I recently had my annual eye exam and was confronted with another reminder that I am in my mid-life years: it's time for bifocals. Oh my!
I wanted to get the contact lenses with the bifocal built in--"baby bifocals," my doctor called them--but they don't have my prescription in that model. So I am resigned to being able to see really well long-distance with my contacts in but needing to use a pair of those dime-store readers when I do things like read or knit something I need to pay attention to. (I had the option of getting the baby bifocals in a weaker prescription, but it turned out that I couldn't really see a person across a big room clearly, and I'm sure that's going to mess me up when I'm back in the classroom in the fall...) So I'm using readers on occasion, and feeling a little self-conscious about sending a clear signal to others that I am officially Middle Aged.
This experience brought back memories of when I got my first glasses--and, more pointedly, when it was discovered that I needed them. Badly.
I was in third grade, and we were all lined up across from the principal's office, each one taking our turn in the little room where a nice lady had set up her machine. We had to look inside the scope and tell her which way the Es were pointing. I remember being one of the kids not to say "up" or "down" or "left" or "right," but rather point with my fingers--THREE fingers held out just like an E--and contort myself so that they'd be pointing the same direction as the E.
(The one on the right is the one we saw through the scope!)
But I had a problem. I couldn't see which way the Es were pointing on the line she wanted me to read. So she asked me which line I'd rather read--which one was not fuzzy. "All of them are fuzzy," I said, suddenly knowing Something was Very Wrong, and crying. "Even the one at the top?" Yes. She shut the door to the little room so that I could have some privacy and collect myself.
Within days (?), I was taken to an eye doctor, who told my mother I was "legally blind," but luckily it was correctable. I didn't know what that meant, but I knew I wasn't blind. I just couldn't see the board at all. Anyhow, shortly thereafter I got my first pair of glasses: beautiful pearlized grey cat's-eye frames that I thought were the most stylin' thing to hit St. Jerome's school that year. I could definitely see better with them.
I experienced one of the biggest shocks of my life when we left the doctor's office and stepped outside. (I remember this moment like it was yesterday, not almost 4 decades ago!) I looked up at the trees, and I could SEE them--not just see that there were trees there, a hazy idea of what trees were up in the sky, but I could actually SEE the branches and leaves. I could see individual branches and leaves!! And I thought to myself: is this what everyone else sees? You mean THIS is what it's like to be able to see? It was a whole 'nother world...
Lately, when I put on my new contact lenses and look for the tops of the trees, I remember the absolute awe of that moment, the almost-not-believing-it feel of it. And when I need to use the readers because I can't see clearly close up (an unfamiliar phenomenon to me!), I think that I'm learning about a new stage of being a person who needs glasses. Will this new inability to see bring me insight, as it does to so many literary characters? Hmmm...
I hope you see something you find compelling today!
(P.S. I edited my post to add a graphic of the eye chart...)
9 hours ago