I can see clearly now

It had occurred to me that perhaps I was familiar with this concept somewhere between the time that I had to take off my glasses in order to take a splinter out of my daughter’s finger and the time that I saw one of my dearest friends (just two years older than me!) pull out a pair of reading glasses to read a menu at a restaurant.

Teenage airplane

And then suddenly everywhere I looked I kept coming across that word presbyopia and I could not look away, whether squintingly or not. (I am reminded of something my friend Rachel told me about a time when she was 16 years old and took a Virgin Atlantic flight and everywhere she looked she saw the word VIRGIN, taunting her.)

Which leads me to yesterday at my long-awaited eye exam, after which my eye doctor asked me how old I was and I told him. I then said, I bet I know what you’re going to talk to me about. Presbyopia! he announced. Yup, I said. Do I actually have it? Well, he said, let’s break it down. Presbyopia. What does presby mean? (You see why I go to this guy, right?) Umm, I said. Old, he said. Ah, great. And opia means…Eye, we said together.

Do I actually have it? The eye doctor put that big lens thingie in front of my face again and showed me some small printed text and asked how it looked. Perfect! I said triumphantly. Then he switched the lens and asked me how that looked. And I had to admit that it looked…more perfect.

The eye doctor told me that maybe in a couple of years I would need those reading glasses that you can get for like five bucks at a drugstore. But a panic came over me, the same way it does every time my nearly twelve-year-old daughter acts teenagery, and this panic has to do with the fact that I still feel like a teenager myself!

I mean, I still like to drive fast with the radio up loud and I still get all swirly about boys exactly the way I used to. I still need to lie on my bed in the dark and listen to music when everything feels completely sucky. A video that was taken of me two weeks ago at a gathering of some old high school friends reveals that I sound exactly the same way I did as when I was 16 years old.

It occurs to me that, of course, every grown-up feels this way, and probably even our most famous sufferer of presbyopia, Benjamin Franklin, felt this way, but did he turn away from his squinting as time went on? No. Instead he embraced it, and went on to invent the bifocals, thus ensuring that any man of a certain age wearing bifocals would in some way resemble Benjamin Franklin and would preserve his memory forever.

So in that place somewhere between being a teenager and being Benjamin Franklin, there’s me, occasionally squinting at things that are right in front of me. Which is probably where I’m supposed to be, here in the middle of the day, in the middle of my life.


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