For this author, creative endeavors have been sorely tested by motherhood. But also transformed, and in ways she wouldn’t have imagined – couldn’t have, without her life “rewritten” as it has been, by her children. So linger here, to read all things weaverly, writerly and motherly.


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Monday, February 20, 2012

Once-Upon-a Tale Tuesday: The Perfect Pair

We were at the optician's, and my mother was trying to decide on new frames. She tried on a Batman-like pair.

"What do you think?"

"I like them," I said, brightly. They were awful. I didn't call her attention to the little rhinestone curlycue things on the arms.

I was ready to like anything. Any pair.

She turned back to the mirror. "They're hideous." She took them off, glancing at me behind her own reflection. I was not enjoying how I towered over her shrunken frame. And didn't like how well she could read my impatience: "These may be my last glasses. I want ones I like,she said. 

This reality can make me feel as small and scared as a child, as this past September, when I realized that, at 93, her birthday could be a last one as well. So on her special day, I hadn't pressed her about what exactly had happened when she'd slammed her car into the wall of a carpet store evidently, the day before. As I tried not to press her to finally decide on some, any, frames.

But as much as I don't like these cold hard truths, my very elderly mother, always the strong one, is the first to face up to them. Her sharp comment roused me from my frame-hunt stupor, and we made the rounds of three more opticians.

In every optical shop, she left a pair of frames on hold while she moved on to the next shop, hoping for something she liked better. As well, she left behind countless discarded frames strewn on every counter, as if some kind of plague had  desiccated an entire season of praying mantis-like insects (think about it).

We also left behind exhausted opticians who, like me, were ready to like anything. At first they all started out the same: bright-eyed and exuberant, as if we were shopping for something far more exciting, a sporty convertible or a wedding gown.

"This shape suits you perfectly," one pretty optician chimed, decked out in her own Art-Deco style frames, slipping a far more bland pair on my mother's nose.

My mother had peered this way and that way in the mirror. "They're so....bland. Maybe it's time I made more of a statement."

The Art-Deco optician reached for another pair. "Well, this is a slightly different look, and they're Flex so they won't break."

My mother had explained that she's very hard on her glasses, often sitting on them. Flex frames are great for sitting on!

My mother twisted them a bit. "They're so...flexible."

"Well, that's the great point,"  Art-Deco optician chimed a bit more loudly. The chime of a school bell.

My mother added them to the discarded desiccated frames littering the counter. "They don't feel sturdy. I want a pair that feels very sturdy. And makes a statement. Maybe like yours."

So Art-Deco optician pulled down a similar Art-Deco pair: the Batman-like ones that looked awful.

When my mother discarded those as well, the Art-Deco optician seemed to wane, as eventually the opticians all would, retreating into the background to rehang some of the frame carcasses.

One optician had looked as if she were actually going to faint. I'd asked if she were ok.

"I just haven't had lunch yet. My sugar drops..." She excused herself for a few minutes to go eat her sandwich, knowing we weren't going anywhere soon, knowing there were still racks of frames to dismantle.

Shopping for frames proved far harder than when she'd helped me to pick out my wedding dress. We'd gone to one store. Done. Picking out not only a convertible, but even the perfect mansion with a must-have mosaic-tiled kidney-shaped pool would have been quicker.

This frame-shopping expedition was a year ago. She finally had decided on nothing at all, that she could see just fine with her old prescription, only needed glasses occasionally for reading and driving.


Since her collision with the wall of the carpet store the day before her 93rd birthday, she has been issued a mandatory appointment with the Department of Motor Vehicles.  And in preparation for this appointment, she has been issued a mandatory eye examination form to be filled out by her optometrist.

So this time she really did have to buy a new pair of glasses.

But first she had to renew her prescription, with an optometrist she'd never seen, as her last one had just, inconveniently, retired.

My mother nudged the form across the optometrist's desk, and the optometrist politely explained that she would have to do a full examination before she could sign anything.

The optometrist ticked through the usual questions: Any Glaucoma in the family? No. Ever see floaters? I don't think so. Flashing lights? No. Double vision?

Well, Yes, sometimes.

She thoughtfully cocked her head at my mother.

So did I.

 "And when does that occur?" she asked.

"Oh, when I'm driving," my mother answered far too simply.  "Sometimes I see two cars."

"Two cars?"

Two cars?

 "In the oncoming traffic, to my left. But I quickly realize it's just one car."

Then my mother realized what she had just dug a hole, and very efficiently.  She quickly followed up with: "I shouldn't have said anything. Not with that doesn't happen much, just once or twice."

