge of needing to feel guilty, are the little, fake gold ones that you can screw into wood planks with your bare fingers, and that are good to hang mugs on upside down in your kitchen cabinets and which often do not keep the mugs on, but let them fall off and break. Our personal guilt hooks are wee itty bitty made of play-doh hooks.Our personal guilt hooks are like little bitty crochet hooks.The guilt hooks we hang ourselves on are totally un- sturdy and they allow our own guilt to slide off quite easily.
I hung my parents on Super Colossal Guilt Hooks and took my poor little homeless guy lazy eye on a guilt free trip to The Holier-than-Thou Land.
My Parents’ Hook:
When I was four, and after the operation, I had to go have my eyes checked all the time. I remember the doctor’s office as this very large, clinical, white, circular room divided into sections with doctors’ chairs all over the place and all around the perimeter of the waiting area were the many doctors peering into various people’s eyes. I’m not sure if this was a real place or a pre- literate dystopian nightmare of mine. But I do definitely remember the clinic had the only kids’ magazine in existence, “Highlights”. Today there is a children’s magazine for everything thing under the sun. There are children’s sports magazines, children’s beauty magazines, Play Station magazines, left-handed kids’ magazines, and magazines to read to children in the womb before they even become children.
“Highlights Magazine” had stories but also had connect-the dots, and mazes, and “find the hidden picture” pages. You weren’t supposed to write on those pages in the doctor’s office because the magazine wasn’t yours and other children wanted to look at them without having the hidden items all circled. So being good little Midwestern boys and girls, we just found the hidden pictures and traced them with our little clean fingers and sometimes, showed our mothers, who were sitting distracted by worry next to us.
But “Highlights” also had a cartoon called “Goofus and Gallant”. It was about two little boys, and one named Gallant was Good ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME and one named Goofus was Bad, REALLY, REALLY BAD. Capital letter, “Good”, and Capital letter, “Bad”. I thought it was the creepiest comic strip I had ever seen. Now, I was a pretty good child in those days, so you would think I would have related to Gallant and felt good about this Christian tale of how one child, no matter what, always chose Good and the other one always chose Bad. But I didn’t. It seemed like maybe, just like I was born with my crossed eye and so I couldn’t see right, maybe some poor little kid named Goofus could just be born with a crossed set of morals, and not be able to be Good. Maybe you could get something crossed at birth, and then, you would always be Bad, even though you looked normal to everyone who looked at you. You could be born blind inside, like I was blind outside.
Goofus was lazy, just like my right eye was lazy. Goofus was naughty and weird looking, like my eye, and unlike cute perfect Gallant. Goofus did all the wrong things, just like Dr. Hot Shot made me feel my parents and doctors had done all the wrong things, and I had probably been born doing the wrong things – like Goofus. The prognosis: Destined to be Bad. My little homeless guy eye was just a born Goofus. A person could forever be labeled blind, never to be Perfect Vision Gallant, the Good One. Poor guilty, bad legally blind Goofus. And that name. Why did they name the poor boy, Goofus? Goofus makes it sound as if he just wasn’t intelligent enough to learn to do the right thing, like Dr. Hot Shot pronouncing my eye legally stupid..
After the operation, the eye doctors’ always did the same check up procedure. They would put a black disc on a stem over one eye, hold their hand in front of me and ask: “How many fingers do I have up?” “Now how many?” “How many now?” I can remember my family sitting around in my Grandma and Grandpa Cook’s apartment in New Carlisle, Ohio, saying, “How many fingers?” “Now how many?” “How many, Jane Karen?” Then the doctors in the circular clinical white room with many doctors’ chairs, would put up charts to test my eyes. They would put different lenses in front of my eyes that would be different colored, or would make the symbols on the chart go blurry, or get clearer, or bigger, or smaller and they’d ask “Is this good?” “How about this?” “Is this better or worse?” And it was like they were testing me. They were testing me of course, but no matter how very, very hard I tried to score well on their tests, I could never see any better with my right eye. My right eye was too stupid to pass the tests. My right eye was my Goofus eye and no matter how hard she tried, Goofus-eye always did The Bad Thing. My right eye was blind and made “stupid choices”. My Goofus eye couldn’t help it, she was born blind, but I always, always, felt so guilty that I couldn’t see even for the doctors – especially guilty that I couldn’t see, even for my family.
Now when I go to get my eyes checked, I anticipate the doctors’ tests and I immediately tell them, “I don’t see at all out of my right eye. I am legally blind in that eye.” Almost always they still test me and try anyway to get me to see with my right eye, as if somehow I might have been wrong all along, or maybe just stupid. Just maybe they might be the doctor who has the right lens or the right trick or the right test so that my Goofus eye can finally choose good over evil and SEE. But of course they never can. I leave each office, still legally blind in my right eye. I always go back home with my little homeless guy eye, my Goofus eye.
And you should see the song and dance routine I do when I go to the DMV and have my eyes checked for driving. I admit to them straight up, “Hey, I am legally blind in this eye. I am driving with one good eye.” Like they wouldn’t figure it out, when they gave me the eye test and I kept saying, “No, nothing. Nope, still nothing”. I assure them and so far they’ve bought it: Don’t worry,I drive with my one good eye.
