Lily Pulitzer Reading Glasses and Getting Older

20150405_160228Last night while eating dinner, I realized my reading glasses were still perched on the bridge of my nose. I lifted the reading glasses and looked at my dinner plate. Fuzzy. My tuna salad looked like a green, congealed mess with flecks of black and red. I lowered my reading glasses and voila–tuna salad on a bed of crisp, green Romaine lettuce with bright red tomatoes and black olives. I looked across the room, out the window, and spotted my neighbor’s daughter, the one with curly brown hair and cute dimples. My reading vision is getting worse, but my distance vision is 20-20. Now. But that wasn’t always the case.

In 2004, I decided it was time to look into laser surgery for my failing vision–I had -7 vision in both eyes, which put me in the legally blind category. My vision was so bad that without my eye glasses or contact lenses, I couldn’t see the nose on your face if you stood three feet from me, and if I lost, broke, or misplaced my eyeglasses, I couldn’t drive home even if I was the designated driver that evening. My life with eye glasses started in the third grade after a teacher noticed I was squinting at the black board, so believe me, by 2004 I was ready for laser surgery.

I contacted a highly recommended eye surgeon who lived near my home in Brussels, Belgium and made an appointment for a consultation. Sadly, he informed me that I wasn’t a candidate for laser surgery because my corneas were too thin. I was so disappointed. But as it turned out, he was one of five eye surgeons in the world at that time who performed lens implants–quite a new procedure. Now, the idea of having my eyeball cut and a foreign object placed inside my eye gave me nightmares. What if his scalpel slipped? Then where would I be? Completely blind. Well, it took me two weeks to decide if it was worth submitting to this extremely delicate procedure. I made the appointment. One of the perks was that in Belgium, this type of surgery wasn’t considered cosmetic. Hallelujah. My insurance would cover it. The only issue I might encounter, said the doctor, was a bit of trouble driving at night, and that I’d probably need reading glasses, which at that time, I didn’t need, but had always thought were very cool. No problem.

As I sat in the surgeon’s waiting room, I was given a Valium and on the operating table I went. The worst part was the apparatus to keep my eye open, but the lovely Valium helped a bunch. The procedure took thirty minutes per eye, and when I sat up, I was handed dark sunglasses to protect my delicate eyes. The surgeon asked me to look out the window and I could see. I mean, I looked out the window and saw the narrow stripes on the store awning across the street AND I could read the signs all around his office. I cried like a baby and hugged the surgeon and both nurses in the room. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. In a day or so, I was able to remove the dark glasses and he was right, I soon needed low-prescription reading glasses. My first pair was a black pair like Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo wore, who happen to be some of my favorite actresses. I loved those glasses. Then, an addiction reared its’ ugly head.

I became and still am addicted to reading glasses. I know, it’s nuts. I’m owning and admitting it. I have reading glasses in light aqua and brown (stolen from an old boyfriend), brown, turquoise, tortoise-shell, black, silver, and gold, and I used to own a pair of reading glasses in Lilly Pulitzer colors. Remember her preppie, pastel-colored vacation clothes? Yuck. I must have been insane to wear those clothes in the seventies. I gave that pair away. Well, I’m always on the lookout for a new pair of reading glasses. When I travel, I look for new colors and must pack at least three pairs because there’s nothing more irritating or unseemly as trying to read a Washington, DC, Paris or London subway or street map with your face all scrunched up. Lately, I’m craving a lavender pair of reading glasses.

As a writer, I can easily sit at the laptop for eight to ten hours a day and in that time, my little reading glasses rarely leave bridge of my nose. Every now and then, like when I run to the kitchen for a cup of tea or coffee, let the dog out, or take a walk, I take them off, but pretty much, they’re on my face. I have reading glasses in my car, by my bed, in the bathroom, near the couch, by my laptop, and in several purses. Actually, I should leave a pair at my son and daughter’s houses, too. I can think of no other item that I have as many duplicates of…well, okay…I have a helluva lot of shoes.

Twelve years on, thank God my vision is still 20-20, and I still drive at night with no problem. I’m adapting and accepting my age. I’m getting used to my fluctuating weight, creaking knees, gravity, and my more than taut than muscles that need constant stretching, but my eyes are special. I take good care of them. So since I know I’m never giving up writing and blogging, or wearing reading glasses, I’m enlarging the font and getting on with it!

This week I might check out the mall for reading glasses. Maybe they’ll have a lavender pair that come with a cute case, and maybe it’s time for an eye glass chain. Look, the way I see it, because I was brave, I saved money on what I would have otherwise spent on contact lenses, eye glasses, and opthamology appointments, and I spend $10-20 a month on my addiction–reading glasses. See what I mean?

About Eleanor


Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.

‘A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society, edited by Allie Burke. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor adores her two adult children, animals, and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’ and working on a collection of short stories.