I’ve been having trouble reading with my glasses. It started as an uncomfortable pressure on my eyes when I would try to focus on text and inevitably led me to realize that my vision had changed.
The first and second optometrists I went to said it was because I looked at my phone too often and this had ruined my eyesight. The third optometrist I saw, a personable woman who emanated the best of the Sixties’ ethos of kindness without being from that generation, told me that people in my age range were her most common patients because this was the time when we needed reading glasses. It was refreshing not to be blamed and to be treated with compassion, understanding, and patience.
I wasn’t quite ready for bifocals yet, not even if they were progressive lenses because I still get carded when I buy alcohol. I’d be happy just removing or looking over my glasses like I had seen my elders do when reading the newspaper, labels, or the tiny print on their medications. I wanted my mortality to remain as blurry and in the distance as possible.
However, my matronly optometrist suggested I try multifocal contacts. They’d be convenient and invisible but, she warned, I would have to sacrifice a little of my near and distance vision. A part of me hesitated, wondering how much blood it would take to sign the Faustian contract to appease my vanity, and a part of me revved the engine, excited about the technology and the prospect of seeing clearly.
The last couple of weeks were interesting. I wore the contacts for too long the first couple of days, against doctor’s orders, and my eyelids puffed up (nobody noticed except me). I stopped wearing them until I consulted with my optometrist and she suggested some special eye drops. They worked and I’ve been more careful how long I wear these babies.
It’s a trip to see as I did before I ever had to wear glasses, although not as well as the first time around. The center of my contacts allows me to see far while the outer ring permits me to see near, but I can’t bring the object too close without short circuiting my vision and, apparently, giving myself whiplash when I try to get away from whatever I’ve brought up to my face. I do miss the intimacy of bringing something closer for examination; when cooking or performing other tasks that require inspection, I find wearing my glasses makes things easier (because I can take them off).
I had hoped the contacts would replace my glasses, that somehow I would become The Six Million Dollar Man but for a lot less, and wield my bionic cyborg wizardry like a boss. However, I’m going to have to wear both as the contacts are tough on the peepers after a certain number of hours, drops or no drops, and glasses have advantages, even if they eventually point out that time has marched across my eyeballs.
Really, though, it’s a privilege to get old. Not everybody gets to do it. We don’t all have the opportunity to look back, blurry or clear or somewhere between, to see where we’ve been.
And then be amazed at where we are now.
Note: The featured photograph is of my glasses resting on the cookbook Potager by James Beard Foundation award-winning author, Georgeanne Brennan, with photographs by the late John Vaughan. I’d wanted this book for about two decades and finally decided to hunt down the first edition. It’s as good as I remembered and a fitting companion for my recent return to cooking. More on that later.