In the end, it didn't matter what she told the optometrist. The double vision thing showed up in the exam. Several times in fact, when she would repeat letters on the the chart.  Yup, two Ds. Two Ss.Yes, two Vs etc.

My mother who claims she can see clearly, not only sees double, but evidently has one lens that is actually tilted, so that she is straining her eyes to see in two different directions.

Her diagnosis is clear. She must wear glasses all the time, and with the glasses, she may just barely be able to meet the prerequisite for DMV.

"But I see fine."

We both looked at her.

My mother was angry. "If they take away my license, I will go home and have a stroke!!"

The nice optometrist, who struck me as professorial, tried to soothe my mother. "I don't think you will go home and have a stroke just because you maybe shouldn't be driving anymore."

My mother stammered on about how she only drives very locally, except for that day when she went to the carpet store, and she only mistook the gas for the break pedal because she was "flustered," having first missed the turn off to the parking lot. " Those pedals are too close together, anyway."

She was as panicked as a caged animal, scurrying around in a space that is shrinking, and I longed to set her free. I had to look away.  At my phone. To play with it. Unseeing.

My mother grew quiet. She sunk into herself. Her hands lay limp and open in her lap.

And I rose to the occasion. Of frame hunting again. Something that has become a kind of sport, like seeking out the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. Even though you know, at the end of the long day, you won't have the heart to shoot it.

So we will once again pick through frames in a long process of elimination, then pick through the discarded. 

And I know that she will not find a pair that she likes on herself. But I am a child. I still seek out my mother's strength. I will help her stand strong, even if that means she now has to take my arm while leaning the rest of her weight on a cane. I will muster patience, even though I know she is seeking something that doesn't exist. The perfect pair.

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Shah Wharton said...

Beautifully written. Ageing is so sad - I see it in my own mother and lost my dad years ago. I see here that the glasses almost represented her youth, and /or the end of her life. If she buys them its admitting the end of independence- admitting vulnerability. Thanks for linking this wonderful story up at Creation Blog Hop! X

Michele of By Your Side said...

What a touching story... I could here my granny in every word.

Anonymous said...

Your mother is just something else - I would love to meet her :). I really enjoy learning about her.

And tell her not to feel bad - I do the same thing every single time I have to get new glasses. There is just no pair of glasses that are right. Ever.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I vote for you every time I'm here :)

Grumpy Grateful Mom said...

So well written. I've said this before but I love the relationship and your mom have. It's complex and so sweet at the same time.

Seeing someone age is hard. My father is much younger, but will probably not be able to drive in the near future due to his vision. I'm not looking forward to that.

Barbra said...

Your story rang bells except with my husband's dad. When his sight deteriorated and he argued about driving we finally had to lie and tell him his car was in need of repairs more costly than the car's value. He never found the perfect pair!

joeh said...

I read lots of blogs every day. I seldom get throughtn thelong ones.

This post was easy, well written, well done.

I only follow what I will read. So now I am following one more blog.

Cranky Old Man

joeh said...

Now I see I am following you on Blogger but it does not show a new post for 9 months?? Whats up?


Cordelia Dinsmore said...

Very touching story.

On a lighter side - I found out when I went to renew my license this last month that Kansas is known as the "one-eyed state". I told the woman I might not be able to see everything for the eye test because I had a cataract almost ready for removal. She said it wasn't a problem and filled me in on the one-eyed state comment.

MSBjaneB said...

I loved this story and especially the I'll go home and have a stroke part. She seems like a feisty lady and I look forward to reading more of her wittiness.

America's Next Top Mommy said...

Love! I'm so glad I found your blog! I'm visiting from a blog hop!

I've always written but have finally committed to it seriously and love making connections with other writers. Also, have you ever heard of a website called Scribofile? It's a great way to connect with other writers and have your works critiqued and do the same for them.

I'm a new follower! Would love it if you'd drop by and follow back!

The Organic Blonde said...

Wow, this is so beautifully written and it makes me want to call my father, so very far away and enjoy all the time I have with him on this earth. I have often gotten impatient with those I love and the sad reality is that no matter what age, it could be the last day with that person.
So glad I found your blog!
Stopping by from "Getting to know you!"

Lisa Weidknecht said...

Thanks for linking up with the Planet Weidknecht Weekend Hop!

Sondra Crane said...

Like another writer who posted above, I never read a long blog. However, this one kept me wanting more at the end of each sentence. you are an easy to read writer. I enjoyed the smile I got from reading about your mom, gee she could have been me you were talking about. I found your blog by accident but not going to lose it. Good fun with love, respect and concern for your aged mother .

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