I have worn glasses since age seven; my first Optician, a kind and gentle man who made his own lenses by hand in a narrow windowless shop on Jay Street in Schenectady told me that the advantage of being so near-sighted was that I would never need reading glasses. Of the old school Dr. Lapidus always wore a button down shirt, and moved with quiet efficiency at his work, spoke softly and spoke to me as a child as he would an grown up. At the time the idea of reading glasses as foreign to me as another country. I need glasses to see anything past my hands, not words up close.
Well I hate to say it But Dr. Lapidus was mistaken; like many things in the last years I have come to admit defeat. The glasses are on as I write adding another layer between what is in my head and the rest of the world. In the last year some have asked why I do not write more; apparently my small world is charming to some people. past the four children, full time plus job, fifteen acres and twenty-odd animals there is deeper issue: me.
Some years ago I was talking with a woman while she typed at seventy plus words a minute a document on a subject she wasn’t familiar with about an issue unrelated to her work. It was like watching brain surgery to me. Every word I write passes through the forefront of my mind where it filters through every other thing in my head: work, schedules, the book I am reading who needs what medicine, my itchy socks and when is lunch anyway all pile together and from that I extract word by painful word, often letter by letter because my mind has no muscle memeory for spelling. I can misspell words that I assume pretty much every other modestly educated person takes for granted: “usually”, “temporal”, “deficient” all challenge me. When I am tired the written word becomes a mass of letters drifting on pages or screens.
Yet I keep reading, and writing; words are beautiful things. They are abstract ideas and images shared between minds. With words we can touch people we will never meet; when we read Homer the author is speaking to us from beyond the grave and across the entire span of Western Civilization from ancient Greece to our living rooms. It is the gift of our evolution and our weird quirky minds. In writing we can see some of not only what other people see, but how they see it; it is a window into their mind, so when you look in here please don’t mind the clutter. Just push some papers off the couch and find make yourself at home.
One thing age has given me, if not the efficiency or grace of my former eye doctor, is some manner of patience. When a speaker pauses or stutters it is because they want to give you something so badly it hurts. Being me, one would think I would have seen this sooner; but so much of my life has been an off balance run forward that this escaped me for decades. I was so anxious for my first child to speak his first word, take his first step, walk, run, read, and he did all this and more walking at ten months, reading at four. My youngest, last, my Imogen, came so late to me I was almost forced to linger over her every stage from exhaustion. I can still not segregate things in my head but at least they seem to fall in piles now and like a basket of socks words can be retrieved and matched slowly into sets. But as any parent with many children knows, matching socks takes time and a certain mind set to the task. Some days are just not for sock matching, when the mood strikes it’s best to do it before that feeling passes.
Jay Street is now a trendy block of shops and cafes but in my childhood it was dark and slightly lurid; the local head shop was there as well one of the dingiest bars in Upstate New York, which likely puts it in the running for the dingiest bar on earth. Dr. Lapidus was robbed and beaten in front of his own shop there. After that the man that ran the head shop, a massive biker we called “Bear” would walk him from the store to his car until he retired. Bear was a very different sort of man; loud, disheveled, impulsive with a vitriolic vocabulary it took me fifteen years work in the maritime industry to match.
The last time I saw Dr. Lapidus was from the back, bear shortening his gate to walk with him, leaning down to hear that soft voice as they walked to the corner. I could not tell what the elderly glass-grinder was saying but Bear kept nodding until they rounded the corner and slipped from view. It was near winter and the street lights were already casting long shadows that day. The leaves were gone but the snow had not yet come in that part of the year in that place; gray skies and a gray city waiting for the softening blanket of snow. “Next time I will say hello.” I thought, but next time never came.
So if it seems I write too little or say too much perhaps this will explain if not excuse it. All my thoughts are here waiting for the moment to escape and be free of this mess until like an elderly hoarder I am trapped and die within the stacks of memory. Aging is not all health problems and new prosthetics, although it certainly does contain them; it is a broader picture of the world and a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. Moments of ” sonder” are a sign of a mature mind. So be patient, its a virtue they say.
Now if I could only find the case for these damn glasses.