I’m hoping that an ophthalmologist will be able to save my marriage.

I can no longer see dirt, and my inability to thoroughly vacuum the carpet is driving my nasty-neat wife, Marsha, frantic.

It was only a week ago that my left eye projected an egg-shaped black spot on the wall. My friendly optometrist ran some tests and saw something on the back of my eye. It might go away by itself. And, indeed, as I write, the black egg has morphed into a black wreath. That is, I can now see through a hole in the middle of the thing. It is going away. But, because I am seeing the world as through a glass, darkly, I followed up with a visit to a “specialist.”

It was very correctly taken for granted that “specialist” would mean more to me than “ophthalmologist.”

This is good: If you don’t know the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist until you are 85, you are very lucky – there are children who are intimately familiar with both terms before they are 7.

Google brought up the definitions, and within a week I should have them committed to memory:


“An optometrist is an eye doctor that can examine, diagnose and treat your eyes.

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who can perform medical and surgical interventions for eye conditions.”

Ophthalmologists are not created equal. Each one seems to have his or her own specialty and battery of machines for defining minute problems with the front, back or sides of the eye.

It might remind you of John Gould’s account of a Bowdoin football game where, after a sharp crack, an injured player dropped to the ground. Several dozen Bowdoin MDs swarmed down onto the field from the stands. Lung and heart men were quickly elbowed aside, as were even the orthopedic surgeons, when it was determined that the problem should be handled by two alumni who specialized in the tibia.

My research into medical care brought up reviews patients wrote about their providers. They were like the comments you’d read about any business. Some were cheated, given the runaround or insulted. The whole world is against them. They threaten to sue.

One review was written by a woman who said nothing but good things. Right below it, however, were scathing comments that could have been Donald Trump describing his best friend.


Let the record show that I like and admire my doctors. Only a great doctor could keep an old man from feeling foolish when she tells him that the red growth on his wrist is only a mosquito bite.

And if you want to write something bad about a person who has a license to inject foreign substances into your body, go right ahead. I’m going to pass on that one.

It is normal to form a warm relationship with people who have helped you, be they plumbers, doctors or carpenters. Some professional people overdo it, and I know two good men whose wives ran off with carpenters who were paid only to replace kitchen cabinets. And back when I was in grade school I heard my father telling my mother what happened when he was on his back on the kitchen floor, fixing the sink drain for some poor old widow over in Owls Head.

I suppose the same kind of thing occasionally happens to doctors. The silence part in the Hippocratic Oath probably keeps us from hearing more than we do.

At a certain age one hesitates to visit an ophthalmologist for the first time. There is always the chance that after reading your medical history she will toss it aside and say that you don’t have anything left that is worth salvaging.

Even worse is the doctor who tells you that he must operate on you at once. Why the hurry? Within 10 days it will get better – or drop off – by itself.


My wife can tell you about the old Maine man who went to his ophthalmologist for help and was told that a needle had to be inserted into his eyeball until it touched a spot about the size of a raisin. Only one specialist in New England had mastered the technique.

The man visits the specialist where six people spend two hours prepping him for the painless inoculation, which takes eight seconds.

When the needle is removed, the man blinks and says, “Eight seconds? And I’m expected to pay for that?”

Ave atque vale to Kendall Morse, who passed away Wednesday. He was a very quick and funny man whose wit I admired, and an icon to those of us in the Maine humor business.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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