Without my glasses, I am a middle-aged (if I live to 104) female version of Mr Magoo. I’m clinging on to my driver’s license with every rod and cone left to me and finding innovative ways to say “I see” when, in fact, I don’t.

The positives of failing vision are clear (snort):

* When I look in the mirror without my glasses, I see a gauzy vision of youth and vitality: no lines, creases, sags, odd shifts of body mass or red hair that is deciding whether or not it can be bothered to cough up a grey strand or two. I only wear glasses when driving my car (rest easy – I only drive very short distances) or golf cart and the rare times that I watch television for I have been informed that I must “exercise” my eyes by eschewing my visual crutches when I can.

* I can wander through WalMart and see no acne, folds of flab overhanging tiny shorts like bread dough rising in a restricting container or scowls of chronic discontent.

* My best friend of 40 plus years, Rachel, looks the same to me now as she did at university. I can, in all truth, say, “Lovey, you haven’t changed at all!”

* A tree/river/ocean/etc. is not a mass of details: it is an impression. I tend to think that this leaves me with a vision that may be slightly closer to the truth of something for I am less derailed by intrusive minutiae than others.

* When speaking with someone I hear them: their facial hair, make-up, features or other unimportant factors do not divert my thoughts.

Now for the down-side (other than encroaching blindness of course):

* I know that sooner-rather-than-later I will lose my driver’s license. In that I live in a town where most things are within golf-cart distance, this is more a psychological issue than a life-style one. I adore driving (preferably in a standard – or stick shift — language thing there – car). I also remember, all too clearly, the day that my father lost his license due to his failing health and how that deeply bruised his spirit and pride. But I am a “girl” (and a fairly intrepid one at that) so I shall just forge on.

* I order books and, when they arrive, I tear open the package only to find that the print is too small for me to decipher. (“Large print” is abhorrent to me at this point for it is like listening to someone…read…very…very…slowly…but I know that it’s looming in my future).

* I pass people by on the street and later hear that I “cold-shouldered” them. No – I just didn’t see you.

* Sooner or later I will be forced to purchase a 52″ computer screen (and this will require rather innovative re-decorating on my part).

* Watching television is a melange of sensory inputs: what I can make out on the screen, the dialogue and my husband’s reactions (he’s good that way).

* When not perched on my nose, my glasses reside in one of three places: a shelf in the kitchen, my bedside table or on my desk. Last night they were not in any of those places and minor panic set in as I wandered the house for over an hour, patting surfaces with my hands to try to locate them. I had just (for the sake of my own sanity) given up and collapsed in a chair to read when my husband said, “Oh, here they are!” They were – and had been all along – tucked in his shirt pocket. (That is either the downside of having to rely on glasses, the downside of being married to an, occasionally, absent-minded man or a combination of both).

So…given all of that:

* If I pass you by on the street without acknowledging you, please understand that I just didn’t realize that you were there.

* If you point to something and say, “Look at that!” and I reply “What?” it does not, then, require you to shout, “Look at that!” directly into my ear. I don’t need bellowed repetition; I need you to clarify what it is that I’m supposed to be looking at.

* If you’re seeking a ride to the airport, please don’t ask me to drive you there – for both our sakes. I cannot see highway signs and people tend to find it disconcerting if I stop the car on I-95, get out, walk up to the sign and peer at it. (Some people are funny about such things).

Soon I may write about petit mal epilepsy (hint: never, ever even think about shoving a chair-leg into someone’s mouth while they’re having a seizure. It’s useless, unnecessary and, while it may be satisfying to you – if you particularly loathe the epileptic in question – it’s a bit disconcerting for those  of us who simply wish to survive the episode).

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Alex Kearns

Alex Kearns

Alex writes for a variety of national and international publications. A relative newcomer to the United States, she co-founded her town's first environmental organization (The St. Marys EarthKeepers, Inc.). In turns bemused, confused, entranced, frustrated and delighted, she enjoys unravelling the eternal enigma that is the Deep South.