Clinic visit corrects a self-pity blind spot

  • Julie Muhlstein / Herald Columnist
  • Thursday, March 4, 2004 9:00pm
  • Local News

There I was at Physicians Eye Clinic in Everett, in a dimly lit room and holding a magazine — not that I could read it.

The stinging had stopped, but some wicked eyedrops were beginning to do their work. My vision was getting blurry. I could still see the magazine’s name, which was More. It touts itself as "the one magazine that celebrates women over 40!"

If you ask me, it is one magazine (one of many magazines, books, newspapers, recipes, etc.) that needs larger print.

On its February cover was Sela Ward, an actress sultry enough at 47 to give hope or to bring on an attack of insecurity, depending on my mood. I noticed she wasn’t wearing her glasses in that cover-woman picture. Surely, she has glasses.

Anyway, I didn’t feel much like celebrating being over 40.

In the three years since I last visited the ophthalmologist, my reading glasses have evolved from good-to-have accessory into got-to-have necessity.

It was nice to see Hollywood’s nod to that reality in the recent movie "Something’s Gotta Give." After their sweet and funny fling, the characters of Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton are left not only with tender feelings but with one another’s reading glasses.

Sure, I can read without my glasses, as long as it’s not too early in the morning. I just have to hold the book or paper way out there and at just the right angle.

I’m not so vain that I won’t wear glasses. I do wear them, at work in front of my computer. I wear them in the evening when I settle down to read. I don’t wear them all the time because I don’t need them all the time.

The clinic is more properly called Physicians Eye Clinic &Laser Surgery Center. Surgery? No thank you. I don’t need it, and even if I were a good candidate, I’m not sure I’d get it.

I’m vain enough that my hair is going to be brown for a long time, but barring medical need, I’ll stick with the eyes God gave me.

So at 50, I’m in vision limbo, forever putting on and taking off my glasses. When I try to wear them all day, I have to walk around carefully so as not to fall down the stairs.

While my no-line bifocals spend much of their time tucked safely in my purse, my teenage son gets tired of me squinting at packages of rice and asking him, "Does that say a third of a cup of water, or a half?"

Or he’ll say, "Read this, Mom," and hand me some permission slip I need to sign — holding it too close for comfort. Inevitably, my answer is, "Wait while I get my glasses."

Not having glasses at her fingertips when she needs them is familiar turf for Ann Hoheisel. "Around the house, my husband gets after me to ‘put that thing around your neck,’ " the Lynnwood woman said.

Hoheisel and her husband, Dick, both in their 70s, run a support group for people with impaired vision at the South County Senior Center in Edmonds. The group Spark in the Dark meets from 10 a.m. to noon Fridays.

The group includes those with eyes blurred by cataracts and people with macular degeneration, the progressive loss of the center field of vision. Some can’t read or drive. They discuss ways to get books on tape and listen as jokes and stories are read aloud.

Humbling, yes? How dare I whine about sometimes needing glasses, sometimes not? Believe me, I know I’m lucky.

I can put my glasses — my new ones will have a bit more power befitting my, uh, maturity — on one of those things around my neck. What looks cooler do you think, a cord or a chain?

I can keep a cheap pair of magnifying readers — one of my friends calls them "cheaters" — on the kitchen counter, and another pair on a bedside table.

Maybe nature isn’t cruel at all. Maybe nature is being kind. In not seeing perfectly, we folks of a certain age can look at each other while overlooking all those imperfections.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or

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