The Vicissitudes of Growing Older

Nora Ephron has written about her neck, as has Anne Lamott, and I agree with both of them. I hate my neck, but for me it’s not the worst part of getting older.

I now arise each morning with a groan, my joints opening like old rusty hinges. I had to give up coffee not long ago. “They” say it is supposed to help, and it has cut back on the creaks and crunches a bit. I still miss the smell, but maybe I can use it as aromatherapy and drink my tea instead.

I get headaches I never used to, and the articles I read tell me they are “hormonal.” In other words, get used to it. I take aspirin until my ears ring and then back off until the buzzing stops.

But none of these things bother me like having to wear glasses. I hate wearing glasses. I hate, hate, hate it. My far distance sight is great. I can pick out an ant crossing the highway half a mile away, but for those close encounters I might as well be reading underwater. Put me under the red line on the Snellen eyechart.

A nurse by training, my job requires I see. Because of the nursing shortage my retirement is whenever I wander off with my walker. Those of us with training will probably still be shuffling off to some patient’s room only to forget why we went there in the first place. I see a big need for hospitals hiring Prompters to remind us of our tasks.

The eye thing started to bother me about five years ago. Curiously, this was simultaneous to the irritation I began to feel about my neck. I remember the first time I looked down and couldn’t read the date on my watch. This I not a froufrou ladies’ watch either, it’s a good sturdy Citizen that says, “Railroad approved” on the face. Nothing frilly about it.

At first, positive it was something on the face of the watch, I cleaned it off. Same outcome. I quickly discovered that when I pulled my wrist further away from my face the date flashed into focus. That was then; now I can’t get my arm far enough away to bring the watch itself into focus.

I entered a period of denial that blurred my judgement for about a year. When I realized I would soon have to ask my patients, “What does that say, honey, is that 6mg. or 8mg.?” I knew the time had come to take charge. I bought a pair of glasses. I didn’t do what several of my aging colleagues did, buy those cheapie reading glasses from the drug store that you wear on the top of your head or the tip of your nose, making you look like a female version of Carl Levin.

No,looks be damned; I bought bifocals.

My optician talked me into the new fangled ones without a seam. “They’re great, you’ll love them, ” he said. I hated them. I viewed the world as though through a carnival mirror, and if I looked up too quickly, I almost threw up. Plus, while I could see whether the medication said 6 or 8 mgs, the rest of the room became a blur. I found myself removing them so I didn’t stagger when walking. I took them back.

I then bought the sensible kind with a seam across my line of sight. Always caught on the wrong side of the line for whatever I needed to see, I felt seasick most of the time. I began to wear them on my head like my colleagues. There is nothing worse than telling someone you have lost your glasses and have them laughingly point at the top of your head.

I have gone back to the seamless variety. I still have tunnel vision but with the assistance of another optometrist I have managed to find a pair that allows me to see close, mid-range, and at a distance without removing them. But I now have that crone habit of tipping my head back and thrusting my jaw forward to look down. I guess that’s okay because it momentarily reduces the drapage of my neck, but I don’t want to discuss my neck.

Today, as I walked across my favorite restaurant, one lens of my glasses popped out. I stopped, took off my glasses, and groped around for the ejected lens. One of the screws at the temple piece had come loose. I was blind until I could get to an optometrist’s shop for repairs. I ordered my meal from memory and claimed the Ray Charles Exemption when my husband asked me to look up a business in the phone book. (He can’t see without his glasses either but always forgets to bring his.)

I hate wearing glasses.