My mother has a small brown book, the kind of notebook made of alligators and sold to wealthy people who do not make notes. In it she wrote down what a doctor told her on a bright day thirty years ago:
You have a severe case of primary glaucoma. This is a disease the cause of which we don’t know. I must tell you the utmost vigilance and sacrifice on your part are required if you want to retain your sight. As long as I have been in practice I have longed for the day when I would be sure I would never, ever have to tell someone this. But here I am again, having to tell you. I’ll do everything I possibly can.
In the alligator notebook my mother described her doctor’s hands, which trembled. The light of matches he kept trying to put to his pipe wavered in the dim office. To her they must have been bright, her pupils surprised with ephedrine. It was hot outside; the air conditioner sucked up the smoke of the doctor’s pipe. His square glasses and his white smock combined to make him an archetype of medicine.