My Dad went to a routine eye appointment with a complaint of seeing some spots. As a reader who has probably averaged a book and a half a week for the last 80 years – since he learned to read at perhaps age five – the minor vision change was frustrating.
I got a call from Mom a few hours later. She had gone with him because I had to work and he might need to be driven home if his eyes were dilated. Despite being deaf, Mom has one eye that is still good enough to drive legally. In economics, this concept of weighing the risks and necessities of our household is called “Constrained Optimization”, or doing the best we can and hoping no one gets hurt.
Mom’s voice was intense and she spoke rapidly. I found out that another patient with them in the waiting room had had a heart attack when he walked up to the reception desk. Dad had held his hand while the doctor gave him nitro and did an assessment before the EMTs arrived. Mom and another woman in the waiting room prayed together. At the end, it all worked out well and the folks were left with a newly discovered respect for their doctor whose expertise extended beyond eyeballs.
I had thought this was the only reason for Mom’s hyper tone, but then she told me that Dad had been diagnosed with wet macular degeneration. It is the leading cause of blindness today. An urgent appointment with a specialist was needed for first thing in the morning.
That night, we kept Dad away from reading any information on the internet about his new battle. Last I had heard, there was no treatment, and no cure.
The next morning I went with him to the specialist from some exotic country that used to be part of the Soviet bloc (block?). They had pioneered production-line laser eye surgery there, ya know, so I felt it was a good sign. But I didn’t pray any less and was glad I had prayed first.
After admiring the doc’s wallpaper of impressive degrees, we were told that Dad’s condition was now treatable. Five years ago, there weren’t any options. For maybe the first time, I was glad that I had been wrong and ignorant. First time I was glad, not first time I was wrong…
The only problem is that the treatment involves getting shots in the eyeball every month for the next two years.
I’m strong, but I assumed that Dad would want a Valium before they proceeded. He said he was fine and had no concerns. Okay, but what about me…? So I averted my gaze but kept my hand on his shoulder as he got the Clockwork Orange treatment. Almost painless, but we agreed that he would get a heavy pour of Oban scotch whiskey before his appointment next month.
We drove out of the doc’s parking lot shared by Newport’s Fashion Island, feeling richer than if we had the money to shop in Newport’s consumption mecca.
Couple of weeks after Dad’s Door of Perception got the Treatment, Ray Manzarek of the Doors passed away.
I had met him once at the club when he and John Densmore came for a meeting with Dave Brock, the leader of a Doors tribute band called Wild Child. I came into the green room to give Dave an update prior to doors, and Ray opened the door for me.
Dave and I spoke briefly about the upcoming set, then he introduced me to Ray and John. I told everyone that I knew exactly who they were, but that I was trying to be cool and not squeal. The excitement of strangers is part of the currency that compensates celebrities, but I always try to act within context and be mindful of WWJD. If someone isn’t on a press junket, I’m generally not going to ask for a photo. I get photos of friends, and Ray and John had never met me before.
I have The Doors to thank for music that got me into a fight with my high school boyfriend. He was cool because he had a bust of Bach in his bedroom, had toured Europe as Most Favored Son in a production of “The King and I”, started and stopped heroin, and had a band called The Void which had already broken up before he had even got to high school. He didn’t respect my interest in the music of The Doors because I was a new fan, since seeing “Apocalypse Now”. The math of this puzzled me because my only option was to be a new convert. The first time around as they were becoming famous, I had been a toddler.
I also have The Doors to thank for learning about William Blake. They chose a line of his poetry to inspire their band name. Years later at the Tate Gallery in London, I would stand in front of his tortured or liberated pastels and feel like I could sense his breath as he had worked. I wanted his struggles to suit me more than the lush but expected romance of Rodin’s The Kiss which was on display behind me in the same gallery space.
A few months after meeting Ray, Dave Brock emailed me from Paris. He was touring with Ray, John and Robby Krieger now, looking and sounding exactly like Jim Morrison would have if he hadn’t died and had decided to live a healthy life. Once upon a time, Dave had been the Morrison family’s pick for the lead in Oliver Stone’s movie, but Val Kilmer’s people closed the deal instead.
We were getting ready for another show with Dave’s band. After he and I finished the business of advancing for his upcoming performance, he told me what life was like for him at that moment. I told him thank you for returning the emails of a mere mortal after performing in the City of Lights with rock and roll legends.
I was of course wrong again. The people on the stage are just as mortal as those who admire their music and sing along from the cheap seats. But what we can give to this life that carries on after us is vision. This is why art and artists compel and captivate. Known or not, we are kids of the Creator. When we create, we are carrying on the family business. So in a way, perhaps art is nearly close to being immortal.
It says in Habakkuk to write the vision down so that the heralds may run with it. If that happens, the vision can be carried into the future. Once written on the scroll, it can be captured by Dad’s newly stabilized Door of Perception, and passed on to his daughter.
Like last weekend: We watched an “Anne of Green Gables” marathon and watched the heroine recite “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. Then Dad told me of the first time he had read that. As a boy in Spokane when he had first immigrated to the States…Alfred Noyes had come to his grammar school class and read the poem. Years later, Dad read it to me.
Now, he may read this. Halleluiah.
NEXT TIME: Feliz Cinco de Quatro…
Picture of The Doors with Ray in dark glasses, republished on salon.com.