I Can See The Light

Kage Baker had vision problems at an early age.

At less than a year, her eyes began to cross. For a while, she was reportedly as cross-eyed as a Siamese kitten – flame point, one would assume, from the color of her hair. Few pictures survive showing the effect, as her mother was horrified.

At two, Kage’s strabismus was surgically corrected. Eye surgery being still pretty primitive in 1954, the effects left her with one eye straight but the left eye slightly walled – looking outward, to the side. Kage thought it was dreadfully obvious (it wasn’t, actually) and contrived all her life to disguise the effect. But although it didn’t show that much, it’s result was to essentially render her one-eyed: the sight in that wandering eye literally blinked on and off. She did not have binocular vision.

This happened so early in her life, that it didn’t influence most of her chosen activities. She painted, she sculpted, she did stained glass and copper enameling and calligraphy and cartography.  She played killer pool and badminton. Her hand/eye coordination and visual acuity were excellent, at least up close: at a distance, though, her depth perception sucked: which is why she never learned to drive.

I too had an early life eye problem. Mine was caused by Annie, a nuclear bomb test in the Upshot-Knothole series in Nevada. She went off on March 17, 1953. My parents were in the vicinity getting married; my mother was 16 years old and 5 months pregnant with me at the time. Everyone ran outside to watch, as was the jolly custom at the time … and with what we now know about what fetuses can see through the abdominal wall, I probably saw it too. Then, 4 months later, I was born with a small bump over my (coincidentally) left eye.

By age two (coincidentally) that bump resembled a baby cow’s horn and was diagnosed as a tumor.  (There are no pictures of me, either, for identical reasons to Kage.) The tumor  was removed.  Eye surgery being still pretty primitive in 1955, as well,  it left me with a small scar on the outside, and massive scarring on the inside, of my orbital arch. I  was left with a wandering eye, but mine straightened out by adolescence; however, abscesses had a habit of forming (over and over and over … sigh) in the gouge left by the surgery. As a result, my left eye sits in a spider web of scar tissue. I never had Kage’s hand-eye coordination.

I got slaughtered by her at pool and badminton, by the way …

Naturally, my left eye developed cataracts first. It has made the last 6 months hell; for the last month, in fact, I could barely type or read at all. How Kage lived all those years with only one one eye dependably working is yet another miracle her life … I was ready to hang myself. Hence the long miserable hiatus on this blog.

But! This Monday past, the cataract was removed and I got me a brand new acrylic interocular lens! I spent the first two days just wandering around staring at things – the sunlight blinking off individual leaves on the trees, birds and stars and clouds and drones and UFOs in the sky, print! Colors! I swear, everything even sounds clearer. And while I still technically have a cataract in my right eye, it’s a mere shadow. Removal will be a bagatelle. It will be gone after the New Year, with considerably less melodrama, so I am happy as a clam. A clam with eyes.

I have nifty sunglasses which make me look like a government agent, against the glare. I have a complicated system of eye drops that go in all day and night, which is nonetheless ever so much easier than being half-blind. I can’t bend over yet, lest my eye fall out of my head and roll around the floor for the amusement of the cats, but again – that’s better than walking into the walls.

I can see! The world is full of light! And it’s a much nicer light than the one I probably saw on March 17, 1953; and the eye surgery is much, much easier than the one I had at two  … thus are our lives bracketed by the wonders of technology, Dear Readers.

Those wonders really owed me one.


My First Light

My First Light



About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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7 Responses to I Can See The Light

  1. Tom says:

    I am absolutely delighted for you . . . or perhaps I should say re-lighted.


  2. mizkizzle says:

    That’s one heck of a story. But rejoice! You are now, technically, a cyborg! My eye doctor told me that Ray Bans are the best post-op sunglasses for cataract patients, which gladdened my heart. Ray Bans, like bow ties and fezzes, are cool.


    • Kate says:

      Yeah, the shades are tres cool. I’m gonna add some stick-on gems to them, too – for that extra kick of not-quite-tastefullness, you know? Maybe in constellation patterns.


  3. Luisa Puig says:

    Wow, fantastic coupling of events, Kathleen! Thank heavens “Annie” only got your left eye, and double thank heavens you got to your current age before this hellish cataract adventure began.
    The irony of “Annie” smitting you in the womb,and a laser surgery would un-smite you again, is sweet. Hope to see you when we, The Family Duchaineau, visit DCF this year!


  4. Becky Miller says:

    Woot! Good news. Though we had to look up bagatelle. Thank you for expanding our knowledge of 19th century French table games with an Italian origin.

    Dave agrees with you. Colors after cataract removal are wonderful.

    You definitely got the short stick. Dave, his parents, all of his siblings and cousins survived many, many of those above ground tests with no ill effects, in utero and growing up. Lots of them. Sitting in the bleachers with fake sunglasses on and all. You definitely got the raw deal!


    • Kate says:

      Yeah, thousands of people avoided damage from those tests! I have a talent for this sort of thing. Also, my parents – who were driving an ancient Morgan convertible held together with duct tape and spit – ran out of gas and got caught in a dust storm right after. I suspect that had something to do with the ultimate results. All it takes is one collision with a cell nucleus …

      On the other hand, I am an honest-to-Fermi mutant!


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