I am not dreading the eye exam, although it's a given that my eyes have changed since last year, and he'll be prescribing new lenses. I didn't even need them until I was in my 20s, unlike so many people who were wearing glasses in kindergarten and even nursery school.
I felt so grown-up and so responsible when I bought my first pair of glasses. I was 20 and living in Boston. Lack of sleep, coupled with hours and hours in front of a computer screen (my beloved CRTronic Linotype at The Harvard Crimson) under glaring fluorescent lights all combined to weaken my eyes a bit. I didn't have insurance when I lived in Boston, so I asked Mel Dorfman, the ageless, erudite, and often irascible bibliophile and jazz clarinetist who sold books on street corners in Harvard Square, where he got his glasses. During our conversations, I often saw his eyes look at me through black-rimmed thick lenses. (When I say "thick," I don't mean Coke bottles. I mean airplane windows.)
He told me the name of his optometrist, and one afternoon I made an appointment in his small (and slightly shabby) office on a back street just off Central Square. (It was quite a contrast from the chic and upscale shop For Eyes on JFK St., which looked more like an Aveda salon.) I read the eye chart slides, tried various lenses, and he gave me the news that yes, I needed glasses. They'd be ready in a week.
Proudly, I marched into his office with cash in hand a week later and put on my new glasses. Many people at work didn't recognize me, but all could tell that this was my first pair of glasses. I confess that I was even thinking of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, released the previous summer. Early in that movie, Admiral Kirk receives a 19th-century pair of spectacles as a birthday present from Dr. McCoy.
Many people who wore glasses told me that you're not completely used to glasses until you no longer see the frames in your peripheral vision. I never got to that point with my first pair.
About three or four weeks after I bought the glasses, I was running down Plympton St., the street where The Crimson's headquarters have been since 1914. I seem to remember I was late to meet someone at the Starr Book Shop, the cluttered used bookstore that was heavy on dust and soot but usually lacking in chairs and stools. I ran past The Crimson (see picture below) and then, almost too late, saw that the workers who were repairing Adams House had strung a rope across the street. I began to slow down, but the street has a slight incline as it goes southward toward Mount Auburn Ave. and eventually the Charles River, so my knees buckled under me. The glasses flew off, and as I was stumbling forward, I stepped on them.
The Harvard Crimson
I took them to For Eyes, and the technician there told me that they were salvageable. The frames were too damaged, but the lenses were just about intact, so they transferred the lenses into new frames, and I was back in business.
My eyes seemed to have improved, because after I left Boston and went to school in Athens, I don't remember needing them as much. When they disappeared, I didn't miss them, and thought that my eyes were completely back to normal.
This turned out not to be the case. Two years later, many people were noticing that I was squinting like a mole to read anything in the distance, and often I would see blurred silhouettes instead of people, which meant that I was frequently calling people by the wrong names.
I was lackadaisical as ever about changing this, until one afternoon I was taking a woman to lunch at Wendy's on Court St. We were in line to order, and I asked her what the prices were on some of the new items displayed on the boards above the cash registers. Without a word, she took me by the wrist and led me out of the restaurant, like a mother who's found her grade-school child shoplifting.
She marched me to the optometry shop next door and said, "Can you squeeze him in right now?" The woman at the front desk was a little baffled, but said yes. My friend stayed in the waiting room while I went through all the examinations, and barely managed to refrain from saying, "Told ya so!" when I told her that yes, I needed glasses. I knew then that I would probably never be without corrective lenses again. I don't know how long I would have put off this inevitable task, but I'm glad she physically hauled me over to the eye doctor's. I did feel like a five-year-old being taken to the pediatrician, and half expected her to promise me an ice cream cone if I cooperated with the doctor.
Eye injuries scare me. While I was living in Cincinnati, I rubbed my eye so hard that I managed to scratch my cornea in three places. I finally went to the emergency room at Deaconess Hospital. (According to The News Record, U.C.'s newspaper, that E.R. is no more.) The hospital was less than a quarter mile from my apartment, but all I could see were blurry lights and shapes moving around. It was like looking through a window smeared with Vaseline. I managed to weave and dodge my way through freezing rain, and also make sure I wouldn't be hit by the drunken motorists who were mistaking Clifton Ave. for a raceway.
The doctor in the E.R. looked grim when he examined my eye, and I was afraid for a moment that I'd lose the vision. (As a kid, I loved seeing Moshe Dayan, the leader of the Israel Defence Forces, on the TV news because of his black eye patch. Despite this, I had no desire to need a patch of my own.) He said no. Apparently an eyelash or a cinder had gotten in between the eyelid and the cornea, and when I rubbed it, it was like scratching glass with a file. I was to keep it bandaged for 24 hours, and then it would probably heal on its own.
The next 24 hours, I was in almost total darkness. I seem to recall sleeping as much as I could. The uninjured eye stayed shut sympathetically, so I was pretty much blind. I remember lying in bed listening to the radio most of the time. Once unbandaged, bright lights, or light from the TV screen, stung my eyes. The eye is mostly salt water, and putting salt in an open wound makes the pain worse.
One of our neighbors in Marietta had been doing yard work one day, and while he was trimming, a piece of holly fell straight down into his eye. I'm sure this was what it felt like.
In the last few years, my eyes have served me well, despite my lack of proper sleep. The only exception has been an on-again, off-again issue with myokymia. This condition causes involuntary twitching and trembling of my right eyelid. I'm no ophthalmologist, but reading between the lines of what the doctor told me, I think it came about from a combination of stress, fatigue, and excessive caffeine consumption. It was probably also a side effect of lithium. (I hadn't heard of myokymia, and the doctor had to jot it down for me, but I heaved a sigh of relief. Steph and I were both afraid it was Bell's palsy.) For more information, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myokymia.
Just before I turned 40, I received the grim news that I needed bifocals. I was not happy about this news, nor was I surprised by it. Even as a kid, I suspected I would one day need glasses, since both of my parents wore them. I was, however, surprised by how many people associated bifocals with aging. The youngest person I knew with bifocals with in the fourth grade.
When you get bifocals, there should be a mandatory training course, like when you get a new prosthesis or electric wheelchair. Instead, the optometrist hands them to you, collects your money, and out you go, on your own. The first few days you feel like you're about nine feet tall, because you haven't learned how to properly aim and focus your eyes. As I was learning my way, everything looked like it would if you're looking through the wrong end of binoculars. The headaches are bad as well.
Before someone asks... No, I have not and will not consider contact lenses. I can barely manage to give myself eye drops, so contacts would be impossible. I don't think the Creator intended our eyes to have things put in them.
Sigh. I probably will see the eye doctor before Memorial Day. Cost is not the issue. With my vision plan, glasses and office visits total less than $50 out of pocket. It's just procrastination on my part. As it is, I'm leaving work at midday tomorrow for other errands. (I have to go to ODOT--the Ohio Department of Transportation--and get a new state ID. It expires on the 29th. I need to get my hair cut, pick up some prescriptions, and pay my cell phone bill.) I can legitimately claim I'm overbooked.
And I'm under-rested. I just glanced at the Draft saved at line at the bottom of the blog text field, and it's 2:10 a.m. If I had any sense, I'd follow the lead of Samuel Pepys, the premier diarist, and say "And so to bed."