Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I Can See Clearly Now

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day. 
                                       —Johnny Nash (1972)

I’m living a version of Flowers for Algernon. I realized last Friday while driving to Whole Foods that for the first time in nearly 60 years I could see distances better without my eyeglasses than with them. It both excited and scared me.

For those not familiar with my literary reference, or the film adaptation, Charly, Flowers for Algernon is a story published by Daniel Keyes in 1958, around the time I first put on glasses to correct my long-range vision. The plot chronicles the experience of a developmentally challenged man treated with an experimental surgery to increase his intellect. The surgery is successful, as it had been for a laboratory mouse, Algernon. Alas, the successes for Algernon and Charly were only temporary. 

Each year during the mandatory eye test at my elementary school I squinted my way to a passing grade until my subterfuge was discovered. I was diagnosed as near-sighted and have been wearing prescription glasses since seventh grade.  

While in my 40s I had difficulty reading name tags at the many conferences and conventions I attended, so I asked my optometrist to make a pair of bifocals with clear glass on the bottom. Not so fast, he said. First, an eye test was required. Naturally, the exam found I, like many aging Baby Boomers in their fifth decade, was suffering from presbyopia, a gradually diminished ability to focus on close objects. 

I tried a pair of progressive lenses, the kind without lines that work for long distance, mid-range, and close-in but I couldn’t acclimate to them. I felt seasick each time I put them on. So I opted for old-fashioned bi-focals with a line demarcating the different lenses. 

Gilda’s eyes, meanwhile, ignored the fact they were just 11 days younger than mine. For the better part of another decade Gilda enjoyed perfect vision. Then, one evening in a CVS, she complained about blurred writing on a can of peanuts. I eased her over to the Magnivision display tower and handed her a pair of reading glasses she reluctantly donned. She immediately started laughing, amused by her frailty. She’s been wearing glasses—designer, prescription, progressive lens glasses, mind you—ever since, though she does keep a pair or two of the cheap nonprescription ones around just in case she can’t find her “real” glasses in a pinch. Astigmatism prevents me from using Magnivision-type reading glasses.

Which brings us back to my current predicament. I keep checking to see (pun intended) if my distance vision has reverted to better-with-glasses, but it has not. I’ve arranged an appointment with my eye doctor, but it’s not until August 8. 

For the next three weeks, should I drive with out without wearing glasses?