Time to Trade up for a New Model

Our bodies, I tell my wife all the time, are really just machines. If we put the right fuel in the tank and follow a regular maintenance schedule, we should get a couple hundred thousand miles down the road before we have to start replacing the engine parts.

It goes without saying that, unfortunately, some folks get sold a lemon, and sometimes the mechanical breakdown defies logic. Broken gaskets, frozen pistons, electrical short circuits, cancer, genetic diseases, and various other mechanical and biological anomalies can happen, but if we’re lucky and science is on our side (and the Chiltons is up-to-date), we get back on the road again.

The journey won’t always be smooth, of course. We’ve got to replace the tires periodically, keep the hoses clear, and, over the course of time, the body’s going to get a few dents and dings we can’t help. Some folks take the time to get body work done and every once in a while we all wonder if it might be worth the money to try and restore the chassis to mint condition, but, for the most part, we just start driving a little slower and learn to baby the curves instead.

Even so, realizing that you can’t run that 6 minute mile anymore or wondering who lowered the chairs is bad enough, but we can usually adjust to the small physical changes. We learn to work smarter, not harder. All of a sudden that fulcrum lesson from high school physics makes sense when you’re unloading things from the truck. Sure, we might take more breaks along the way, but age also helps us realize youthful urgency is generally unnecessary.

But, let’s face it, some of these little knocks and pings are harder to handle than others. Some folks lose control of their plumbing, others go gray. We thank you for calling those creases around our eyes laugh lines because craggly and weathered sounds so much worse. I can assure you I’m aware that the bottoms of my arms are waving back at me and that my stomach now moves independently of the rest of my body.

Each of us is bothered by different things,though. Some of us can live with a broken cd player and others don’t care if the dashboard is cracked as long as the car gets us from point A to point B. A little arthritis here and some heart burn there isn’t all that traumatic most days.

I’ve got to believe, though, that when the eye doctor asks “Are you ready for bifocals?” we all start wondering if we can trade up for a newer model.

Or, maybe it’s just me.

The eyes, many cultures and popular cliches tell us, are the windows to the soul. Opening and closing them, both literally and figuratively, to the world around us offers us opportunities to filter experience through the complexity that is the human electrical system. We use those two little orbs to follow the paths of our lives. Sure, our eyes can lead us astray, but at least they can lead us. We see our children take their first step, the space shuttle launch into space, the home run to win the game, and our first, second, and last loves. Our eyes show our happiness and our tears to the world.

Like the headlights on our 11 year old truck, they also begin to fade with time so we shouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t working up to par.

Still. Bifocals are for old people.

The reality is that I’ve worn glasses for 25 years and there is no conceivable reason wearing bifocals should bother me. I can assure you, as can anyone who sees me dress each morning, that vanity isn’t a driving force when I look in the closet. When I get my haircut, the barber asks if it looks okay. I usually answer by asking “does it really matter at this point?”

My problem with bifocals isn’t cosmetic (or logical) but I don’t think it’s necessarily unusual. When our arms get too short to read things clearly or we realize we can’t eat dessert after both lunch and dinner and still stay thin (hell, we can’t even eat both lunch and dinner anymore) or we can’t eat all those jalepeno poppers like we used to, there’s something natural about the breakdown of those body parts. After all, we might do the scheduled maintenance, but I’m not sure we do all the recommended work so some problems are our own fault.

Sure, I change the oil every 5,000 miles, but I’m not always so faithful about the air filter or draining the coolant. Likewise, I’m pretty good about eating my greens, but I’ll drop some greasy Burger King fuel in the tank also.

But the eyes. It’s not like we have much control over how quickly those break down. If I gain a pound or my arteries clog, I know that’s the price of french fries dipped in my Frosty, but when I need two different lenses just to see the world around me, I also know that the inevitable breakdown, the dents and dings, are happening without regard to anything I do.

I think what bothers me isn’t so much that my eyesight, like just about everyone else my age, is getting worse. Instead, I’m baffled by how a single body part can deteriorate inconsistently. That’s a little like your mechanic suggesting four different size tires to help balance out the car or needing Propecia for half your head and Rogaine for the other.

At least when my other muscles get weaker, they do so in equal measure. Not so the eyes. I need one lens for distance, one for objects in the middle, and two different prescriptions for things up close. I mean I knew things were a little out of focus lately, but geez, that’s a lot of glass between me and the world.

That also seems more like a Quadra-focal than a Bi-focal but what do I know.

Once I get the new glasses, though, maybe I’ll be able to get down the road a piece before any more body parts give out. Of course, if anything else goes wrong, at least I’ll be able to see it.

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About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

2 Responses to Time to Trade up for a New Model

  1. Margaret says:

    Lovely piece. I enjoyed reading this immensely and I share your pain. Well, not exactly pain, but a certain reluctance to embrace the inevitable.

    • John Wegner says:

      Margaret,

      Thanks for reading the post. Trust me when I say I’m prepared to call it pain. My wallet hurts, my head hurts–the only good news is that I can’t really see the other body parts that are starting to sag and fall apart also.

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