The Eyes Have It

Hey, I just thought of another one of those “what would a young person not believe about the past” things. I seem to think about these a lot lately. The latest one was the things we can now take in the shower or underwater, etc. Like radios. Except they’re not radios.

But I had an eye exam today, and I was thinking back on my personal history and remembered that wearing glasses used to carry a social stigma. Seriously, young person who is not reading this blog! People were called four-eyes and Poindexter and all sorts of fun nerdy nicknames because they had to wear glasses. It’s the secret to Clark Kent—he hides behind the glasses, not because they mask his face but because people would assume he was mild-mannered and bookish, etc. It was a real thing.

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I really didn’t want to wear glasses, except when I was playing Superman (and then I just used a pair of my mom’s old ones, to whip off as I pulled the red towel out from under my shirt in my imaginary phone booth—hey, young people! PHONE BOOTHS). There wasn’t really a nerd culture then. Nerds were nerds. They wore glasses.

But the writing was on the wall, even if I couldn’t quite make it out. My mother wore glasses. So did my uncle and an aunt, and eventually both of my siblings and most if not all of our kids (hard to remember, as some wear contacts).

And as in many, many other things, I was the odd man out here. Just as my father, mother, brother and sister are short people (dad tallest at 5’7; mom and sister around 5’ even and brother around 5’3) while I hit 6 feet at age 14 (and that was it, as it turned out), I ended up with only one bad eye. I eventually discovered around the age of 12 that if I closed my right eye, everything got blurry.

Senior in high school. Glasses were more acceptable in the wire-rimmed version.

Senior in high school. Glasses were more acceptable in the wire-rimmed version.

So I got glasses with one clear lens, glasses quite similar to the ones I wear now in style. That was pretty much the only style at the time, and it wasn’t a good look. I barely wore those things, being able to see perfectly without them (until my right eye weakened from having to cover all the bases). Eventually I got wire-rimmed ones, which were cooler, then contacts, then back and forth. I finally settled on glasses and stayed there.

My prescription has remained about the same for years now, which is why I got a little lax about making an eye appointment. Last one was in 2014, it looks like. For the past six months or so, I’ve been having problems, progressively worse, to the point that I had real problems reading in public (which I have to do sometimes). When I closed my right eye, my vision was blurry and that was with my glasses on. Obviously something was going on.

Something big, it turned out, at least in terms of change in vision in that eye. And it might just be age-related changes, or it could be the cataracts in that eye, which are worse than in the other. This wasn’t a surprise. I know how old I am.

Just hearing the word, though. Cataracts. Little shivers of mortality run up and down my spine, just like when I first heard a radiologist casually toss off some arthritic changes.

Look: You don’t have to tell me to chill. I take no medications. I’ve never been hospitalized. I’ve had two minor, elective surgeries, about an hour each. My exercise tolerance is excellent. I whine and worry about weight issues but there’s nothing dangerous going on and it seems stable (heading up a bit even). My blood pressure’s great. Knock on freaking wood, dude. People with uncorrected perfect vision are anomalies to me now, and certainly not found in my age group anyway. I’ve got some hearing loss and the teeth of someone who’s been living on the streets for a while, and now I’ve got some incipient cataract formation. Alert the media.

It’s more the reminder, I think. Like when the optometry form I filled out today asked for my birth date, and then asked my age. I’m used to giving the first one; writing “60” in the blank today, it might have been the first time. Just saying. I am of a certain age.

And really, I seem to be doing fine, cataracts not withstanding. I’ll get some new glasses, and maybe once I have health insurance again (or I wait 3-1/2 years for Medicare, or for our liberal fantasy Medicare buy-in earlier) I’ll get those babies removed and a lens inserted, and I’ll be able to see again.

The alternative is less interesting.

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Chuck Sigars1 Comment