Calling all cheaters

Marcy O’Brien, retired Executive Director of the award-winning Struthers Library Theatre, is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

I can see!

2019 and the years going forward are now clearly in focus.

Before my cataract surgeries in December and January, I harbored a delusion that I was still seeing reasonably well. Everyday objects including books and the computer seemed fine with my everyday contact lenses in place although I was having a lot of trouble with those pesky green highway signs.

You know the ones – exit number, route number and which town you’ll be in at the bottom of the exit ramp. Hmmm. Not so much.

With cataracts, I really couldn’t read those signs until I was close enough to have my blinker on, slowed down to 35 mph and praying it was the right exit. As a result, I pretty much only drove to places I knew, rather than become another white-haired traffic hazard.

But now! Wow!

My new distance vision is practically perfect – 20/15 in my right eye and 20/20 in the left. And the world has sharp edges. And bright colors. And it’s sparkly and vivid. Woohoo!

Notice I said distance vision. And then there is the other end of the spectrum. Yoiks.

The surgeon pooh-poohed my concern about my close-up vision. “You’ll be fine after everything heals and you can be fitted for your new prescription.”

But I hadn’t been without my contact lenses for 30 years. I only carried prescription glasses for an emergency, mostly on extended trips out of town.

The prescription contact lens combination I wore before the surgery is called monovision. That means wearing contacts that convert one eye to your close-up eye while fitting the other eye for distance. If the lenses are properly focused, you see well. It’s a balancing type of thing.

I’ve been told that not many people choose this alternative to bifocals because their brains can’t focus, can’t make the adjustment from imbalance, dizziness, or nausea.

Fortunately, my brain was addle-pated enough to transition easily. Anything was better than falling down the front stairs while trying to get accustomed to bifocals. Well, not the whole flight – only ten steps.

Trifocals were worse and blended lenses only made me dizzy. Next, I tried bifocal contacts which worked pretty well but were so expensive that I would have to choose between seeing and eating.

As a last resort, the eye doc tried the monovision solution. “Wear these for about two hours and take them out. You might try them one more time before bedtime. Let me know how it goes.”


He put them in at 10 in the morning and I removed them at bedtime. I saw really well instantly, never felt them in my eyes and never looked back. That was 30 years ago.

Then, a few years ago, those green highway signs started getting fuzzy. Plus I noticed I was holding my bedtime book a little closer. Movies weren’t really clear and faces of concert performers weren’t crisp. The old eyes were getting blurrier. And the blurry eyes were getting older. A bad combination. “Let’s just let these cataracts ripen a bit more,” was the optometrist’s observation for a couple of years.

This year the comment was, “You don’t really HAVE to but I do think it’s about time.” Yes, I had to.

So now that I have this fabuloso distance vision, how can see the computer and the books? And the bridge score pad, the prescription # on the medicine bottle and the care instructions on my new sweater?

The hard reality during these past 6 weeks is that I’ve been stuck wearing cheaters, those cheapie magnifying glasses bought off-the-rack at the drug store. Since I’ve been wearing them, I have noticed many friends routinely using them, but they’re driving me around the bend.

I wound up buying a second pair within a few days of the first because I could never find them. I now understand all the jokes about lost glasses and hunting for them when they’re right on top of your head. I could never put my hand on a pair when I need them.

Then Dear Richard remembered that he had two pairs of cheaters from a few years ago and they were the same magnification. So I’ve had 4 pairs for the past month – and it’s almost enough. He really doesn’t like them though. When we read the morning paper, I park the specs on the end of my nose so I can look over them to talk to him. “You look like an old maid librarian.”

When I’m up and about I take them off because I see so much more clearly without them. That’s until I need to read the nutrition content on the new granola bar. Oops, where are they? Then it’s time to backtrack. Where was I just five minutes ago? And the search begins.

They’re in the den. The kitchen. The dining room. They’re on top of the dryer, the bathroom magazine rack, the living room mantel. Last night there were 3 pairs on the nightstand.

Now I completely understand the bifocal wearers. I get it. Taking your glasses off so you can see beyond 3 feet or putting them on so you can focus on a computer screen is nuts. Fuggedaboudit.

Bifocal wearers sport the solution in one slick prescription. The one my brain couldn’t wrap itself around 30 years ago.

And that same simple brain isn’t adjusting to hunting for cheaters. I’ve hung them around my neck. I’ve stuffed them in my sweater vee-necks. That only works until I take them off. That axiom about teaching old dogs new tricks was probably written by some smug old dude in bifocals.

So back to the optometrist next week. It can’t be soon enough. The surgeon has done the final check on his work and released me to be fitted for new contacts. The good news is that I’ll probably only have to wear one lens this time around.

My brain is chomping at the bit to adjust. And no cheating involved.

Marcy O’Brien, retired Executive Director of Struthers Library Theatre, is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. She can be reached at