Lines in a no-line world

The day I turned 16, my parents took me to the driver’s license office to take the test.
I had studied the book a lot, had practiced driving on country roads, and was confident I would pass. I didn’t.

I didn’t even get to take the exam; I failed the eye test. I had had no inkling that my eyesight wasn’t perfect. Maybe it was because I usually sat in the front of my classes and could easily read the blackboard (yes, they were black in those days).
Anyway, I went to the optometrist and ordered glasses. A week or so later when I picked them up, I was shocked. I could see each individual droplet of water spraying from a large fountain across the street from the optician. I marveled for days at each new experience of seeing clearly something I always had assumed was supposed to be a blur.
From that point, I took wearing glasses and the annual appointments to check the prescription as just something that was part of my life. … At least until 1989, when I was told I needed bifocals.
Not to worry, though, the doctor said. No one really would know I was wearing bifocals because of something called “progressive lenses.” Lines across the lenses were no longer necessary.
I got the glasses. No one seemed to notice; they were just like the glasses I had worn since I was 16. A year or two later I was diagnosed with glaucoma, but the eye drops that were prescribed kept the disease at bay. I used the drops; the prognosis was the same.
Nothing changed. Until last week, that is, when I went for my appointment at Dr. William Brawner’s office in Tupelo. His assistant asked if I had had any trouble with my eyes.
“No,” I told her. “Everything is fine.”
I covered my left eye and whipped through the chart as fast as she could put up the next line. Then I covered my right eye.
“Something’s wrong with the chart,” I said. “I can’t see it.”
She kept moving the chart to larger letters; I couldn’t see them either. Next up was the visual fields machine. You stare into a machine and mash a clicker each time you see a light flicker in front of you.
Click, click, click, I went, perhaps 50 times in rapid succession, in the test of my right eye. Then it was time for the left.
When’s the test going to start? I thought, as I sat there waiting to see the flickers. I mashed the button four or five times, but I didn’t see many flickers. I took the test again; same result.
Dr. Brawner looked at the test results and told me the glaucoma had advanced significantly in my left eye. The reason I could see so well was because my right eye was doing most of the work. I would need stronger eye drops, he said.
Then came the bad news. The new lens prescription would be so different that I could no longer have progressive lenses. I would have lined bifocals, he said.
I sat there in disbelief. I couldn’t remember anyone in my family wearing them since my grandmother died – and that was 40 years ago.
How depressing.
Jenny and the optician helped pick out new frames that they predicted would help disguise the lined lenses. Maybe no one will notice.
Yeah, right.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at