• Atlanta,  Family,  Life Stories

    Quite a Spectacle

    Sometime in the past few months, I lost my prescription sunglasses. The lenses were only two years old, but I had nursed along the scratched and worn-down frames for more than 12 years. They weren’t pretty, but they were functional and much cheaper than new frames. I’ve looked everywhere for the glasses and even accused my fashion-conscious kids and staff members of hiding them until I broke down and bought a new pair designed in the past decade, but no one would admit to it.

    As I looked over the rows of new spectacles at the store, I suddenly remembered the last time I lost a set of eyeglasses. At that time, I was married and my wife, Callender, and I were living in Greenville, SC. For more than nine months we had been, as they say, expecting. Our daughter Sally had been “due” on a full moon in early October, but we were still “expecting” her three weeks later. In fact, we were starting to get down-right “demanding.” We had tried everything to encourage her along: long walks, driving continually over old railroad tracks, riding up and down elevators, taking taxis, etc. Finally, we decided to risk an out of town trip. So we got in our old Datsun B210 “Honey Bee” car, which occasionally responded to manual shifting, and took our dog for a trip to Asheville, NC, an hour away.

    It was a beautiful afternoon as we threw the tennis ball to our dog alongside the French Broad River somewhere beside the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then, suddenly, Callender grabbed my arm. “It’s time,” she said. We ran back to the car, but the dog did not want to get in. It was too nice of a day, I suppose. She took off running. I chased after her, tackled her and carried her back to the car. Somewhere in that effort, my old, classic style, genuine gold, intricately-etched rimless spectacles – with lots of scratches and a chip or two in the lenses from years of abuse – had fallen into the thick layer of new leaves on this riverside path.

    I tossed the dog in the back seat, assured Callender I’d be right back and began frantically digging around. The dog was barking, Callender was honking the horn and I was frantically digging around sticks and leaves for glasses I needed to be able to drive back down the mountain to the emergency room. I finally gave up, jumped in the front seat, turned on the engine, backed the car up, pushed the clutch in to shift into first. The gear shift wasn’t moving. I tried, Callender tried, I think the dog even tried to shove that gear out of reverse, but no such luck. So we backed down a road, all of us screaming or barking until finally, the old car lurched and the gear shift popped into neutral. As we left the park, I dropped a note at the ranger station about my lost spectacles.

    We raced to the hospital an hour away, but the labor pains stopped. A few days later, Sally was born. I called the Asheville park service lost and found for weeks, but never found my glasses. I reluctantly ordered a new pair.

    Five years later, after we had moved to Charlotte, NC, Callender was making her weekly rounds at local antique shops when she stopped by the register and looked at a display case. Inside were some sets of old glasses. One was very familiar: gold, etched, chipped, bent. She asked the storeowner where she bought them. “From some dealer who comes through occasionally with odd items,” she said. Callender brought them home and presented them to me.

    I put them on and I could see near-perfectly through the chips and scratches. I still have them displayed in bookcase at home. Say, I wonder if I could take them to the optician, fit some dark lenses on them and not have to order …