I'm beginning to act like my Grampa Leo, and that's not a good thing. Leo was my widowed grandma's second husband and he took some getting used to. He was hard of hearing and barked out orders, he was missing his right pinkie finger, and he seemed really old. Leo taught me play gin rummy, though. He'd give me a head start of 60 points (because he was 60 years older,) but after making that concession, he was a merciless shark.
Though he was kind of fun at a card table, Leo was downright embarrassing at a restaurant table. "What kind of a place is this?" he'd bellow, "I can't read the menu, it's pitch dark in here!" As a kid, I'd cringe in shame. The menu was perfectly legible, our table was well-lit, what was the old coot talking about?
Now I know. Because suddenly, I can't read a menu to save my life.
It's like a flip has been switched and my near vision is now OFF. Friends have complained of this - they can't read the tiny label on their lipsticks, they've had to hang reading glasses from lampshades throughout their home - while I've been smugly perusing the fine print all along. No longer. And restaurant menus were one of the first things to go.
I tried a few tricks to work around my declining vision. I held the menu far away, but my arms weren't long enough. I'd hold up the votive candle or my cell phone as a flashlight. It was no use, the menu was still a blur. When all failed, I'd place a generic order - "just a burger" or "same thing she's having." But clearly the writing was on the wall. I went to see my eye doctor.
I already wear contact lenses for distance, so his solution was to upgrade me to "baby bifocals" - lenses for people like me who's near vision is just starting to go. Apparently I'm not alone. Millions of Americans over age 40 suffer from this condition, called presbyopia, latin for "elder eye." Presbyopia is caused by the natural course of aging and there is (cue sinister music) no cure.
Wow, my first official incurable old-age disease, what a milestone! What should I do to celebrate, toast myself with a bottle of Geritol? I think not. I'm going challenge my daughter to a mean game of gin, peer at my cards through my new baby bi-focals, and think fondly of old Grampa Leo.