On Wednesday, I went to the two-weeks checkup after my retina surgery. My left eye is now better than before the surgery and is some aspects even better than the right one. However, the horizontal lines are still wavy, and there are some blank spots in the middle. I told the surgeon that I do not want to do the right eye, because I won’t be able to last with my left eye only for a week. He agreed to wait till October to decide whether I will do the second one. I am most likely not going to come back because I have lots of issues with that office.
Since my eye doctor is still not open, I decided to go to the LensCrafters in the city, who made my last glasses. Their location works perfectly for me, and I had an excellent impression of their office in general when they replaced a lense in my glasses.
I scheduled an appointment with them for Thursday, which is now my in-office day. I spent there two and a half hours and I felt extremely guilty missing time at work, but the results are very promising. The doctor fitted me with bifocal glasses, and also I tried bifocal lenses for the first time. He gave me a week to get to adjust to them. That’s a new experience, and I am excited to be almost a normal person. I could not see so well for a long time; I can’t even recall since when.
Since I am writing my story partially backward, I didn’t write yet how we got to know the Dowgerts family from Pruszcz Gdansky- a small town close to Gdansk. For now, I will say that Boris and I met Dowgerts several years before, and we stayed at their place when we visited Poland in the summer of 1990. Since the www and the internet, in general, were barely emerging, it wasn’t easy to keep track of each other’s lives. The only thing I knew in May 1995 was that they will meet us and will drive us to their vacation home on the Baltic shore. I tried to get an idea of whether there will be warm enough there in mid-June, and they said – yes, it should be fine. The airfare was expensive, and I decided to take a train to Gdansk. I believe the length of the journey was about 30 hours. The train was leaving in the late morning and arriving in Gdansk at about 6 PM the next day. The night before our departure Vlad got a high fever, upset stomach, and nausea. And …. I decided we are still going! Yes, I made sure his temperature went down by the time we had to leave, and not just dow, but down without him taking any fever-reducing drugs. He was pretty weak and laid down for most of the first day of travel, but he was fine when we arrived to Gdansk. However, before arrival, there was a night…
I know that what I am going to tell now will sound extremely judgmental, maybe racist, so I will try very hard to stick to the facts.
We were traveling in the sleeping car. The car was almost empty; only one more compartment except ours was occupied. And the car crew was Polish.
Yes, I understand that it is not about nationality; it is about the social norms in a particular society. And I love the Polish part of me, and I love Poland deeply, but by that time I’ve interacted with Poles, male and female, long enough to know about what was considered an appropriate “manly” behavior. The compartments in the sleeping cars were quite weird from my perspective. In the Soviet sleeping car, each compartment would host four people, two on the bottom bunks, and two on the tops. Here, the were three bunks on one side and none on the other. There were belts to prevent a person who was sleeping on the top from falling. I think that Igor was sleeping on the second bunk, and it would be logical if I would climb on the very top. But I was on the bottom bunk.
And then one of the porters knocked at the door. He said something to the effect that he forgot to give me some toiletries, which he had to provide for the sleeper passengers. I opened the door. He smelled heavily with the cheap perfume. He locked the door and threw his body over me.
I have no idea what he was thinking:). I have two hypotheses. One- that he was sure that I would succumb to his charms, and that no woman can stand them. At least that’s what I could deduce from the fact that he started to kiss me, saying in Polish, that he wants my lips. My other hypothesis is that he thought I would not risk waking up the kids because I would not want to scare them and keep quiet. Well, it was true – I didn’t want to scare the kids. But, that was not the first rape attempt in my life, and I knew how to stand for myself!
I was turning spinning my head so that he won’t get my lips, I was pushing him away with both hands, and I was (very quietly) screaming at him to get in the hell out of here! He was still trying to talk me into I am not even sure what, saying, “please let me” in Polish, but I kept spinning and keeping whispering-yelling, and I think he finally realized that I would start screaming loudly if he persists. He retreated.
