52 Authors: Week 28 - W.S. Merwin
I'm Not Surprised, But I'm A Little Disappointed

I guess I need reading glasses

I'm going to write about Yeats for week 30 (not this weekend, but the next one). Looking around for more information on a particular aspect of his philosophy, I thought I read

Yeats's father, John Butler Yeats, was a hamster...

The word was actually "barrister."


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You read it correctly the first time, but it's hidden from ordinary mean. Only the people who have deeply entered into Yeats's vision can see it at all. You must be right on the edge.


No, it was his mother that was the hamster. His father smelt of elderberries.

I can't believe I didn't see that coming. More evidence that I am not the Pythonian I should be. Or at least that many are.

Janet, I'm pretty sure that's an edge I should step back from. Though perhaps it might shed light on the cat poems as being evidence of unresolved father issues.

You're 67 years old and you don't have a pair? In New York, you can get an assessment of the strength you need from an optometrist and get an over-the-counter pair at the drug store.

Or you can just try them on and see what suits you. It does make one feel rather outré to be standing in the aisle at Walgreen's with 3 pairs of glasses in one hand, and wearing a pair with a big plastic tag over the nose, but then Walgreen's isn't exactly 5th Avenue.

I buy them by the handful and leave them wherever I may be.


66 for a few months yet (sometimes I have to stop and do the arithmetic), but no, I don't. I've been fortunate in that respect. I've had glasses for near-sightedness since I was required to at 16 to get my driver's license. After that I wore them pretty much all the time. Then when I hit my forties I started doing the thing where you have to hold something at arm's length in order to read it. But I could fix that just by taking my glasses off. I eventually got bifocals with the lower part almost null, so I didn't have to keep taking the glasses off and putting them back on again. Then some years ago I got into the habit of wearing my glasses only to drive or watch tv. Only recently have I been noticing occasional problems reading (sans glasses). So I guess it's coming.

I think your bulk purchasing of reading glasses is not that unusual, Janet. I know my wife used to leave a lot of them around before she had to get real glasses.

No clue why you'd make 'bulk purchases'. One pair will do.

Because I have worn prescription glasses since I was seven, and three years ago, I had cataract surgery and now only need readers. I am not used to this. I wear them hanging around my neck, so when I take them off to get dressed, I forget to pick them up. I get to work sometimes and realize I don't have any glasses, so now I keep some at work. Because they are usually either on top of my head or hanging around my neck, they get damaged (I only pay $10 for them so they are easy to damage.). And then, sometimes they are on sale for half-price, so I buy several then so I'll have them when I need them.


I'm 54 and have had bifocals for about five years, but I've been nearsighted and have worn glasses for distance since my mid 20's. I've had to get prescription reading glasses because the section of the bifocals that addresses that particular problem is too small to read with comfortably. And my right eye is significantly worse than my left, which makes OTC readers not workable for me.

Reading material, especially computer screens, is a bit crisper for me through the sweet spot on my bifocals. But the area outside that is worse than without the glasses, so I have to keep my eyes in one position and move my head instead to scan horizontally and vertically, like a robot. Very annoying, also tiring, so I just don't use the glasses. For now, anyway.

I missed the Art-Janet exchange last night. Art, you must be very non-absent-minded person. I've had to keep up with my glasses for 50 years now, and still, if I don't put them down in The Exact Same Place Every Time I take them off, I lose them for a while. Usually when I need to be somewhere and am late.

I came across this photo of Rebecca West in old age in her biography, showing how she handled the glasses thing. I'm assuming one pair for distance and one for reading -- and both at the ready.

This makes me think of the times when I'm in the car with my glasses hanging around my neck and listening to a book with earphones and wearing a seatbelt and I end up in knots. This is probably how I'm going to die. Then sometimes, my scapular gets in the act, too.


Until one of the pairs broke I used to keep a pair at work and one at home/for travel. I also have a pair of dress shoes at work and one at home. Just for convenience so I don't have to lug them around when I walk home in my walking shoes.

Art, you must be very non-absent-minded person.

No, never. I just do not lose my glasses. I was asked in the last 48 hours if I'd paid the auto club bill. No I could not remember (but I could find my glasses to read it).

"No clue why you'd make 'bulk purchases'. One pair will do."

Only if you don't lose them everywhere. I will follow Janet's example, when the sad day arrives.

"This makes me think of the times when I'm in the car with my glasses hanging around my neck and listening to a book with earphones and wearing a seatbelt and I end up in knots. This is probably how I'm going to die. Then sometimes, my scapular gets in the act, too."

Everything about this was funny, except your impending doom.

I was pulled over for wearing headphones while driving. It was little earbuds, too, not over-the-ear ones, and they really didn't block much outside sound. That was back in the 1980s sometime (I was listening to my Walkman!). I guess it's more taken for granted now.

Oh but Louise, it's not sad at all! After 55 years of wearing fairly think glasses almost every single waking moment, I can see clearly without them all the time except when I'm reading. It's a great trade-off. And also, in the couple of years before my surgery, my vision had gotten so bad that I had a headache all the time, doing my job was a misery, and nobody could figure out what was wrong. I'm REALLY happy.


Glad to hear it, Janet!

And on the note of being 50ish [and loving the hamster-barrister of the original post ] I would like to ask for prayers; I am to be ordained to minor orders and the subdiaconate at the Byzantine Catholic cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA tomorrow afternoon. And whether you know it or not, you all here at Maclin's blog have kept me company along the way. Thank you.

Well, that is delightful. I will keep you in my prayers this weekend.


God bless you, Jeffrey, and I'm glad to hear we've been some part of this.

About the hamster, there is an episode of "The Sweeney" ('70s British TV) where the phrase "Hampstead barrister" was contemptuously used, and I misheard it as hamster barrister!


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