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October 2014, vol 10 no 3

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Glenn Coats

Outlasting the Blues

There is a brief warning. It happens in the blink of an eye, something in a glance, the look of light changes. Not enough time to prepare for the parade of lines like practiced script that I begin to see until it all becomes a blur. I cannot read text or signs, and faces and objects take on a fuzzy tone. There is no pattern as the attacks are random. I can be climbing a stairwell between classes, holding the steel handrail, as students flow around me unaware that I can't see where I am going. Once it happened as I administered a standardized test and stood in silence before the children until my vision returned. Each time, I wait it out like a sudden thunderstorm until my eyes clear.

It is the same for my father and my son though our experiences vary slightly. My father will feel faint and unable to move—skin pale as a ghost. It happened on the day of his wedding though some attributed it to nerves and the heat of a summer church. It occurred at work and at several restaurants. "Go and find your father," my mother said. "He should be back by now." I found him slumped over a sink in the restroom—still as a stone. I led him out to the car where we waited for his vision and his strength to return. It immobilizes my son who has to lie down in the dark for hours.

Doctors have their theories: sinus infections, migraine headaches, and sudden changes in blood pressure, even hunger. No one knows for certain what happens or how we are linked by a similar ailment. The condition has become part of who we are and we accept that at any moment we might see a flash, see it coming like a train in the distance, and we have learned to hold on until it passes.

father's name stops
with my son

bends in the river
father asks
what he already knows

Note: title from an album by Arlo Guthrie, 1979.