Marjorie Sundvahl Newton passed away on April 30, 2010. She was 94 years old. She was my mother and the love of my life. I have been able to think of little else these recent weeks. I wrote earlier about my dad, who had a bucket of eye problems as I was growing up. My mom, too, was not spared problems with her eyes as she aged.
My mother was an adventurer, always independent, a graduate of Purdue University, class of 1937. She charted her own course, doing things her own way throughout her life. When she was in her 80s and living in Boise, Idaho, she developed a cataract. She also learned she had dry macular degeneration (AMD). I went with her to the eye doctor. In fact, I couldn’t drive in those years because of my own eye troubles, and my mom drove us around. I knew where things were in Boise, all the one-way streets, for example, and she didn’t. We made a great team, then, and always.
Her eye doctor had more than one discussion with her about whether or not to perform cataract surgery, or lens replacement as they call it, because of the underlying macular degeneration. One comment that stuck out in my mind was that having a new, clear lens might just make the blurring from the macular degeneration more pronounced, the outcome thus mediocre. (The doctor never addressed another issue, about which I have heard a great deal since, that the surgery could possibly cause the dry AMD to turn wet. The jury may still be out on that one, but it is a worthwhile question to ask.)
Mom finally agreed to do the cataract surgery. We went in for her pre-operation appointment. The physician assistant began by saying, “You are here because we’re going to give you a new lens.” At that point my mother said what I had heard her say before and would hear her say many times after, “Oh no you don’t!” The assistant looked right at me and said she guessed we were done with the exam.
My mom lived another decade without any intervention with her eyes. She enjoyed life, was playful with people if they didn’t boss her, and she loved the trees and birds and water of the Pacific Northwest. She perfected a finely tuned funny bone throughout her long life. Near the end, we were never sure what was so funny, but something was. There are just no words to describe how much I miss her and will always ache for more of the big love that she was to me.