By Ellen Margulies
My mother used to walk around with one pair of glasses on her head, another dangling from a string around her neck, and at least two more pairs stashed on the kitchen counter and next to her chair in the den, muttering, “Where are my glasses?” Someone would inevitably point to one of her many pairs, and she would inevitably answer, “Not those glasses, my other glasses.”
I’m convinced that the more we laugh at our mothers in our youth, the more likely we are to become just like them as we grow older.
It certainly never occurred to me as a young adult with 20-20 vision that I would ever need glasses, much less more than one pair. The first time it ever dawned on me to even think about my vision, I was trying on a colleague’s glasses at work just to see how I looked in the frames. I looked across the huge office at the clock on the wall. Holy crap. I could actually see the numbers. I didn’t realize that was even possible at such a distance.
It would still be several years, and a four-month assignment involving a lot of proofreading, before my vanity would allow me to walk into a doc-in-the-box and order my very first pair of prescription glasses. Those “I only need them for the computer” glasses have, over the years, turned into a pair of progressive lenses that allow me to view things close up through the bottom of the lens and further away through the top. I rarely find myself without them now, and I don’t dare leave home without them unless I want to end up with a huge headache.
I’ve become more vigilant about my vision as I’ve grown older, and even when insurance won’t cover more than one exam every two years, I make an appointment during those off years and pay for it myself. Cataracts run in my family, and I always worry about glaucoma, too. A friend’s godmother lost most of her vision to diabetic retinopathy, and she had to rely on help to do even the most basic tasks after that.
The reality is vision health is just one more item on the growing list of things we dare not neglect as we age. Drugstore reading glasses are helpful, and certainly cheap, but if you broke your leg you wouldn’t just buy a crutch from Walgreen’s and hobble around. You have to get regular check-ups to make sure everything’s in working order, and head off problems before they happen.
And no more laughing at your mother. That could be you one day.
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