The Message of the Early Days
Elephants

Among Vernon’s boxes of belongings in the garage, I found a ziplock bag full of glasses.

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There was the pair he bought in Venice for our honeymoon. I remembered how he looked in those dark sunglasses, eating an orange popsicle on an orange chair. He looked like a member of Oasis. I remember that time, almost a year after his bike was stolen, he saw it laying outside a shop near our home. Without hesitation, he picked it up and rode off on it, telling me to wait across the street for him. When he came back, he had changed to a disguise of all black, and he was wearing these dark sunglasses. We laughed about that for years. He looked like a cat burglar, a spy.

There were the prescription spectacles Vernon bought in Henley on some quiet afternoon when we only had the baby with us. We both bought glasses that day, and wound up looking quite twinnish. He hardly ever wore his, but when he did, he looked so intelligent. He was already so smart…too smart for his own good, most of the time. It could be infuriating because I could never win a debate.

There were more: the ones he wore at the nursing home, various sunglasses we’d picked up, mostly aviator style. I remembered how Vernon needed to wear sunglasses when we took him outside on that horrid geri-chair, tilted back so he couldn’t throw himself out. I remember begging for a simple wheelchair for him, so he could at least sit up and strengthen his back and core, or learn to move himself around, but I was shut down over rules about seat belts. I remember figuring out that a table could work as a restraint, if I pushed him close enough. I remember sneaking him milk shakes and cups of water. Of course he would choke and cough loudest just as a staff member was walking by, and I’d hide all the evidence as best I could while he sputtered away horribly. Then he’d ask for more.

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The sunglasses made him look normal, like someone lounging in the sun on holiday. He could even look cool with with his short haircut and black tee-shirts. Without them, it was clear his eyes were wonky, whether they were tightly clamped in that pained wince or open wide, but looking in opposing directions. I am sure he couldn’t see well, but he made up for that with his imagination. Seeing double or not seeing at all was surely no stranger than not remembering your identity and how you got where you were.

Now he doesn’t need any glasses at all. I imagine his eyes are perfect and can hold lots of light without squinting as he looks into eternity. Perhaps he looks and sees us too from time to time. Meanwhile on earth, I hold this bag of now useless frames and think about he inheritance of memory and hope for the future.

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The Message of the Early Days
Elephants