Achilles’ Heel, Everyone’s Got One

June 2, 2017
Pen sketch in a small Nostalgie journal. A very shaky line drawing of Dick which never came together on the left. Then a perfect likeness on the right of another person in the waiting room.

My Achilles’ Heel, used to be the girls, and how quickly I could get them out of their crates (and with what tools) if there was an accident in the Bronco.

Now it’s clear that my Achilles’ Heel is Dick’s eyes.

Dick had cataract surgery almost a month ago. What should have been a quick recovery has instead been a long, drawn out process of coping with irritation, infection, and a whole lot of doctor’s visits.

I called my dad to wish him a happy birthday on Wednesday and actually told him I was scared. I can’t stand to see Dick in pain. I never talk to my dad about such things.

Initially after the operation I was ferrying Dick around. (He has recovered enough that he can see to drive, but he has to take long breaks when he doesn’t use his eyes at all.)

I would take Dick to his post op appointments. I think you can see from the above sketch how rattled by the whole experience I was. One could argue that my sketch of Dick was my warm up sketch, but I know that isn’t it. I couldn’t even bear to look at him I was so worried. (And I tend not to worry about medical things until they are “final.”)

After trying to focus on sketching Dick I turned my attention to someone else in the waiting room and I had absolutely no difficulty. The sketch at the right is accurate, crisp, clean, decisive.

I thought about this incident over the next several days, while I marveled at how mature, stoical, and just generally fantastic Dick is. If something like this were happening to me I would be complaining, grumbling, and throwing attitude at everyone within earshot.

He has just kept keeping on. And of course, taking frequent breaks to not use his eyes. I want to be like Dick when I grow up.

At another post-op visit I sketch Dick, can’t do it, but instead make myself look at him—the second sketch merging into the gutter. I got him that time, and I actually even captured his eyebrows!

Then a couple doctor’s visits later I was sitting opposite Dick and I decided to sketch him again. My first attempt to sketch him is on the left of the second image in this post. The sketch seems amorphous, and vague. I couldn’t focus in on the proportions of his face.

But I had had time to think over my drawing experience from May 9th. I realized what was happening. When drawing you have to navigate a thin line between observing and care taking. You want the emotional connection (it’s the recognition of that connection that’s one of the reason I sketch), but you don’t want the sentimentality. And you don’t want to be stopped and brought out of the present moment by thinking of what isn’t, of what hasn’t happened.

I took a deep breath and shook it off. I can deal with gaping wounds, I’m not going to let eye problems bring me to my knees.

I started a new portrait in the same position. Dick would shift positions, but every few minutes his hand would come up and his head and hand would be in roughly the same position. His eyes were squinted shut because of the discomfort.

This time I forced myself to sketch Dick, just as he was. I used the same determination I’ve used to quiet my mind and sketch in other difficult moments, whether it was the last sketches I did of Dottie on the day she died, or the many emergency visits to the hospital for Dick’s parents. I focus on the present moment. My commitment to that moment is what’s important.

I think it’s vital, when you have a drawing habit, to know the forces that impinge on it. It’s also fundamental to know that you can push forward in any difficult or unpleasant situation. It’s critical that you do push forward and draw anyway because drawing keeps you in the present moment.

It’s imperative that you look at everything. It’s necessary you really see what’s before you—because then you can deal with the reality.

  1. Reply

    So sorry Dick is having these issues, it happens sometimes. A friend of mine had cataract surgery 1 week before I did (we both used the same Doctor), she had problems similar to Dick’s (all better now btw), my recovery was quick, vision crisp and clear the very next morning. So I’m feeling very lucky…hope Dick recovers soon.

    1. Reply

      My dad told me that he knows only one other person who had this issue and he just learned about it 2 months ago. It’s funny because it’s such a common operation and they almost always go well. So when they don’t it’s befuddling as well as stressful. Thanks for thinking of us! And I’m so glad that your operation went without a hitch!

    • Cathy
    • June 2, 2017

    I hope that by now Dick is feeling much better! It’s unsettling to have loved ones be under distress, please take care.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Cathy for thinking of us.

    • Beth Trembley
    • June 2, 2017

    This is a very valuable post because of the bravery you gave it–both to live it and to write it and then to share it too! Thank you.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Beth! I hope all is well with you and your pack.

  2. Reply

    When my husband gets sick there is complete and utter chaos at my house. I hope Dick recovers soon and you guys can get back to normal. hugs.

    1. Reply

      YES!!!! Although I have to say this whole incident made me realize what lovely hands he has. So that’s something right Claudia? Thanks so much for thinking of us.

    • Domi Feichtinger
    • June 2, 2017

    I am impressed with the vulnerability of your post. Seeing what is really there – it’s the key to drawing as well as to life. Not always pretty or comfortable but necessary. Thank you for sharing this experience with such honesty. Wishing Dick all the best. Hang in there!

    1. Reply

      I try to push myself as you know Domi. But it’s not easy when it involves Dick. Thanks for your kind thoughts!

    • Scot
    • June 2, 2017

    Thank you for sharing and I hold space for complete healing and no pain. Look forward to new eyebrow challenged drawings and no squinting.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Scot I appreciate your healing thoughts!

    • Lesli Williamson
    • June 2, 2017

    Hi Roz,
    Just wanted to let you know when I click on older post drawings to try to enlarge, I just get your new websites header illustration.
    Hope this helps,

    1. Reply

      Yep, I have some notes about this somewhere—the 2100 pre Jan 2017 posts are in the old Typepad format and can’t be transitioned manually. I don’t have the time or inclination right now to reenter and format the over 5000 images. I’m sketching instead.

      But I appreciate the heads up, and keep letting me know if you find DIFFERENT THINGS because those I might be able to fix.

    • Marion
    • June 2, 2017

    Thank you for sharing. It is difficult to see a loved one suffer. Eyes are so precious to us. I hope Dick’s eyes will heal soon.

    1. Reply

      The eyes are so important in so many ways Marion. I have been able to keep my mind from spinning on what ifs by sketching. Thanks for thinking of us.

  3. Reply

    Drawing is one of the best ways I know to stay in the moment and out of my future-predicting fear-filled head. I hope things improve soon for Dick and that you continue to find solace in your art.

    1. Reply

      Kit, I think it’s the best way. I was worried earlier about finishing something before a non-work related meeting and there wasn’t any way to do it so I sketched instead and went right back to work after the meeting and hand not thought or worried about any of it at all because sketching kept me present. Thanks for thinking of us!

    • Christine K
    • June 2, 2017

    You know what it is, don’t you? It’s the shock of seeing that big, strong, capable, funny, smart, dependable man suddenly vulnerable. That’s how I felt when my then 47 year old husband had a stroke. Seeing him in an emergency bed and only going home with a little bundle of sweat soaked clothes was terrifying. He was lucky – I was lucky! He had no deficits and completely recovered. Good thing I wasn’t sketching back then – I don’t think I could have picked up a pencil. Anyway – my best wishes to Dick and also to you. Hang in there – you have a lot going on.

    1. Reply

      Oh yeah, that’s part of it. But it’s also simply the “oh shit,” how am I going to get his stuff AND my stuff done.

      I’m so glad to hear your husband recovered completely from his stroke!!!

      Thanks for thinking of us.

    • Eleanor
    • June 3, 2017

    Hold you and Dick in my heart.
    Love and Hope,

    1. Reply

      Thank you so much.

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