In the morning, he was very official, as if nothing happened. Do I have to say that I didn’t say a word to anybody? Neither to him nor the Dowgerts when they met us at the train station. I think that I told Boris only several weeks after we’ve returned. And you know why? First, because I believed it’s a part of women’s life. Women are getting raped. Because if you are good looking, men would want to rape you. That was a given. And because – yea, because “it was all my fault.” Because I wore a short skirt. Because I was so vivacious and so visibly excited about going to Poland. Because I knew, “how Polish men are,” and still talked friendly with them during the day.
That’s how our two-week trip to Poland started 🙂
My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.
There are two possible reasons why I am not blogging on any given day. One – I am upset/depressed/sick/unhappy. Another – I am very busy.
Yesterday and today – it’s the second one. I am mad at some people (and at some circumstances), and I am all fired up to fix the problems other people created.
Last week, after the surgery, I could barely see the screen, and did very little, both for my work and for our book. And today, since my gas bubble diminished significantly, I feel that my mind is sharp again. It’s funny because my visual impairment should not affect my thinking abilities, but that’s how I feel.
I just finished a three-days worth chunk of work in three hours. I wanted to do this work at the time when nobody would interrupt me. And now I feel great and not tired a bit.
I am mad at the people whose irresponsible behavior led to such a drastic increase in the number of cases in the country. I am less upset than I thought I would be, even though the EU banned US travelers precisely because of them. Yesterday, I felt helpless, and I thought that everything in the world is against me. I do not feel like this anymore 🙂
Anyway, now I can see that the level od the fluid is going down. Last night, I re-read all the information about that surgery, which I read before, and I realized that I saw it all, I just didn’t understand what they meant. They talked a lot about “a gas bubble, ” but I didn’t understand what it means. I could not imagine that it was like having this ish tank in your eye :). And I imagined a very different picture when they would say, “your vision will be blurry at first, but it will go away in several days.”
Now I understand that I won’t be able to drive or bike until this bubble would go away entirely because while even a part of it is there, I still have blind spots.
It’s hard to say, with what speed it will progress, but I hope it will be gone within a week.
As for the travel ban, the only thing we can do is wait and see. Boris still does not believe me about “next year,” he still thinks that the ban is political and that something will happen by August. As of today, there are only these many hours-long connections in London, which I do not want him to experience. Especially when Finland is effectively virus-free. So no changes in the observable future.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t go to the postgraduate school for my Ph.D. First, I could not afford to go for several years on the postgrad stipend instead of salary, and second, it wasn’t easy to get in. I do not even remember whether it was Boris or I who first came up with the idea that I should go for a Ph.D., in some sense, both wanted it to happen.
I registered with the Department of Mathematics and Mechanics and became “an aspirant.” For the benefit of the Russian-speakers, the Russian word aspirant means “a postgraduate student,” and a Russian word “soiskatel” means “an aspirant.” Super-confusing, I know 🙂
So, I became an aspirant, and then my timeline was entirely up to me. I didn’t have to attend any classes, except for if I felt I need it to pass the qualification exams. I had to pass four of them: English, Philosophy, Speciality One (which was Computer Science for me), and Speciality Two (which was Data Management).
I registered in 1989, and the only exam I passed before Vlad and Anna were born was English. For our English exam, we had to “submit thousands.” If you do not know what it is about, you will never guess. We had to take any book, or books, or journal articles related to our specialty, computer science, in my case. There was an official estimate of how many characters are there on each page, and we had to be ready with something like fifty pages. The examiner could open the book on any page and ask us to read a paragraph and to translate it. Also, we had to prepare several newspaper pages, and they had to be actual US or British newspapers, not Moscow News. Only the Communist Party newspapers were available, so in my case, usually, it would be “The Morning Star.”
