40s usually bring a time to refocus – with bifocals


There comes a time for most married couples that usually occurs during their 40s. It is sort of a moment in time, a transition, a season when they know something has happened, is happening or will happen in the near future.

It came for Susan and me one evening a few years ago. She was sewing in her sewing room and I happened to walk by. We were talking about some minor trivia when Susan picked up a needle and started to thread it. I say started because she kept trying . . . and trying. She couldn’t get the needle threaded, a task she has been doing for years.

I jokingly asked her if her sight was failing, which miffed her a bit. She tried one more time, unsuccessfully, and wondered out loud if the lights were getting a bit dim. I said no, the lights were the same as usual and volunteered to thread the needle for her. She vehemently protested but after one more unsuccessful attempt she called me something like a “smart aleck” and handed me the needle and thread.

With my usual skill, charm and adeptness, I held the needle up to the light and made my first pass with the thread. I missed. Susan smiled that all-knowing smile. I licked the thread and assured her I could do it on the next try. I didn’t. I, too, found the lights were a little dim and suggested next time we put in larger and brighter light bulbs.

Much to Susan’s delight and my chagrin, I was not able to thread the needle. Tammy, our teenage daughter was in her room next door so I walked in and asked her to thread it “for mother.”

Tammy did it on the first try.

I took the threaded needle back to Susan (who knew I hadn’t threaded it) and she commenced sewing. “Could it be,” I asked, “that we are both having a difficult time seeing small things up close? Susan assured me that her eyes were just tired but I should see my optometrist as soon as possible for an eye exam.

A few weeks later I made an appointment. After the eye exam the optometrist suggested it may be time for me to get. . . are you ready for this . . . BIFOCALS! I suggested the time had not yet come, my eyes were fatigued after a previous day of continual writing, and besides, his testing machine might be a little off. Because of my insistence and perhaps a little vanity, we went with the single-lens prescription one more time.

It was just a month later that I had my moment of truth. I was in California and scheduled to give a speech one evening. I had been given a map of where to go. As the sun was setting, I left the motel and headed for the location. Along the way I became lost and got out the map. The light was dim and I couldn’t read the small letters and numbers on the road map. I stopped at a nearby 7-Eleven and asked a teenager to show me where I was on the map and then to draw a line with my pen to the desired destination. She did, and I arrived on time.

I finally realized the time had come. The transition had arrived. A rite of passage had occurred. I need bifocals! A second trip to my optometrist solved my problem and, yes, I now have bifocals. That was two years ago and now I can find my own way on maps for speaking engagements.

Susan was less compelled. She held out for two more years until this summer, when her need to see small things up close overcame her vanity, her admission, her refusal of transition, her renunciation of the rite of passage, to of all things . . . to get bifocals!

So now we both have them. Mine are obvious. They are the kind with the visible line across the lens. But Susan doesn’t want anyone to know she has new glasses. So she got the kind without lines. So don’t bother to ask her about her new bifocals. She’ll deny she has them. The last words Susan likely will utter in this life will be something like, “I never wore bifocals.”

But now, with our new glasses, both of us can do important things in life . . . like thread needles in dimly lighted rooms.

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