The fateful diagnosis was given to me when I was 9 years old.
My parents, suspecting something was amiss, had taken me to a specialist. The doctor tested me, furrowed his brow, then tested some more. Without my or my parents' consent, he put my head up against a cruel-looking contraption that caused my vision to suddenly distort.
After finishing his macabre tests, the doctor turned to me and abruptly pronounced, "You have a touch of myopia."
I knew from experience that having a touch of something wasn't good, such as when I caught a touch of the chicken pox, or that touch of the measles.
I didn't know what myopia was, but figured that anything that ominous-sounding had to be fatal. Steeling myself, I asked quietly, "How long do you think I have?"
"It depends," replied the doctor.
"On whether or not you get glasses to correct your near- sightedness. I saw you tearing around in the waiting area. A kid with your vision who runs around all the time like that will bonk his brains out if he doesn't wear glasses."
It suddenly dawned: my condition wasn't terminal! The only problem was that I needed glasses! What a relief!
My relief was to be short-lived. I was soon ushered into a special room to pick out the frames that would hold my corrective lenses. The horrors!
There were no stylish glasses available in Brookings, South Dakota in the late 1960's. In photos of me from that era, I am always wearing dorky-looking brown plastic glasses. Indeed, my 5th grade school photo is now a dictionary illustration for the word "dork".
The eye doctor was wrong about one thing, though: correcting my vision did little to cut down on the number of bonks to my noggin. The trouble is, my glasses often came between the bonk and the noggin, resulting in broken frames.
We weren't exactly the Rockefellers of dairy farmers, so this meant a lot of in-home glasses repairs. I became expert regarding which types of tape held best and quickly ascertained that glues -- even the famously powerful model airplane glue -- were totally worthless.
Photos of me taken during my grade school years reveal a chunk of tape holding my glasses together either at the bow or the bridge of the nose -- often in both places.
Wire-rimmed glasses came into vogue about the time I entered high school. Wire-rims were a boon for me. Not only were they nearly impossible to break, a guy could adjust them himself. Simply crank here and twist there and ta-da! Just as good as at the optometrist's!
The Space Age brought with it the marvel of self-tinting lenses. This was both good and bad. Good in that wearing such lenses gave a guy sunglasses whenever he needed them; bad in that a guy with a set of such lenses is often tempted to use his acetylene cutting torch sans face shield.
Take it from me, spatters of molten steel never come off your lenses without a struggle. And when they do, they always leave behind a permanent and bothersome crater.