I am back home from the surgery; they said it went well, but I can’t tell until later, because I have a patch on the operated eye and will be blurry for a while in any case. Although it was local anesthesia with sedation, it feels more serious than with the cataract surgery, I am still dizzy, and I still feel like half of my head is numb. So most likely, that’s all for today, and I will post an update tomorrow after my post-surgical.
Today, it was Boris’s 70th birthday. Needless to say, we had very different plans for that day than how it turned out. I would be OK if Boris would say he does not even want to mention it and would rather have a day as usual. But when we talked at the beginning of the week, I felt that he would not mind if I would make it special.
We have a very long lasting tradition of dark red roses, which he said, “would not be possible that time.” Granted, I got out of my way to find a flower delivery in Helsinki:). The most difficult was to find a vendor who would allow to pick the flowers I needed, instead of suggesting one of the existing arrangements. And another challenge was to switch between translating into English and not because the actual ordering and payment pages had to be displayed in Finnish when I was filling them in.
I took a day off today. Since we have “summer Fridays,” I only had to take a half-day. I used it to run most of my errands (shopping is great on Friday morning, the stores are almost empty). And also, that way we could talk during the day. We decided to have a meal together; it was an early lunch for me, and a dinner for him. I bought a rose of the same color so that our roses could talk to each other.
Also, I baked a rhubarb and strawberry pie. Same as with quiche, that’s something we both like, but since my unsuccessful experiments over thirty years ago, I thought that I would never master that skill. But then I saw that recipe, looked up a couple of other suggestions on how to make a rhubarb filling, used pre-made crust, and gave it a try.
It didn’t turn out exactly as I wanted, I should not have reduced the amount of sweetener in the filling, but I will know next time. Adding some corn starch was a great idea, though.
I have to add that rhubarb is very popular in Estonia, contributing to our love of that treat. And next time, it will be perfect 🙂
Yesterday, I went to the eye clinic for the second implant film removing (for the right eye). As with everything else, the right eye feels tons better than the left one. I feel like the procedure took less time, and less film was removed, and there are less floaters.
Also, this time I asked whether I can wear contacts in between drops. Last time I agreed with the doctor that I do not want to take in and out my contacts four times a day, and I didn’t think it will be that restrictive to go for a total of two weeks with glasses only. But it turned out that in this case, I need to use two glasses at the same time way too often. Also, I realized that since one drop is in the morning, and one before bed, I only need to take the contact out twice, not four times:). So I switched back to contacts, and now I can tell that, indeed, I can see better after the film removal!
What’s next. I am going to the retina doctor on Wednesday. Presumably, he will set up a date for surgery, which likely, will be soon. I asked for more details about that surgery. The nurse told me that in terms of restrictions, it will be similar to the cataract surgery, the same no bending-no lifting for a week, which, as I already know, is translated into two.
Then, it will be the day after surgery follow up, and the second follow-up in a week. At some point, I need to finally get the right prescription for my glasses, but my regular eye doctor is still out.
I hope it will all be over in a month because I am so tired of being in this or that surgery all the time! Theoretically, I still need to decide whether I want to do Lasic to correct residual near-sightedness, but I was on and off on whether I want to go for it. Also, this whole thing started when I tried to fix my double-vision, so I should return to where I’ve started :), because the double-vision is still there. And if I will go for all of the above, it might be not over until the end of the year!
Once again, there is a gap of several months when I have no pictures of the kids. The daycare picture was taken at the end of September, and the one below – on January 1, 1995.
During fall 1994, I was still working at the Operations Research Lab of the University. That job still paid close to nothing, and I was still in constant search of gigs. Also, I resumed my postgraduate studies and was slowly but surely getting through all of the required exams.
That fall, Anna first developed her chronic bronchitis, which she had for many years after. Nobody could tell me what the reason for that condition was, but one of the hypotheses was that she had an underdeveloped lung because she was a premie. As a result, any slight cold would develop into the obstruction bronchitis within several hours from onset. Most of the time, a pediatrician won’t recognize that bronchitis is coming, and I had to learn how to diagnose it.
