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Jean Shriver

For anyone who wondered why I wrote last week’s piece all about cars, here’s your answer.

I have never been a person who worshipped cars, though I did once love convertibles.  What my cars really meant to me was the freedom to jump in behind the wheel and take off.

Freedom and independence are two things I have always cherished. The are two things I will be losing this year.

The problem is my eyes. They were never very good.

Even in grade school, I had to wear plastic-framed specs to see the board or read a book.

My nice grandfather knew I hated those glasses. When I was fourteen he gave me contact lenses. They were huge, covered the whole eye and I could only wear them for an hour or two before they became painful and I had to put my spectacles back on.

At sixteen I gave up, sighed and put the contact lenses in a drawer.  From then on, I just took off my glasses when I went on a date.

Then at age twenty seven, after marriage and two babies,  I was fitted for a new  kind of contact  lenses and they were  wonderful. 

No more bumbling into the Men's room at restaurants. Nirvana for the nearsighted.

After many years of happily wearing contact lenses, I had cataract surgery and then Lasik surgery and for a few amazing years, I could see perfectly with my naked eyes. Then time moved on, as  it  always does, and I needed dime-store reading glasses for close work.

Another lurch from Old Father Time and now I find myself a victim of dry eye and some macular degeneration. I use fancy eye drops and take expensive eye vitamins to no avail.

I even ventured up to the Stein Eye Clinic at UCLA only to have my fears confirmed. There are no solutions to my condition.

Now perhaps you can see the connection between eyes and cars.

You see my drivers license is due to be renewed in December and I doubt I would pass the vision test.  In fact I’m not going to try. As it is now, I drive slowly only to the places I know best—places close to home. So far so good, but  I’m  not going to tempt fate much longer.

I will have to say goodbye to my battered little Toyota, a faithful friend l've had for fifteen years. We never took any exciting trips together, but it carried me without complaint or whining all around the South Bay and into Los Angeles.

Most importantly, that little car gave me the independence I craved. 

Living in Portuguese Bend means I  don’t have access to subways or trains and the bus service around here is minimal. 

I admit,  I’m in a better place than many seniors who have poor vision. I have a kind and thoughtful family next door, I can sign up for Dial-A-Ride and I have enough money to pay for Uber or Lyft when I need them. 

But as you can easily imagine, it’s not the same as driving myself.  

Seventy years of sliding into the driver's seat and joyfully gripping the wheel, can’t  be abandoned without deep regret. That feeling of  “I can go anywhere and do anything” is not lightly discarded. I’ll do my best to adjust to my status.

Thanks goodness my eyes are still good enough to let me type out these columns!

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