I hope your holiday season has been one filled with love, peace and happiness. If Santa deemed you to be really, really good this year, your holidays may have been as blessed as mine, because I received the best Christmas present of my life – eyesight.
Comedian Amy Schumer tells a joke about people not missing their grandparents until they’re gone. When vision in my right eye suddenly plummeted from 20/20 to 0/0 two weeks ago, I identified with Schumer’s viewpoint to a degree I would not wish on anyone but the most sordid.
A detached retina sent my life reeling. Would I be able to continue working? Could I still travel extensively, a lifelong goal in retirement? Would I eventually lose most or all of my sight in both eyes – I suffer from various maladies that increase that possibility – before I ever see, hug and suffocate with love the grandchildren I hope to have someday?
Eight days after undergoing surgery and near-constant bed rest that pushed me to the brink of insanity, I returned to the Spokane Eye Clinic – I make no apology for the shameless plug — and heard a surgeon say three magical words I will never forget: “Things look excellent.” I knew I would not regain all of the sight in my right eye, but the prognosis is good for regaining most of it. I have already seen progress, literally and figuratively.
I am nearly 60, and I did not need a medical calamity to appreciate the fabulous life I have enjoyed. I am well aware that my wife and kids are spectacular. I’ve always cherished having so many wonderful, loyal friends. Of course, I’ve never had to work for a living, because I’m a sports writer. I mean, how tough can it be to get paid to watch a sporting event and/or chit-chat with (mostly) great people, then type a few hundred words about the experience?
With all that said, my brush with blindness reminded me that I have so many things left to accomplish.
I want to see baseball exhibition games in Florida in the spring, the fjords of Norway in the summer, New England in all its autumn glory, New York City when Christmas spirit abounds.
I want to watch a National Hockey League game in the giant arena in Montreal (pop. 1.6 million), and I want to watch a Western Hockey League game in the tiny arena in Swift Current, Saskatchewan (pop. 15,500).
I want to shack up in a villa in Italy for a month. Maybe two.
I want to watch Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers play football at Soldier Field in Chicago, Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels play baseball at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder play basketball at the United Center in Chicago, Tyler Johnson (the former Spokane Chiefs star from Liberty Lake) and the Tampa Bay Lightning play hockey at the United Center in Chicago. To tell you the truth, I’d pay good money to watch someone play tiddlywinks if the match took place in Chicago.
I want to sip Irish whiskey in Dublin, dine on Italian in Venice, gobble a German bratwurst in Berlin, chug ice-cold Czech beer in Prague.
Closer to home, I want to take time to truly marvel at Mount Rainier the next time I see her. And the Oregon coast. And the San Juan Islands. And Olympic National Park. And Lake Coeur d’Alene. And Snoqualmie Falls. And Lincoln Park in West Seattle. And Manito Park on Spokane’s South Hill.
Most of all, I want to see – and I do mean SEE — my wife and children live long, happy, healthy lives. More than ever, I realize how lucky I am to just be along for the ride. Truly, it is a sight to behold.
Howie Stalwick, a regular contributor to SPNW, lives in Post Falls, Idaho. His wife, Jennifer, is a teacher and coach at Central Valley High School in Spokane Valley. Their children, Shanna and Cheyanne, are former Central Valley students and athletes of note who now live in Portland and Seattle, respectively.