It was scary, and it was not something you could get used to. Roughly every six weeks, it looked like your child is dying. There were no children’s versions of the regular medicine for that condition (and no inhalers, if you are curious about it). I would buy the pills, which helped with the spasms and crushed them into powder. I always had these pills both in my purse and on the nightstand. And when Anna would start coughing non-stop and wheezing: “Mom, open my mouth!” I had to manage to get that power in her mouth, along with some water. I knew that it would help, but it was scary each and single time.
I learned how to listen to her breath and catch an onset of yet another bronchitis. I learned to perform a special massage, which would help to get mucus out of her airways.
As a side effect, it would often happen that I could not send her to the daycare, and then I would take her with me to my postgraduate classes. One of the classes was philosophy, and I had to take an exam at the end. Fortunately, that class taught by the same professor Alexeev, whom I had during my undergrad studies, and who secretly taught us about existentialism :). Anna was sitting there very quietly, and I was always allowed to take her to my class. Could that trigger her future interest in social studies?!
Back to the picture below.
Our family tradition continued: everybody celebrated the New Year’s Eve with their immediate families or elsewhere, but on January 1, everybody would gather at the Aunt’s Kima house to celebrate her birthday with the extended family.
I know that I had several pictures from that particular gathering, but now I can only find that one. I have no idea why Igor is not on that picture because he was most definitely present.
Vlad and Anna wear animal costumes because, as I’ve already mentioned, costumes for the New Year go back to the old tradition Sviatki – the time between Christmas and New Year. Anna is in a squirrel mask, and Vlad wears a hood with bunny ears, and both of their faces are painted with animal features.
In the back row from left to right: my cousin Dodik (David), Kima’s son, with his wife Alla, then Aunt Maya, Uncle Slava’s wife. In the middle row – I, Aunt Kima, and my mom. My shoulders were not intended to be bare to that extent, it’s just my dress pulled down, and I was still very skinny back then. I made that dress myself. I got the garment as a fee for teaching English to the son of one of “a friend of a friend.” It required only minimal work to fit my small body, and it looked spectacular, or at least I thought so back then.
Here was the start of 1995, and many things were going to happen that year.
My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.
Another friends and family update. For the past month, I was learning to wear contact lenses again. It was very different from my previous experience because my eyes are getting dry fast. First, I was freaking out to put the contacts in and to take them out, because the implants are so close to the surface. Also, I started from just two hours, as I was doing thirty-eight years ago, when I started wearing contacts for the first time.
Another problem was that I wore hard contacts for thirty-eight and a half years and the soft ones just for four months. I was having trouble with soft contacts for most of that time, and now, after four months interval, it was even more challenging. It’s only through the past week, that I became more confident in putting the contacts in and taking them off, and that my eyes are not so dry all the time. However, I still do not wear contacts for the whole day. The good part is that with implants, I am -4, not -14.
Yesterday, I went to my next post-surgical appointment. The goal was to check whether I need a removal of the film over my implants, and as expected, I need it. There will be two procedures, one next Thursday, and the second one a week later. After that, I should go to my regular eye doctor and hopefully will figure out a more accurate prescription. She should be open by then. As for my retina, it looks like the problems which were likely to emerge, emerged indeed. Again, not like ai did not know that my left eye is only half functioning, but it looks like fixing it is not an option but rather a necessity. I was scheduled to go to the retina doctor on July 9, but the surgeon asked it to be changed to ASAP, which will be six days after my second procedure. Then, I guess he will schedule surgery.
All of the above make my travel plans even more uncertain because now I need to plan around Brussels decisions, our internal regulations, my medical procedures, and Boris’. Fortunately, the airlines are extremely flexible now, and you can change your flight plans an unlimited number of times as close to the flight as possible. So we will see what the retina doctor will say, what EU will say, and whether there will be flights with less than twelve hours connections.