Commentary: When it comes to my eyesight, ‘geezerhood’ has arrived

Joe PIsani
Joe PIsani

I’m the kind of guy who walks into a bookstore and tries to borrow a pair of reading glasses because the titles look like hieroglyphics in the Egyptian wing at the Metropolitan Museum.

You’re probably asking what kind of nitwit goes into a bookstore without his reading glasses? I often forget them because, as you’ve probably heard, your memory is the first thing to go, followed shortly thereafter by your eyesight.

Considering the number of aging Baby Boomers out there, Barnes & Noble should have complimentary reading glasses on the shelves.

I’ve also resorted to increasing the print size on my iPad to about 150%. You’ve heard of large-print books, well this is jumbo print. Desperate times require desperate measures.

I’m turning into one of those geezers who wears a cardigan sweater, smokes a pipe and has a pair of reading glasses dangling from his neck. Yes, I fear “geezerhood” is rapidly approaching.

Difficult to focus

Every time I see my optometrist, he goes to great lengths to explain the aging process. This condition is called “presbyopia,” which sounds like a contagious disease you can catch in the locker room.

In layman’s terms, it is a thickening of the eye’s lens, which makes it difficult to focus.

We begin to develop presbyopia at about age 40. Even Ben Franklin suffered from it, not to mention Mr. Magoo. Franklin, of course, invented bifocals to solve his problem, and after their enormous success, he went on to create Ray-Ban Wayfarers.

Reading glasses in quantity

What really frustrates me is I paid a lot of money for a down payment on a senior-care policy — for my bifocal contact lens and they haven’t helped. I still need reading glasses.

Sad to say, my vision depends on a $3 pair of specs from Ocean State Job Lot, which I usually lose two days after I buy them, so I’ve started buying six pairs at a time and have an entire collection, just like Fred Sanford.

If you’re old enough to remember the TV sitcom "Sanford and Son" you’re old enough to need reading glasses. Fred would go rummaging through the drawer, pull out 17 pairs of glasses and try them on, one by one, until he found a pair that worked, and that’s what my life has become.

I can never get the right level of magnification (known as “diopter strength”) and I waste a lot of time trying to figure out whether I need 1.50 or 1.75 or the whole enchilada, 2.50.

If the little chart at the Walmart display says you need 2.50 glasses to read the type, you’re likely blind as a bat and should call a cab to take you home.

The eye exam

I have the same problem during my eye exam, and the doctor usually gets annoyed because when he asks which lens is better, “one” or “two,” I can’t tell. They’re both bad, really bad.

The other day I was in a store, struggling to read the price on a box of greeting cards, so I asked the clerk, “May I borrow your reading glasses?”

The clerk graciously gave them to me even though they were woman’s cat-eye glasses in a gaudy shade of pink, the same shade they wore in the 1950s. I could have been June Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver.

(Anyone who remembers her should be eligible for a free eye exam and a pair of trifocals, not to mention Medicare.)

Recognizing people from a distance

The most embarrassing thing is that I can’t recognize people at a distance, even people I know — people I’ve known all my life, like ... ahhh ... my wife.

“Why were you ignoring me?” she asked when we came out of the bookstore. “I was waving at you.”

“That was you? I thought it was June Cleaver.”

Joe Pisani, who grew up in Shelton’s Pine Rock neighborhood, may be reached at