Hocus focus

I’m no ballplayer, nor do I play one on TV. But though I don’t have to recognize the spin on baseballs coming at me at 132 feet per second, I do depend on my vision for my work quite a bit.

Basically, I spend most of my waking moments staring at small type on a computer screen. And sometimes, staring at even smaller type on my cellphone.  And at night, I go back and forth between staring at the small type and images on a TV screen. Food and shelter for a family of five largely depends on my ability to perform these tasks and then move my fingers on a keyboard while I do it.

Historically, this has been as easy as blinking. But in this, my 43rd year, it has finally gotten more difficult. I look up from looking down for a while, and at first the TV is blurry. I look down from looking up, and so is the fine print.  Most of the time, it comes into focus, but sometimes, I can’t focus at all, except maybe if I move into some much better light. A few times, I’ve given up.

My eye doctor’s diagnosis is blunt. Turns out, I am not immune from getting older.

Not that I ever thought I was. I mean, I was in sixth grade when I first noticed that the numbers on the clock on the other side of my bedroom seemed to change as I was looking at them. I got my first pair of glasses at age 11 and my first set of contact lenses two years later. But nearsightedness (to go with my congenital color-blindness) had been my status quo for three decades.

Now, I’m heading down the other side of the cliff. Or at least a lovely rolling hill – let’s imagine one in bonny Ireland, just because I’ve always wanted to go there. It’s one thing to understand you’re going to get older, and another thing to be socked in the eyes with it.

Relatively speaking, I understand, it’s a minor condition. It’s just weird, man. It’s weird to me that something can be working and then stop. It’s weird to me that I find this weird. But there it is. My baby blues have the blues.

Inevitably, when I think of eyesight and writing, it’s impossible for me not to think of Jim Murray, who unforgettably chronicled his vision loss in a series of columns including this one.

OK, bang the drum slowly, professor. Muffle the cymbals and the laugh track. You might say that Old Blue Eye is back. But that’s as funny as this is going to get.

I feel I owe my friends an explanation as to where I’ve been all these weeks. Believe me, I would rather have been in a press box.

I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.

We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.

One night a long time ago he saw this pretty girl who laughed a lot, played the piano and he couldn’t look away from her. Later he looked on as I married this pretty lady.

He saw her through 34 years. He loved to see her laugh, he loved to see her happy.

You see, the friend I lost was my eye. My good eye. The other eye, the right one, we’ve been carrying for years. We just let him tag along like Don Quixote’s nag. It’s been a long time since he could read the number on a halfback or tell whether a ball was fair or foul or even which fighter was down.

So, one blue eye missing and the other misses a lot. …

I’m not Jim Murray (you can say that again). For now, I’ll make the necessary adjustments. The computer is a stationary target, fortunately. This is not the end. But that last sentence is a double-edged sword, if you can see what I’m gettin’ at …

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