anne_mikolay_2012_120When I was young, I chuckled at my mother's inability to thread a needle and laughed when my father mistook a silverfish (he picked it up!) for a piece of dust. I thought the chains hanging from little old ladies' eyeglasses were tacky; ditto for eyeglass cases hooked to men's shirt pockets. They say what goes around, comes around...I shouldn't have laughed. The other day, I bent to pick up a piece of dog kibble from my carpet; the kibble was a Chinese stink bug (I did not pick it up!). I'm not laughing anymore. Like my parents before me, I have “middle-aged eyes.”

Actually, there is a clinical name for “middle-aged eyes”: presbyopia. From  a Greek word meaning “aging eye” or “old eye,” presbyopia is a condition in which the lens of the eye loses its ability to focus, making it difficult to see things up close. The elasticity required for the lens of the eye to change its length or shape as necessary to focus on smaller objects declines with age. There is no cure for presbyopia, though it is managed with glasses or contact lenses (and eyeglass chains and cases hooked to shirt pockets).

I've been wearing glasses since the third grade (had a delightful “I Love Lucy” pair back in the day), but I could still read and write clearly without corrective lenses. Nowadays, I try to have my reading glasses at the ready (yes, hanging on a tacky eyeglass chain or the collar of my shirt). Without my trusty reading glasses, I can't see recipes, menus, magazines, or maps, can't use the television remote, or put earrings in my pierced ears. My sons laughed uproariously when I came home with one of those giant television remotes Rite-Aid used to sell (what goes around, comes around, guys!), and they quickly lose patience with me when they have to wait to show me something until I find my glasses.  

Presbyopia is a natural part of aging, but it sure is a shame now that I want to read the nutritional information on labels and boxes in the supermarket, I can't see the print, and now that I have learned to stop and smell the roses, I can't find them. Presbyopia reportedly affects over 100 million people in the United States. I am in very good company: Meryl Streep wears glasses, so does Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Kyra Sedgwick, Martin Sheen, Steve Martin, Lionel Richie, and a host of other now middle-aged celebrities. 

So what if I have presbyopia? It's a new world I see. “Middle-aged eyes” view and measure things differently. I look at a water bottle and see trips to the bathroom rather than ounces. I look at a cupcake and see only calories and a wider butt. I regard my vision with greater respect. Just as absence makes the heart grow fonder, doing without something you once took for granted teaches you its worth. I better appreciate all I need my glasses to see.

I have adjusted to life with glasses as a necessity. Sears carries a line of pretty eyeglass chains (have one in every color they sell), and I have “good” glasses, “spare” glasses, and “bedside” glasses. Glasses have become a facial feature for me. In fact, just last week I got into the shower and realized I still had my glasses on. Seems along with the ability to focus on tiny print, middle-agers also lose a few marbles. 

But that's another story.