I remember Dad commenting when one of his younger friends pulled out his reading glasses one day, “Arms got too short, didn’t they?”
At the time I had no idea what he meant. Eventually, though, I figured it out.
Maybe if I was more honest with myself, I would have admitted that I’d taken to holding books and magazines a little farther away. It gets a bit tiring reading the newspaper with your arms fully extended. But the thing that got me to finally admit that I really needing glasses was working on my stepson’s car.
Jay had bought an ’88 Chevy Celebrity from my dad and I was trying to remove an old tape player from under the dash. No matter how hard I tried, or how many contortions I endured, I couldn’t get my head in a position to where I could clearly see the mounting screws. Then it hit me: “the floorboard is too close to the dash.” Then I couldn’t decide whether to get a cutting torch or a portable grinder with a cutoff wheel attached.
Whether by Braille, good luck or sheer stubbornness, I was able to get the tape player out without converting the Celebrity into a Flintmobile. A couple of weeks later, I was in an optometrist’s office in Georgetown, Kentucky. He confirmed what I already knew and I was soon wearing my first pair of bifocals. Anything over three feet away, I could see fine. So, the lower part of the lenses corrected my reading vision and the upper part was plain, clear lens.
Twenty years later, the upper part requires some slight correction and the lower part quite a bit more. Inevitable part of aging, I suppose. Life has a way of making all but the most proud and stubborn of us confront our mortality, our frailty, our need for something greater than what we are and what we can do.
Sometimes it’s something that a twenty-dollar pair of reading glasses can remedy. In other cases it requires something much deeper, more powerful, something mysterious and wonderful. Something that drives us to our knees and leaves us both broken and healed.
That something sometimes comes to us in a quiet and gentle moment. And sometimes it takes something far more compelling than banging your head on the floorboard of an old Chevy.