My father in law cursed, spat, and mumbled something about how doctors were all stupid. He’s in his eighties and his light is fading. My wife and I had driven him to LensCrafters because he was sure his eyeglass prescription needed to be updated. He’d gone through an eye exam and a frustrating four attempts to make glasses for him. None of them helped his vision and he’d grown pretty angry with the optometric company. I had a run-in with LensCrafters about fifteen years back. They’d been unable to make glasses for me, their three attempts hadn’t come close. I really had to fight with them over their “full satisfaction or money back” policy and had come away with a very bad taste in my month over the five month ordeal; two months of trying to get proper glasses and three months trying to get a refund. I next went to America’s Best, otherwise known as 1-800-TWO-PAIR. Nine days after walking into their store I had two pairs of glasses that were great, I’m wearing one of them right now. The glasses not only fit my prescription to a tee, but they’ve stood up to a lot of accidental abuse.
I was not in favor of my father in law going to LensCrafters, but I kept my opinion to myself and simply watched as what appeared to be a similar experience to mine unfolded with them. After six weeks, three attempts, and some rather ugly demands for refund, we took the geezer over to a respected clinic that had an ophthalmology department. The doctor assigned to him did a number of tests and then called us in for consult. “I wouldn’t be too hard on LensCrafters,” he said. “I’m sorry to have to tell you that your father’s problem is not a bad eyeglass prescription, it’s macular degeneration. Given the tests, I expect your father will lose his ability to see over the next year or two. Sadly, that’s an optimistic prediction.”
My father in law did have trouble seeing. We’d bought him Fresnel lenses and illuminated magnifiers so that he could read, but we hadn’t realized just how bad his vision was. We noticed things like him feeling for the ashtray with one hand, using the other to flick the cigarette ash. We also would at times ask us what just happened on television, peering at the 60 inch screen just a few feet away. We knew he had vision problems and that they’d grown over the last few years, taking particular note when he stopped driving his favored Lincoln Continental. At first he quit driving at night and then quit driving altogether. A proud man, we figured he must have been having issues to give up his driving privileges. We had no idea that he was literally going blind.
They guy is and has been a man’s man. He worked the railroads for sixty years before finally being forced to retire. He smokes cigarettes and puts away a startling amount of vodka, especially since his wife of twenty five years, his second marriage, passed away from cancer. She had cancer but died of a tremendous overdose of chemotherapy. Her oncologist gave her a dose more than ten times greater than the absolute maximum for any patient and it killed her across eight very uncomfortable days. It’s no wonder he has no trust for the medical field, and LensCrafters failure to produce glasses that returned his vision simply reinforced his low opinion. He’s rather brusk and acidic –a textbook curmudgeon, but he seems to like me well enough and he loves his son and his daughter, my wife. He refused to accept the doctor’s word for his condition, but he accepted it from my wife and I.
We’d move him in with us, we have the room. But he’s an independent man who doesn’t want to give up his condo. It’s a very nice complex and his view of Spokane and the Spokane Valley is panoramic and enviable. Sadly, he can’t enjoy it anymore, but his home is where he’s comfortable, he knows where everything is and does better than well there. My wife cleans and helps out with errands every week, and we visit him and bring him to our home a few times a week. His son visits him and takes him out often as well, and between us all we keep him as active as he cares to be.
In spite of his accepting his vision condition, he’s asserts that there’s a doctor out there who can help him. We think that he doesn’t really believe that, it’s just a front and a life ring to keep his spirit afloat. I look at her askance because my wife is forever making him carrot dishes. Sliced carrots and dip, boiled carrots, baked carrots, carrots with brown sugar, and even carrot cake all wind up on his menu at my wife’s insistence. “It can’t hurt.” she says. That’s true, but we both know it won’t help. Like Multiple Myeloma, at least for the present, macular degeneration is a one way trip. There are some treatments and the medical community issues the same “cure is coming” message they do for Multiple Myeloma, with the same validity. Not much. Treatments are claimed to be able to slow the condition but with mixed results. Marijuana is shown to have a positive effect on the condition and there are injection treatments which have improved the condition. There are even implantable telescopes that enlarge the image perceived, at a cost of field of view. Then too are laser treatments that seek to repair the macula. Needless to say, research goes on.
I will be going for an eye exam shortly, it’s been three or four years since my last. At the time, it was found that my eyes hadn’t changed since America’s Best made the glasses I wear. I have been considering getting contact lenses, and I just might give them a try because frankly, glasses can be annoying. I’m forever wiping mine on my shirttail to remove finger prints and other smudges. The fact that I use all sorts of cloths to wipe my lenses is testament to their durability and scratch resistance. I paid an extra forty bucks for scratch resistant lenses and I believe it to be the best $40 I’ve ever spent. My plastic (Perspex) lenses are both lightweight and way less fragile than glass, a definite improvement over the last glasses I wore. They too lasted over a decade. But as I sit around considering my options, lenses or contacts, Transitions or clear, polarizing, UV filtered, or whatever, at lest I have those options, unlike my father in law.
The idea of life without sight takes my breath away. So much of the way I fill my hours is sight dependent that the idea of losing my vision is a very frightening prospect. It also causes me to respect my father in law that much more, the way he greets his visual future with such poise, grace and acceptance. He’s quite a guy.