To See or Not to See

Maureen O'Shea

Alas, To err is human and perhaps Shakespeare got it wrong. Because for me, “To see or not to see — that is the question”, the sticky problem — and my obsession for at least the past seven months. Because even in good health as I am at 82, vision problems impact your freedom. It can rob you of your independence. And I thought that was happening to me, because of my sight. Or my mind. Or both.

My Mamma was very near sighted, myopia is the technical term. The myopia gene my Mamma had was very dominant because a large percentage of her 10 children inherited her near sighted vision.

I am no exception.

When I was 13 years old, I realized I was squinting to see the blackboard at school. Off to the Medical Arts Clinic in Regina, Saskatchewan we went for my first eye exam and glasses. I will never forget walking out onto 11th Avenue and looking east. At the end of that avenue was a grain elevator, some 3/4 of a mile away, and lo and behold, I could see it, thanks to my newly purchased glasses.

How thrilling was this? I would say VERY.

Although these glasses are much the same as the ones I wear today, it seems like the gal behind them has changed a bit!

Years have passed and I have changed frames many times. Glasses have always been a fashion part of my life. Large or small and coloruful frames from white, to blue, to black or tortoise shell, amber, etc. And, although I’ve had many frame shape changes, most of my frames have followed the outline of my eyebrows.

But back to the story…
As I got older, I developed cataracts. In 2012, they were removed and I was given a choice between being near sighted or far sighted and I chose far sighted. A few months later, I had new frames with progressive lenses which I used for reading, but these turned into everyday glasses which I used for everything. After nearly 70 years of wearing glasses frames on your face, it’s pretty hard to leave them on your bedside table…

Driving was a Problem

But fashion changes and a couple years later, I had a hankering for new frames. My next new glasses were bought in January 2014.  Somewhere along the way I discovered I was having a problem seeing the ball land when I hit my driver when I was golfing! Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure that golfing was the reason that opted for being far sighted in the first place. But seeing that little white ball land, far off in the distance, that was becoming a problem. I began enlisting the help of my playing partners to watch where my ball would land each time I was on the tee box. (I can still drive that little white ball 200 yards…)

I eventually found some Chromax golf balls that helped my game. You can read that story here.

The Other Kind of Driving was Becoming a Problem Too

And, the other kind of driving was becoming a problem too, but a problem I would never admit and scarcely dare to think. I know that not being able to see properly means not being able to drive. And not being able to drive would mean a loss of independence and that was a place I wasn’t about to go to yet, if I could help it. So I kept my worries to myself but let me tell you, they were weighing heavy on my mind. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, thinking about my vision. I spent hour after hour turning it over in my head. Was I going blind? Would I need to stop driving?

I had myself convinced that the problem wasn’t my eyesight, but my windshield. Here’s why:

Have you driven a car in a dust or sand storm?  You peer through the windshield, wishing you could just blow the dust away, but it doesn’t go. It’s always there, interfering with your view of the road ahead. This is what I was experiencing when I was driving.

I thought my windshield was dirty, or perhaps had been badly damaged by gravel during Calgary’s harsh winter a few months before when gravel coats the streets to stop the cars from skidding. And because I’d had my windshield replaced not so long ago, I figured that maybe the scratchiness I saw when looking out of it was due to poorly-manufactured glass.

I even phoned the auto glass company where my most recent replacement windshield was installed when I was on a golf trip to St. George, Utah. The owner answered the phone and assured me that their windshields are of excellent quality. He asked if I had left my car out in the hot sun for any extended period of time, because he had seen windshields effected by “dash vapour”, and maybe I had that. He gave me the name of a cleaning substance to use, I tried to buy it but found that it was not available in Canada. I ended up buying four different kinds of glass cleaner to try to clean my windshield properly, all different brands of automotive specialty cleaners.

Scrub as I did, nothing changed. My windshield was still dirty. I started asking family and friends to sit in my car and look out and tell me if they thought my windshield was a problem. Everyone could see out of it just fine.

No, they said. The problem wasn’t there. My windshield was sparkling clean.

It Must Be My Eyes

So in July, back to my optometrist I went. My eyes were checked.

Yes, there had been a change in my eyesight but it was ever so slight. No, the change was not big enough to justify new lenses.

I am crestfallen. I have no idea what to do next!  I am still looking through (what I perceive to be) a dirty windshield. And it doesn’t seem to be a problem with my eyesight.

In November, my daughter Bridget surprised me with new frames, and the lenses I had were too small to fit. So, back to the optometrist I went once again. The new glasses came with digital lenses. I tried them for a couple of days — the optometrist said that often it takes a couple of days of adjustment before seeing properly with them.

But they didn’t work. They made my head ache. I couldn’t see through them. I certainly couldn’t see out of my windshield.

Over the course of three months, these glasses were sent back to the lab half-a-dozen times.

I still couldn’t see properly with any of them.

Finally, after seven months of anxiety, on January 31, 2017, the penny dropped. I put on my old glasses from 2012, and found that I could see just fine with them — through my windsheild and all.

I decided to go back to the store I’d bought them from just over four years ago, to see if I could get the same kind of lenses. Made by the same lab.

I could.

You might not believe it, but since they came in, two weeks ago, I can SEE near and far with these glasses. And my windshield? Well, it’s as clear as the water at Crystal Lake.

You can’t imagine what a relief this is. For seven months, I’ve been worried — no — I’ve been scared. Scared my eyesight would impact my life. Scared I would lose my freedom and independence. Scared that I was losing my mind.

Now, I’m sleeping through the night again. And looking forward to my upcoming golf trip.

I’m pretty sure I’ll even be able to see the ball land when it hit it as I can see myself doing in my mind’s eye, 200 yards, straight down the middle of the fairway.

 

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