My eyesight has certainly softened in the last ten years. The march through drug store readers of increasing strength, from 1.25 to the current 2.50, began in my mid-forties, a smidge earlier than some of my peers. But since I’ve always been farsighted, the need for progressives held off until just a few years ago. Nothing irritates me more, now, than having to rummage through the drawers or my purse in search of my glasses. I’ve tried to assert independence from my specs, but this has typically led to a flurry of minor mishaps: whole milk instead of 2% in the grocery cart, the wrong black down vest lifted from the communal coatroom at the studio, a nick here or there to my thumb or forefinger from chopping onions sans glasses.
I’ve been under a glaucoma watch since my early thirties, when I was given a tip-to-toe physical in order to qualify for an insurance policy. An eye exam was part of the deal. The doctor, who worked for the insurance company, looked at me with grave concern, telling me I might be blind by my forties. It turns out my retinas have an unusually deep shape that resembles the early stages of glaucoma. Opthalmologists over the years have held differing opinions as to whether this is cause for concern, or just an idiosyncrasy, a structural quirk I’ve had since birth, not to worry. I have dutifully undergone annual or semi-annual checkups and tests for decades now, which is a good thing, since a couple of years ago, a different glaucoma risk was identified having to do with the drainage angle of my eyes. My opthalmalogist at the time insisted I needed an iridotomy, pronto. That’s a simple laser procedure in which the doctor burns a tiny hole in the iris to open up the drainage angle. In a minority of cases, the patient experiences some lasting issues with glare. I would be in that select group, but only for a few months while my brain figured out how to compensate. (Neuroplasticity, yay!) I can notice the glare if I go looking for it, but otherwise, my brain works around it.
I’ve since switched to a new ophthalmology practice that’s the best ever: they have an office ten minutes away, it’s attractive and efficiently-run with almost no wait time. My docs there are both extremely personable; it’s genuinely a pleasure to catch up with them. The glaucoma specialist, Dr. Fine, leans toward the opinion that the shape of my retina is “just you” — not an indication of any progressive disease. Nonetheless, I get examined every six months; I take depth of field tests, have my pressures checked and my angles measured, read the bottom line on the chart, forwards, then backwards, with and without glasses. Today was just a prescription and pressure check. The doctor I see for that is also named Holly. She has two boys, one twenty-six, the same age as Nate. Her younger son is autistic, and will be living with her “for life,” or until she and her husband can figure out a better setting for him than their home. When she talks about him, I can see deep maternal love jockeying with something more complex: resignation, perhaps, or genuine befuddlement. I wonder: if I ever lose my eyesight, will my perceptiveness about such things diminish?
She rolls her stool back from the equipment to make some notes on her computer. “No significant change,” she tells me. My distance vision is still great. My pressure is unchanged. No need to get new lenses, she states, unless my current ones are scratched, or Warby Parker is having a sale and I want new frames.
“Take care,” she says. “See you in six months.”