Something happens when you reach your forties. The print in books starts to shrink. The same thing happens to the print in menus, newspapers and magazines. The first time I noticed this, I blamed the book. I adjusted my computer and Kindle so the font was huge. When reading magazines, I tried moving the page farther from my face but my arms didn’t reach that far. “You’re getting old,” my husband told me, kindly, as we sat in a local Olive Garden and he watched me move the menu back and forth.
“That’s ridiculous,” I said, handing him the menu. “Can you read me all the chicken dishes?”
On the way home we stopped at the drugstore. I bought three pairs of reading glasses. Blue frames for home, tricolor for work, and a pink pair to keep in my purse for those pesky menus. I didn’t like them, but I got used to them. The problem was, I spend my days reading small print and at the same time supervising groups of children. I needed to be able to look at print and look out at the kids and see everything clearly. With the reading glasses on, the print looked fine, but the kids were blurry. And removing and replacing the glasses all day was giving me a headache.
I called my eye doctor. “Time for bifocals,” he said. “Make an appointment.”
I’ve been wearing contact lenses since I was fourteen years old. I was not going to wear glasses again, especially given my extra-strength prescription. “No bifocals,” I told him. “Don’t you make bifocal contacts?”
He outlined my choices. I could wear one contact that would see far and one that would see near. Apparently your eyes learn to adjust so each eye knows what to do. I wasn’t sure my eyes were that smart. Or, for a great deal more money, I could order bifocal contact lenses. They’re weighted, so the lower part sees near and the upper part sees far and your eyes just figure it out. “Sounds perfect,” I said, and ordered a pair.
Two weeks later I drove home wearing my new contacts. I walked in the door and grabbed a book. A regular book, not my large-font Kindle. I could read it! I opened the newspaper and scanned the notoriously small-print comics. I could read them too! I was in heaven. The next day, however, driving to work, I realized I couldn’t see any street signs until I was practically sitting on them. Not so good. And three days later the new lens scratched my cornea. Back to the eye doctor. We ordered a new pair with a slightly different prescription. Now I could see far, but when I tried to read a book I was back to reading glasses. “Don’t worry,” my doctor told me. “This is very typical. It usually takes several tries before we get it exactly right.”
It’s been three months. I’m on pair number four. They’re still not perfect, but close. I can read menus, magazines and books. If I squint, I can almost read the comics. And my students and the street signs are in focus. Now, if I could just remember where I put my Kindle, I’d be fine.