You must understand that, to begin with, I came into this world kinda messed up.
After multiple surgeries on my ears and eyes before I was two years old and corrective braces on my legs, I ended up fairly okay, though Iím still missing a vertebrae in my back for some odd reason. Doesnít bother me much, but when it flares up, boy, howdy!
The major remainder is my eyes. I have lots of problems with the olí orbs, you see, and have worn glasses since I was, as mentioned, two years old.
Theyíre second nature to me. There are pictures of me in photo albums that I have turned over to Brinks for safekeeping. In them I am two or older, with massive horn-rimmed glasses, generally cheesing out for my grandmotherís camera. I sometimes think that my eyes might be slightly better today if it werenít for all those old Polaroid flash bulbs going off in my face in my formative years, but as the only grandchild, it was my lot in life. If you look very closely into my eyes youíll see that though theyíre mostly brown, thereís a very small speck of iridescent blue, and youíll realize after some thought that itís the exact color of an old-fashioned flash bulb, permanently imprinted on the retina like a tattoo.
Anyway, Iím 41 now, and made a recent visit to see the eye doc. I dread such visits because I know the doc is going to tell me I need a new prescription because my vision has changed again, usually for the worst.
I tried to tell people that I needed to see an orthopedic doctor, a true sawbones, because it was obvious my problem was in my arms, not my eyes. Thatís because my arms had obviously shrunk and were shorter than they used to be. I knew this, you see, because I could no longer stretch them far enough to read a book.
But no, I was off to see the eye doc. First of all I had to take a color test and when I did, the young lady giving me the test looked very quizzical about the results. When someone giving you a medical test of any kind looks quizzical, you gotta feel a little uneasy.
"What ?" I asked. "That bad?"
"No," she said. "Itís just thatÖlast time you were here you were color blind. Now youíre not."
"Hmm," I said. "Perhaps Iíve been chewing on my ink pens too much?"
"Thatís impossible," she said.
"No it isnít, I chew on my ink pens all the time," I reply, indignant.
"I mean, itís impossible to be color blind and recover," she explained.
"Oh," I said. "Well, thatís okay. Itís just how I am. I used to not be Indian, now I am. Go figure."
Then it was on to see the doc, who put me through the routine of reading the rows of type on the wall, then the various bars on the wall, etc. After all was said and done, he said the dreaded words.
"Bifocals," the doc told me.
He might as well have said:
"No more beer."
Or any other such thing and it would have had the same effect on me. I pleaded, I begged, I threatened, but nothing would work. It was bifocals or nothing.
So then Iím off to see the optician, who is showing me wall after wall of frames. The kid who started out in horn-rimmed glasses and looked like a madcap Elton John in his early career today hates the new trend of these tiny frames. You know, the little sliver of a lens, about half an inch wide. I canít see through that, and my eyes are not rectangular, theyíre round, just like a Polaroid flash bulb. I donít want Grandpaís old wire-rimmed Dennis Weaver glasses, but I want something with a little substance and some shape. Some of these frames were frameless. They were lenses with the arms bolted into them and a nose piece.
I finally settled on a pair I hated a little less than any of the others and ordered the lineless, graduated-type of bifocals. I then went away to grumble and fuss for a week and a half until my new specs arrived.
People are telling me all kinds of things in the meantime:
"My wife got bifocals. She was walking like she was on the moon for a week."
"Bifocals? Donít drive anymore, youíll run off the road."
"Oh, itíll be fine. Just donít try to pour coffee in a cup."
And so on and so forth. Finally my new specs arrived and, lo! It werenít so bad, actually. I got home that evening, having driven all the way without a single multi-car pileup, sat on my patio with a Harry Middleton book and after about half an hour of reading I got up and called my ophthalmologist and congratulated him on being such a fine orthopedist.
It was particularly nice when I was on vacation fishing with my cousins. If I cast into a tree or whopped a No. 6 Accardo Spook into the side of one of their heads, I could just say, "Bifocals, still getting used to them, sorry."
But a week or so into things, I started getting headaches pretty bad, and my left eye hurt like the dickens. Now, my left eye is essentially on disability, has been for years. It just doesnít get a check from the government. I can see shapes and colors, but not much else. It is, however, particular about whatís known as the "focal center" of an eyeglass lens. Like a good citizen it tries to work, and even though it canít, it likes to put on good airs, so it likes the focal center of the lens to be a certain way. If it isnít, it gets persnickety. It took some dabbling to get this right, and as of yesterday I got my new lenses installed in my too-small and too-trendy frames. So far, so good!
So here I am, the bifocal-wearer at last. I am confident there are worst things in life, such as being kissed by a yak. I am grateful that the science of eye doctoriní has advanced so much. As an Indian in the old days, I would not likely have survived, or at best, been the subject of considerable ridicule for never being able to hit the broad side of a palmetto hut with my spear or bow and arrow.