The Beginning, part one

It was early summer, and my head ached... No, my head screamed with pain. On a peaceful Sunday afternoon, what had started out as a mild, “take two aspirin,” kind of headache seemed to blossom exponentially into overwhelming pain. With tears in my eyes, I pulled the curtains and crawled into bed, eventually drifting into merciful sleep.

This severe head pain was unusual for me, but when I woke Monday everything seemed better, so my mind turned to other things. Specifically, to packing for a week-long canoe trip on a small, somewhat isolated river north of my home. I was to depart early Tuesday morning, so I spent all of Monday cramming essentials into my watertight bag, thrilled to be paddling through wild country.

Tuesday morning came all too quickly, and left me groggy from far too little sleep. All the same, I was eager to go. It would take several hours by car to reach our launch site, and everyone was ready to get started. My eyes began to ache vaguely, and I removed my contact lenses, assuming they were the problem. The ache lingered as I did my best to ignore it.

In the car, the ache in my eyes continued until, just as we reached the launch site, everything went white in my left eye. It was as though someone had drawn a shade over that eye, and I could see nothing. Tears dripping down my face, I stood on the gravel bank, terrified and unsure of what to do. I was 15 years old at the time, and shy to the point of social paralysis -- I didn’t want to make anyone mad at me by backing out of the trip at the last second. When I finally went to one of the adults with my problem, I was hoping they would make the obvious decision for me, and send me back to town-- That way I wouldn’t be “wimping out,” and leaving my partner.

Unfortunately the “adults” guiding the canoe trip were far from responsible, and totally unqualified. They told me to buck up, my eye would be fine. They slapped a piece of gauze over it, gave me a Mormon blessing, and scooted me into a canoe. The adults failed in their role, and my fear of social retribution held me at their will.

We canoed in pouring rain, stopping once for lunch, and then again to make camp for the night. When we stopped the first time, I curled up on the wet rocks of the riverbank and lay there, still unable to see out of my left eye. No one approached me. I was still well enough to get back in the canoe and paddle the rest of the day until we made camp, but barely.

To be continued...


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