I came home from the eye doctor a few days ago, and my phone buzzed.
I pulled it out and realized something terrifying: I couldn’t read.
My eyes were sensitive after my doctor dilated my eyes as part of a routine exam. (She found nothing out of the ordinary.) The extra light coming into my eyes made it hard to distinguish things, though.
That’s when the panic set in for me. Reading is a fundamental task in my work life. I’d told people I’d finish off a few things after my visit to the optometrist. I couldn’t read anything until I could make out words and numbers again.
Left to my own devices at home, I realized how much reading played a part in my daily life. I tried turning on the TV, but I couldn’t maneuver through the menus for our streaming service to find anything. I kept grabbing for my mobile device out of habit, only to realize that glowing screen offered more heartbreak than satisfaction that day.
You come to realize how important a role words play in our modern lives. There are words everywhere, but they’re meaningless if you can’t understand them. It made me wonder how the 18 percent of American adults who are at the low end of the literacy scale, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, live their lives.
It also put me in awe when I considered the 3.4 million Americans age 40 or older who live while being legally blind, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rather than sit back and wonder if I’d ever read again, I decided to find the darkest pair of sunglasses I could find in our house. Wearing a pair of oversized children’s sunglasses with dark purple frames, I went outside to mow the lawn. After about one swath down the rows, I realized I couldn’t really see where I’d been or hadn’t been. I was mostly working from memory.
To compensate, I decided to mow north and south first, then go back over it by going east and west. Between the two, I’d certainly cut all the grass, right? Now that my sight is completely restored, I can tell you the answer is no, it’s completely possible to leave little patches of taller grass. Apparently, I don’t mow straight lines unless I can see where I’ve been and where I’m going. So no, neighbors, I wasn’t doing some day-drinking while mowing this week.
About three hours later, I realized I could make out letters and numbers again. I had to zoom up the size of my text on the computer, but I finished off the work I needed to complete. I felt comfortable finishing off my duties for the “word factory,” as I like to call the newspaper.
It’s so easy to take the simple things for granted. You don’t always realize how much you rely on your sight until it’s gone, even if it’s just for a few hours.