I think maybe there is no such thing as a boy or girl who is always a Gallant and a boy or girl who is always a Goofus, but that all of us are always both Gallant and Goofus all wrapped up together in one person. Just like two eyes in one face, we have one part of us that has 20/20 vision and we have one part of us that no matter what we do, it is always blind to what we should do. Or what we could do. We just have to accept that all of us have a part of us that is legally blind when it comes to God’s Kingdom. We are all the blind ones before healing comes from Jesus. We just can’t see very well, no matter how hard we try; the lens is dark and blurry on this side of eternity.
See, it isn’t any one’s fault that I never got vision in my gimpy homeless guy eye. I had one doctor tell me that we would never really know but maybe I had actually been born blind in that eye. Maybe the correcting operation didn’t make me blind after all. Maybe it wasn’t my parents’ fault, or the doctor’s fault or my fault. My eye wasn’t lazy, just between jobs.
Jesus teaches us many things about blindness but the lesson I love is when he heals the blind man by putting mud on his eyes – on the Sabbath. Jesus really is Dr. Hot Shot – the Great Physician who heals with a little “mineral water” and a little faith. Christ’s healing on a Sabbath is a big, big culturally religious No-No. But what He does that is even more radical than breaking the cultural law of no work on the Sabbath is He lets the blind man and his parents off the big galvanized guilt hooks that society has strung them up on.
We are all driving through life with one good eye. Oh, it may not be your actual eye, but there is something that keeps you from seeing clearly. One hundred percent, 20/20 perfect eye sight doesn’t exist in this world. As I Corinthians 13:12 assures us, in this life we see as if through an eye with glaucoma, a clouded mirror, a window that has only a tiny speck washed enough to be clear; we are all partially, legally blind. We are all driving with only one good eye. That’s why we need the faith of a blind man.
Do you know there’s a rumor that maybe the Apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a weakness in his eyes? The apostle who saw so many things so much more clearly than anyone, maybe couldn’t literally see all that well. None of us can see all that clearly, until one day when we see Jesus, face to face. But we cry out, “Lord, I can’t see. Help my blinding unbelief!” We are called to use our one good eye, to try each day to “See Him more clearly, Love Him more dearly, and “Follow Him more nearly, Day by Day”(Godspell).
In John 9, we find the only instance of Jesus healing a man stricken from birth with a debilitating physical problem – blindness. Can you imagine a person who has never seen anything having enough faith to break the law by obeying an unknown Stranger, and then for the still blind man to walk the streets, his face dripping dirt from his muddy eyes, and to wash them in a pool – believing he will see a world he has no visual knowledge of? Then this same man when asked by the people in charge who was responsible for causing him to sin on the Sabbath, tells them truthfully, “I have no idea, but I do know that I can see!”
Sadly, the parents of the blind man want to make sure they are not strung up on the guilt hook. They disown their son and reject the Messiah who healed their blind child, so they can ‘appear” to be without sin and stay in the “In – crowd” of temple and society. How sad. Jesus warned us that those who are blind will see and those who think they see, will be blinded.
Jesus’ disciples saw a blind “sinner” and asked the Son of God, “Who sinned, this man or his parents – because no one is born blind unless it is someone’s fault”. There was no way this blind man had ever been able to hide his wiggeldy-woggledy eyes. No way to pretend he had perfect 20/20 vision. The man not only had two homeless guy lazy eyes, he was a homeless guy, begging on the streets because his family kicked him and his lazy eyes to curb when they realized they might be blamed for his infirmity as if it was his iniquity. So the disciples are just asking to clarify theology, “Hey, Jesus, why DO good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people? Who is the Goofus here – this blind guy or his mistake-ridden parents?”
Jesus answered, “Neither has this man sinned nor his parents. This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9: 1-3)
God formed us and knows our innermost parts. He knows we are both Gallant and Goofus and He knows we will sometimes choose wrong and sometimes with His grace, we will choose good. And He loves us. He works through forgiveness, and grace and love to correct even the blindest of spiritual eyes. And one day, we will all who choose to trust God, have 20/20 vision. One day with faith, all our little homeless guy parts, our Goofus- parts, will be healed and restored to perfection because we are walking with enough faith to believe it is not about our sin or someone else’s sin but about “the works of God and the glorification of His name”.
“For now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see Him face to face.” After the blind man leaves the temple priests and rejects society’s judgement of him, Jesus, despite a threat on his own life, went to seek out the blind man. When Jesus asked him if the man knew who had healed him, the blind man had no idea – remember he was literally seeing Jesus for the first time. But when the blind man, saw the face of his Savior, he was no longer spiritually blind and he bowed down and worshipped Him.
And so shall we, blind men all, someday worship the only one who can make the blind men see, for then “we shall see Him face to face. We shall know fully, even as we are fully known”. And all the gimpy, homeless guy, lazy-eyed Goofuses will be perfected, even as Christ is perfected in us. Someday we will be driving with two good eyes.