When I was little, it seemed everyone had glasses.
My mother. My grandparents. My relatives. My friends.
I thought they made people look cool or more grownup. So if I wanted to become one or the other or both, I had to get my own glasses.
When I was fourteen, I told my mother I was getting headaches and thought I needed glasses. She took me to the doctor. As he looked into my eyes with a gizmo, I crossed them slightly.
“Amblyopia,” the doctor told my mum. “Strabismus. Heterotropia. Something like that. His eyes are slightly crossed. He needs glasses.”
I spent a long time picking out frames. When my glasses finally arrived, I put them on excitedly.
A week later, my mum asked me where they were. “Why aren’t you wearing your glasses? They were expensive.”
I didn’t want to tell her they gave me a headache and so, conveniently, I’d lost them.
A decade later, I married a girl with glasses. I got in-laws with glasses. Then I had a son. He got glasses too.
In my mid-forties, I started getting headaches again. I could only read in bed with the lamp on. I had a tough time with restaurant menus. My friends called it “short arm syndrome.” Someone lent me a pair of drugstore glasses. I was amazed at how much better I could see. It had been so gradual but it was beyond denying. Presbyopia. A gradual thickening and loss of flexibility of the lens inside my eyes that makes it tough to focus on things that are near.
I like my glasses for what they do for me. I am less thrilled about what they say about me. Welcome to middle age.
So far, I don’t wear my glasses when I draw. I can see what I’m drawing without them, and not being able to see the page clearly is fine. I know what I’m making. And there’s the added pleasure of putting on my glasses when I’m done, to examine the lines on the page as they really look.
My eyes have brought me a lot of pleasure. I count on them to make a living, to make art, to watch my wife brush her teeth. And I’ll need them for a while to come. I hope. But nonetheless, they are changing. A reminder that every day, so am I. And so is everything I see.