Eye of the Beholder

“Luisa said that if we ever get over to Ukraine, we can stay at her house for free,” my wife told me.

A puzzled look settled on my face. “Who is Luisa?” I asked.

“Luisa—Florence’s live-in companion. She came to America to look for work and ended up taking a job as an au pair. When that fell through, she started working for Florence.”

“How is Florence getting along these days?” I asked.

“Her mind’s still sharp at 94, but her body’s giving out. I visited her the other day. I don’t think that she’s going to last much longer.”

“What’s going to happen to Luisa when Florence dies?”

“I don’t know,” my wife said.

Two weeks later one rainy afternoon my wife and I were walking down to the pub in the center of town to meet our son and daughters for a belated lunch. An older woman, grey and drawn, ambled up the street toward us. A pair of oversized dark glasses covered her eyes. She looked up when my wife called out her name: “Luisa!” The old woman’s face brightened as she took my wife’s hand in both of hers. “How are you?”

“Oh, today I am so wonderful!” Luisa said. “Today I can see again!” She lifted up her dark glasses to show us her eye.

The left eye was indeed clear and bright. I noticed that the lid on the other eye remained closed.

“You see,” she pointed with a gnarled finger, “you see where the doctor did the surgery? He took out the cataract. Now I can see again—so wonderful!”

“You can hardly tell,” my wife said. “It looks good.”

“Really?” Luisa said. “This doctor—so wonderful—a true doctor. I have no money. He did surgery for free. When I saw him, saw his face afterwards, I get down on my knees and kiss his hands—such a good man!” Luisa’s eye began to water.

I asked Luisa the doctor’s name. “He’s a good surgeon,” she said. “They don’t make doctors like him anymore.”

It started to rain. My wife and I popped up our umbrellas. Luisa had just a few more steps to the door of Florence’s house. “Stop by to see me soon,” she said to my wife, blowing her a kiss. Then to me she said: “I like your book—is good book. My sister is writer in Ukraine. Writing runs in my family.”

We waved and resumed our walk down the street under our umbrellas in the steadily falling rain.

“Luisa trained to be a doctor in Ukraine,” my wife said.

“A doctor! Why didn’t she ever practice here?”

“She came over illegally when the war broke out. She never took the exam to get her license.”

We walked a few steps in silence. “What happened to her other eye?” I asked my wife.

“She was attacked by a dog years ago and lost her sight in that eye.”

A few steps further I paused to ask, “What will she do when Florence dies?”

“I’m not sure,” my wife said. “Florence died this past week. Didn’t you know?”

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