If You Can Read This, You Are Doing Better Than Me

It happened at 4:38 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17. No, this is not the precise moment when I entered the world, although it is the birth date of my mother and one of my goddaughters. It is not my wedding anniversary (which, for the benefit of my wife who is looking over my shoulder, is May 26). It is also not my wife’s birth date, nor the birth date of any of our children.

No, this was the date and time that my wife presented me with a pair of reading glasses.

“I bought a present for you,” my wife intoned as she deposited an armload of bags from her most recent shopping excursion.

“Hmmmm…” was my reply. When my wife buys me a present for reasons outside of my birthday, our anniversary, or Christmas, I am usually leery. Past unexpected presents have included several hundred flats of annuals that require planting, irregularly shaped stones to be puzzled together into a new front walkway, and several thousand board feet of lumber to be assembled into a backyard fence and deck.

So you can understand my apprehension.

However, this time, she handed me a small plastic bag from the local pharmacy. I looked inside, but it appeared to be empty. So I slowly moved the bag away from my eyes, until, at about maximum arm’s length, I perceived a pair of glasses.

“These won’t make very good sunglasses,” I said.

“They’re not sunglasses, they’re reading glasses. You know? To help you read.”

I protested, “I know how to read. I don’t need reading glasses. I’ve been reading for 35 years without the aid of glasses. Take them away!”

“Now dear,” my wife said using the same soothing tone of voice that she uses to cuddle the kids after they’ve scraped their knees, “you know you’ve been having trouble reading the directions on medicine bottles…”

“Untrue! I ask you to read them because you were a nurse and I don’t want to poison the kids.”

“…and you’ve been having difficulty reading the cooking instructions on pre-packaged dinners…”

“Why do they have to print oven, microwave, toaster oven, and barbeque instructions all on one side of the chicken pot pie box in two-point font?”

“…and if you put the newspaper any further away from you, it’s going to be behind you…”

“Find me the person who can read today’s movie listings!”

“…so I bought you reading glasses to help you read,” she said with a note of finality that indicated any further argument would be fruitless, if not pointless.

So I took a closer look at them and asked my wife to read the attached tag. She said “2X magnification reading glasses.”

Two times! My wife couldn’t even do me the dignity of starting me out with one times magnification.

So now I have reading glasses, and I must admit, however reluctantly, that they have helped my reading in that I can read a novel without incurring arm strain.

I have also entered a new world of eyewear that was completely foreign to me. In a matter of weeks, I have picked up the lingo and mannerisms of years long practiced owners of eyeglasses. The catch phrases, “where are my eyeglasses,” “have you seen my glasses,” and “has anybody seen my glasses,” are second nature to me now.

I can flick open the arms of my glasses with the best of them. You should see me move them down to the end of my nose to indicate to people, children in particular, that I now possess the wisdom of a sage.

So, overall, the gift of sight, or rather, reading glasses, has gone over pretty well. In the larger sense, I’ve come to terms with the inevitable fact that the gradual degradation in my natural eyesight matches the immutable march of time that we are powerless to overcome as we try to deny the approaching ravages of aging caused by the onslaught of life in our material world. In other words, I’m growing older.

I’m half expecting my next unexpected surprise present from my wife to be a cane. That, or a do-it-yourself basement finishing kit.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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