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Now you see 'em, now you don't

Posted: September 10, 2011 - 11:04pm

I had a disturbing experience while on vacation in Florida this summer. I lost my glasses. I’ve never done that before. I got my first glasses when I was 2 years old, and I’ve never lost a pair. Until now.

It wasn’t my fault. (Yeah, I know, that’s what they all say.) It’s not like I was body surfing or anything. I was just lounging in the surf, minding my own business, when a wave snuck up behind me and swept my glasses right off my face, straight down to Davy Jones’ locker. He probably put them away properly there.

Funny thing about glasses — they don’t float. If you drop them in water, they sink to the bottom. If only I had planted my feet and stayed in one spot, I might have found them on the ocean floor. Have you ever tried to stand still in ocean waves? Good luck with that. Plus, it was getting dark and lightning was flashing in the distance — it was definitely time to get out of the water. Goodbye, glasses.

As you may have deduced from the fact that my first pair of glasses came to me at the age of 2, I am extremely nearsighted. I can see clearly about 6 inches out, and everything beyond that is a blur of shapes and colors. Remember Mr. Magoo, the bumbling, nearsighted cartoon character. That’s me without my glasses. Now you might think that since I was functionally blind without them, I would carry a second pair of glasses, or at least a copy of my prescription, when I traveled. Hmm, there’s a good idea. I’ll have to try that next time.

The evening passed in a blur, literally. The rest of the crowd watched a movie — I listened to it. I did get some mileage out of my plight by stating I couldn’t do the laundry or dishes because I couldn’t see what I was doing. Pretty pathetic — but any excuse to get out of the dishes is a good excuse to me.

The next day I went to the mall to get new glasses. Of course, the wave incident happened on a Friday evening, so I couldn’t contact my eye doctor for a copy of my prescription. I had to make an appointment for an eye exam, and then wait two hours at the mall until I could be seen. The rest of the family took off to enjoy the beach, leaving their glasses safely on shore like wise swimmers, and I wandered around the mall by myself. There I was, on my own, the small town girl let loose to shop in a big city mall chock full of stores that never knew there was a recession on, and I couldn’t see. If I squinted my eyes I could just make out the type of store I was passing, and if I brought my face within inches of a product, I could see the price. All that lovely merchandise, and I didn’t buy a thing.

My eye exam passed without incident. The store clerk commented that mine was the fifth case of lost glasses that week, and if the Gulf of Mexico should ever dry up, God forbid, the ocean floor would be covered with glasses. At least I’m in good company.

So now I have a new pair of glasses that sit very tightly on my head, doggone it. For the rest of my vacation I had to listen to my mother admonish me to take off my glasses when swimming. She even loaned me a glasses strap to wear while out on the boat with my brother. One lost pair of glasses in almost half a century, and she doesn’t trust me any more. Come to find out, my brother lost his glasses in the ocean a few years ago. And, if you can believe it, my husband lost his glasses almost exactly two years ago, just a short ways down that very same beach. With the ebb and flow of the tides, who knows? Maybe the next time we go on vacation, our two pairs of glasses will have reunited on the white sand beach of Florida.

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and aspiring author who lives in Juneau. She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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