When I was young — meaning inexperienced, myopic and shallow — I remember passing a knowing look to my sisters when my grandmother, yet again, lamented that she couldn’t find her glasses. Her glasses! Her glasses! The world stood or fell on my grandmother’s not being able to find her glasses. How we laughed.
I’m not laughing now. I lost my glasses at work today in a job that demands that, well, I must see. I worked at Staples, in the Print and Copy Center, and this job requires that I measure 1/8 cutting trims, computer program settings, and, at times, Staples Rewards numbers on very little cards! How I prayed, Lord, help me see what I can and find a way to do the work that I must. And, please, Lord, help me FIND MY GLASSES!” One of my co-workers (young, of course) laughed: “You lose your glasses a lot!” I did not deny it. How could I? When I can’t find my glasses my working stops and I am suspended in a hapless place of search and near panic, turning over crumpled paper in waste bins or scouring slots between copiers and corners behind cutters, looking for where my glasses might have dropped. There’s no hiding the fact at Staples that when I can’t find my glasses, the work stops and searching ensues. Except on this day, when I scoured every corner of the Print & Copy Center, waste bins included, to no avail. My glasses were lost and I could not spend any more time away from the work at hand to look for them. I did, however, render one more prayer, aloud: Help me find my glasses. I pray for lost things aloud because — this is a fact — it comes to pass consistently that when I speak aloud in prayer the thing I have lost (alas, I lose more than my glasses these days) it comes to me, often surprisingly, but without exception. So, in this last-ditch moment of relinquishment, I spoke the thing I am looking for and spoke the prayer of my asking. Then I went back to work.I found my glasses — or they found me — when a customer needed help with a printer and this required that I stoop, kneel actually, to figure out the problem and lo, my glasses dropped from somewhere inside my shirt landing at my feet. Just like that, there they were.
A customer needed help with a printer! Overtaken with relief and astonishment, once the customer’s issue was resolved, I went to a co-worker to share the moment. “They were inside my shirt!” I exclaimed. She pretended to care and to think it was funny while passing a knowing look to another coworker, the one who said, You lose your glasses a lot. My glasses! My glasses! The world at Staples stands or falls on my not being able to find my glasses.
I am my grandmother now. And, for anyone reading this who has made light of the confusion of the aging, let it be a word of warning to you. You laugh now (as I did), but your eyes will start to go sometime in the 40s. And as the decades pass, you’ll find yourself patting your chest pockets, rifling through a purse, turning over newspapers in search of the small elusive lenses that are your only connection to the visible functioning world. Mark my words.
In the meantime, be kind to the aging. Bless them. “Our life is faint tracing on the surface of mystery. The surface of mystery is not smooth,” writes Annie Dillard. Our distress at losing our glasses is artless, but genuine. Help us look.