If you’ve ever run into me at the grocery store on the weekends, you’ll know that I’m not a particularly vain person. I don’t mind looking terrible in public if the situation allows. On any given day there’s a 50/50 shot that my nails will be of raggedy lengths or that I might have an obvious unibrow. There’s a 100% chance I will have a double chin with stray hairs on it. I not only don’t follow the latest fashion and makeup trends, but I don’t even know what they are. I’m old enough that I can get away with only wearing foot-shaped shoes, and if you think they’re unattractive, well, then, your opinion hurts me less than pointy-toed heels do.
For some reason, though, I fought the concept of bifocals. I needed them, badly. I could either look at things four or more feet away from me, or I could look at my phone or I could read the words on a piece of paper, but not both. This was a major problem at work when I wanted to analyze the fine changes in facial expressions of a person on the other side of a conference table and also read the file on the desk in front of me. It was a major problem at home when I wanted to watch something mind-numbing on television and also check my Twitter feed.
So when I went to the eye doctor a couple of weeks ago, I was determined to admit that I wanted bifocals instead of the distance/reading glasses combo I’d been managing with. Saying those words out loud felt like they should come with a senior discount and an urge to eat dinner at 4:00 p.m.
By the time I got to the optical center, bifocals went to trifocals. I felt my spine curve into a dowager’s hump. My hair went from dark brown to gray, from shoulder length to short, tight, immobile curls. A wiry whisker sprouted from a mole that erupted from my forehead.
The optician spelled out my options. Non-glare, scratch resistant coating of varying degrees of quality. Digitally enhanced transition. Shatter-proof lenses. Lenses that turned into sunglasses when I wandered outside. I understood little of what he was explaining, only that this was going to cost me a lot of money and I was officially jumping off the middle-aged board into the old hole. After all, I’m 49. 49 x 2 = 98. That’s statistically unlikely, especially given the not-terribly old ages my grandparents made it to. I’m on the other side of the middle of middle age.
I was being rabbit-punched in the face by mortality.
I paid my dues and went home. A few friends who had already paid these particular dues warned me that these glasses were hell to get used to. The world could look wavy and unsteady, a dangerous thing for us old folks. Headaches were a real possibility. My friend Lynn couldn’t do it and gave up and went to normal bifocals with a line down the center. I fretted.
Finally, it was time to pick them up. I’m naturally clumsy, and I feared that the funhouse effect of being able to see three different ways through one lens would make me walk into things and maybe even fall. I sat firmly in a chair when I put them on for the first time. The world looked, well, in focus. I looked at the woman who had handed them to me, and I could see her just fine. I looked at the cases of eyeglasses behind her, and the sharp lines of the frames on the racks were visible to me as well. She handed me a card which had different sizes of type on it. I looked down at it and was easily able to read the smallest one. I looked in the mirror on the table which was about as far as a computer monitor would be from me. I could see me in my new trifocals which just looked like regular glasses sitting on my face. I grinned. I may need an ear trumpet and one of those canes with four legs for extra stability, but I had solved a real problem.
Of course, I hadn’t stood up yet. I did so. So far, so good. I took a step backwards, away from the customer service table. Still no problem. Then I turned. The world tilted. When I moved my head along the horizontal axis, my peripheral vision curved. That was going to take some getting used to. I took a few steps forward. So long as my head didn’t swivel, all was well. If I looked to the left or right, things on the side moved oddly.
It’s been a longstanding joke in my family that I have no peripheral vision. I’m full steam ahead with whatever I’m doing. I’m task oriented, and when I’m focused I am completely oblivious to anything that isn’t what I’m looking at. My husband, on the other hand, cannot see what is directly in front of him. He is all peripheral vision. This is what made him a good cop back in the day before he retired and became a professional couch-sitter. The slightest movement off to the side caught his attention. You can’t catch him off-guard. He wouldn’t be aware he’d wandered into a forest, but by God he’d be 100% aware of the camouflaged leaf-bug hiding out in a tree.
So it suits me just find that my peripheral vision is wonky in these glasses. Within an hour or so, my brain had adjusted and I was only looking straight ahead, as per usual. I’ve got my partner looking to the side for me, just like I look for the obvious things for him.
Even if we do eat dinner early and plan our days around being in bed by 9:00.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Told You…” is set to be released in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.