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Possumhaw: The enucleated eye


Shannon Bardwell



"For I dipped into the future, far as the human eye could see, saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be."  


-- Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) 




Marv Ashman and his wife Betsy live in Petaluma, California. Marv reads Possumhaw and occasionally sends a comment, or occasionally a tale of his own. Turns out Marv worked for an optical dispensary for 33 years where, like Sam, Marv acquired more than a few optical stories. In Marv's early days, he attended an optical school, only to be told perhaps his talents lay elsewhere. They, of course, were wrong.  


Last week Marv sent his story about making "eye-balls." It was too good not to share. No names are mentioned in order to protect a young lady's innocence. Here's Marv's story: 


"Early in my optical career I was trained to fit contact lenses. Shortly thereafter, the company decided all fitters should be trained in the fitting of artificial eyes. I was sent to school in San Jose for one week to learn not only the procedure of fitting but also the art of creating a custom prosthetic eye. 


"Although some customers were satisfied with a "stock" eye others preferred a custom eye. A custom eye fit is determined from the stock eyes for size and shape, then modified to create better movement. The basic eye sclera (white) is molded from lightly tinted acrylic, and the iris is hand-painted, both to match the customer's good eye. The veining is actually red silk fibers laid on by hand, also to match the good eye. Then a thin clear acrylic coating is applied over the entire prosthesis.  


It was interesting to learn the process and be more knowledgeable. Although I did have three to four custom fittings and maybe 10 stock fittings over the years, it was not a lot of fun. 


"I do remember one customer, a young man in his mid-20s. His eye had been damaged in an accident and had to be enucleated. Subsequently, he was sent to me for a custom prosthetic eye. For convenience and comfort, all the preliminary fittings were done in the familiar surroundings of his kitchen table. After a couple of trial fittings, an eye was ordered and we made an appointment for the unveiling of the finished product, again at his home. I inserted it for him; he looked in the mirror and smiled. Then his equally young wife, in her innocence and confidence, excitedly asked, 'Can you see now?' He turned to her, 'Honey, it's not real.'" 


Nowadays Marv spends his time cross-stitching, while Betsy quilts. Marv continues to write life experiences in what he calls "snippets." About 10 years ago, Marv volunteered at Grant Elementary School where he was named "Volunteer of the Year" for his dedicated work with Mrs. Casey's second-grade classroom. Marv continues to collect life stories, and who knows, I bet Mrs. Casey's class will have a few stories of their own.  



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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