Have you ever seen a mirage? I have.
As some of you know, I recently had surgery on my right eye. I had a creased retina, or in doctor terms, a macular pucker. I had never heard of such a thing, but apparently, it's pretty common. We have a gell-like substance in our eyes called vitreous gell. As we age, the gell can begin to harden, causing it to pull away from the retina and form scar tissue called an epiretinal membrane. If this happens near the macular, the part of the retina used for sharp central vision, it results in blurred vision. My gradual loss of vision is how I realized something was wrong.
The only treatment is a surgery called a vitrectomy. The vitrectomy is performed as an outpatient procedure and removes the vitreous gel, replacing it with a saline solution. The surgeon then peels the epiretinal membrane off the surface of the retina with forceps.
After the surgery, the saline solution made it impossible for me to see anything out of my right eye. This made depth perception difficult and plagued me with a constant feeling of seasickness. As I write this, I am one-week post-surgery. The water is subsiding, but there is still a small drop at the bottom of my eye, and my vision is still very distorted. Due to this, I have found day-to-day activities cumbersome and haven't been able to work.
So, what does this have to do with a mirage?
Nothing really, but it did get me thinking about how much we take for granted our vision and reminded me of a time when I was traveling from Las Vegas to LA and experienced a mirage.
It was the summer of 2000. My cousin, Susan's, daughter, Jeaneen, was getting married in San Pedro, California. I flew out to LAX and met my mum and dad there. They had accumulated so many Delta Skymiles that they flew for free. My parents traveled over 5,000 miles from England before cellphones were commonplace and just hoped that we would be able to find each other in one of the largest airports on the planet. As luck would have it, we did.
The ceremony was spectacular and held on the lawn at Fort MacArthur overlooking Los Angeles Harbor. We partied until the wee, small hours and slumped into bed exhausted. The following day we had arranged to drive to Las Vegas and spend some time with Susan. Tired and somewhat hungover but sufficiently fueled with a much-needed jentacular caffeinated beverage, we set off on a four-and-a-half-hour drive and headed 'out of Dodge.' Highway 15 connects LA and Las Vegas and climbs slowly out of the San Bernadino Valley toward Cajon Pass and through the Mohave Desert.
The busy, drab, grey concrete scenery gradually gave way to magnificent, stunning, picturesque rock formations decorated in hued reds, carmine, terracotta, and bronze. As we left behind the thick smog of LA, the temperature gradually climbed along with our ascent. I had taken the first leg of the journey, and after three hours, I was done! We pulled over in Baker, CA, at the World's Tallest Thermometer. The temperature registered at a blistering 112f (44.5c). The dry heat of the desert and the absence of anything resembling a breeze took my breath away as I swapped the driving seat with my dad.
The vastness of the scenery was difficult to comprehend, with enormous stretches of dry scrubland interspersed with shrubs and wayward tumbleweeds and bordered by rugged, imposing mountains. Thirty minutes after our pilot change, we navigated Mountain Pass before dropping into the Primm Valley located on the Ivanpah Dry Lake Bed.
Armed with nothing more than our desire to rest and a well-worn paper map, we cruised into Las Vagas, past the airport, skirted Sin City, and on to North Las Vegas and the cool and comfort of my cousin's home.
Our visit was relaxing and filled with reminiscing talks about departed family members and happy memories of Susan visiting us in England many years before. Of course, we touristed along quintessentially Vegas hotspots of Freemont Street and The Strip. The neon-soaked promenades exuded splendor lined with exuberant hotels, opulent restaurants, palatial music venues, and of course, resplendent casinos—the soaring choreographed Fountains of the Bellagio danced and mesmerized visitors. The replica Eifel Tower beckoned with the promise of a sweeping view.
Not being gamblers, we set ourselves a limit and nonchalantly fed one-armed-bandits with quarters. We made sure to be actively nourishing the hungry machines should a scantily dressed cocktail waitress pass our way. Gamblers are plied with free beverages to encourage them to stay, and we took full advantage of this service.
Time to leave
After a very pleasant couple of nights with my cousin, we needed to head back to LA to catch a flight back to Charleston. With clear heads and not a hangover in site the trip back was far easier than the journey out. With our magnificent California and Nevada journey coming to an end, we solemnly left Las Vegas with heavy hearts and happy memories. Silently we passed Last Chance to Gamble, Whisky Pete's on the CA/NV border, and gradually began a gentle climb out of the dusty, extinct lake bed.
I glanced over to my left and noticed a huge, glistening lake with a tall-masted ship sailing majestically across it.
"I don't remember seeing a lake when we were driving here."
"Neither do I." replied my dad.
"Look, there's a boat on it." My mum added.
"How did we not notice such a large lake?" I asked.
We were all dumbfounded. As our journey continued, the craft slowly floated across the shimmering lagoon.
As we drew closer and closer to the vast waterhole, it appeared to shrink before our eyes. The once sparkling expanse evaporated into oblivion. And, what used to be a luxurious sailboat morphed into a fence post. We couldn't believe what we had just witnessed. The lake, the water, the boat, had all been a mirage. I am so glad my mum and dad were there to experience it with me. We talked about it often, and as with many of our stories, we 'dinned out on it' on more than one occasion. My dad was such a good storyteller. He would say that fun, exciting, memorable things happen to everyone. The nack is noticing and remembering them so you can pass them on to others. I hope I have inherited his gift.
So, back to where this story started, our eyes. We can not always believe what we see. That should not stop us from looking for the good in everyone, the beauty in nature, and the peace brought to us by good friends.
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