When I was a kid I was supposed to wear glasses because I had astigmatism in my right eye. The pair of glasses I was given made everything appear to be on a slope and gave me terrible headaches so I almost never wore them.
Seventy odd years later I am once again wearing glasses to correct the astigmatism. For the past sixty years or so I have been able to see distance really well, read bus numbers from afar, and spot the child in the back of the class who was fooling about and disturbing his neighbours using just my two eyes.
When I was in my forties I started wearing ‘reading’ glasses for close-up work and have found it necessary to upgrade the strength every so often. I bought those specs from drug stores, supermarkets and on-line and they never cost more than a couple of pounds or so – although one time, in West Malling, I misplaced my glasses and couldn’t find them anywhere, eventually having to go into the optician’s down the road and buy a really weird pair that had longish and very narrow lenses for an exorbitant amount (£17, I think). I rarely used those and finally found the lost pair several years later on a shelf in the wardrobe (closet) when we were getting ready to move away from West Malling.
About two months ago I received a letter from my optician saying it was time for my yearly (free, because of my age and because NHS) eye check-up. I had noticed since my last check-up that my sight wasn’t as clear and crisp as it had been – I sometimes see a second image of something slightly above the first; for example if I look at a light, there is a second image of that light directly above and overlapping the first. And, in some lights I was finding it difficult to read individual numbers or letters if they were particularly small. So, I was pleased to receive my letter and duly went to the optician a few days later.
Before I was seen by the registered optician, a young woman took me into a little room and blew air into my eyes, taking photos at the same moment (I think). Then the optician, a very nice young woman, looked into my eyes, read notes on my previous eye tests, played around with letters and little lollipop-looking lenses-on-sticks, then gave me the bad news….I would have to wear glasses to drive and, worst of all, I seem to have a small cataract in each eye. She said I must wear sunglasses (which I hate doing) to protect my eyes when in the sun.
Afterwards, I left the consulting room and went into the body of the shop where I was shown a range of frames. It took me ages to choose from the quite huge selection. I have been buying reading glasses with colourful frames and not even the most expensive choices were particularly colourful.
Then, I sat down with a young fellow whose job it was to find out what I wanted in a pair of spectacles – varifocals, bifocals, or two separate pairs; tinted lenses, colour-changing lenses or two pairs – one of clear glass and one of tinted; and, would I like an anti-glare coating?
All that proceeded, slowly but surely, and I ended up paying out enough to buy myself several hundreds of pairs of cheap reading glasses! I was sent home with a promise that the glasses would be ready within the next fortnight – and, right on cue, they were!
I’ve spent the past weeks getting used to wearing glasses most of the time. I have found it really difficult to wear them outside as sunglasses but have, mostly, persevered. I have always felt ‘removed’ from the surrounding area when wearing sunglasses – I really don’t know why or when it started because I seem to remember wearing them as a youngster.
The trouble is, my sight seems to be getting worse! Especially in the evening I find it difficult to, say, watch tv then refocus on written words. But, last night I discovered something about my sight that really disturbed me.
I was sitting in the darkened conservatory, looking out through the roof towards the sky. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a star so switched my gaze to look at it straight on – and found it wasn’t there! I could only see it if I wasn’t actually looking towards it….I think I’ve found out where the cataracts on my eyes are – right in the centre of my vision. I went on experimenting with that star and another couple but it was always the same. I guess, technically, I’m blind in the centre of each eye although I can actually see things bigger than a pin-prick of light when I look at them directly.
It’s a scary thought, though and I really don’t like it! I am always saying that getting old is s*it but the alternative is worse, but now….well, I’m not so sure. I think I can see why nature doesn’t keep us alive for longer. Until we understand the ageing process a lot better, scientists really shouldn’t be working towards helping people to live into their hundreds!