It was something I used to love to do.
Now that my vision had changed,
was it time to turn the job over to someone else?
It could keep them busy for hours, if they let it, and I half-feared that it would. But they told me they were up for the challenge, especially since, for all my struggles, I was getting absolutely nowhere.
Before we had gotten started, I wanted to make sure the door was locked so the dogs wouldn’t get in. If anyone could make things worse than they already were, it would be the dogs, all happy and bouncy and probably jumping all over the bed. No. We simply couldn’t have that at this critical time.
To be honest, I probably should have started this endeavor a day earlier. But, not wanting to fail, then have to tell the children that no one else could help them for the rest of the day, I had put it off.
Damien had paid a terrible price for my procrastination, and I felt guilty every time our eyes met. He had needed his glasses. Not just wanted them. By this time, his vision had deteriorated to a point where glasses were a necessity. If only I had had better equipment, I might have had the courage to go ahead and attempt the repair on the day the screw fell from his glasses, to be lost, irrevocably, in a crack in the wooden floor of the dining room.
Somewhere among my things lurked an eyeglass repair kit, waiting to be brought out into the open and become useful at just such a time. But, did it even have replacement screws? Without replacement screws, our efforts would be futile.
Although it is true that I had started a repair on my own eyeglasses years earlier with a needle and thread, which I looped through the two screw eyelets, then pulled tight and knotted before adding a screw to the mix. Once the screw had been tightened, there was no way to remove the thread. I vigilantly spent a few moments every month tightening the screw again, fearing that the thread would cause it to come loose and fall out unexpectedly, as its predecessor had done.
While I worked on my own eyeglasses, I also called on my husband and children to hand over their own glasses to be adjusted, because, as everyone knows, tightening a microscopic screw that is already in place is several hundred times easier than trying to replace one of those screws once it has fallen out.
But, somehow, I had forgotten to continue this vigilance, and once Damien’s glasses loosened, and released first the screw, then the lens, there was no going back. Surely, Damien could manage without his glasses for a single day, then the eye doctor’s office would be open, and we could make a special trip if our own repair efforts failed, which I feared they might.
In years past, I had relished this kind of work. My own manual dexterity having been extremely high, I usually had no trouble with any kind of small, exacting repairs. Until my vision changed. Now, even with prescription bifocals, I found that the close, exacting work I used to love had become near impossible as I sought, but often did not find, a comfortable distance where I could see up close and in focus at the same time. Since that devastating loss of my up-close vision, the repair of broken glasses –formerly an inconvenient challenge to be quickly dealt with then forgotten—was about to be transformed into an impossible task that we would, most likely, end up relegating to professionals, after being forced to realize that such a task was now beyond our amateur capabilities. – How depressing! Most of the time, I tried not to think about it.
When we could put off the operation no longer, I called Damien back into my bedroom, where we locked the door, after first telling Lacey where we would be and why the door would be locked. Any unlocked door in our house was subject to be thrown open without warning, allowing our bouncy dog, Roosevelt, and our sweet-but-arthritic Granny-dog, Fluffy, (who tried to ignore Roosevelt as he tried first one method, then another, to engage her in rough-housing) to come bounding into said room and collide heavily against anyone or anything in their way. This was definitely not the time for that kind of interruption.
Once the door was secured against possible invasion, we opened the Venetian blind next to my bed, pulling it up as high into the window frame as possible to flood our workspace with the bright, early-morning sun. Next, I carefully moved my hand back and forth over a corner of the dark blue comforter to eliminate some of the wrinkles. The dark color would be a good contrast against the metal screws and drivers we needed to use. But, in case that was not enough, I grabbed a large kerchief, printed with dark crimson and emerald poinsettias, highlighted by gold outlines. Losing anything against that background would be unlikely. Perhaps we were not fully prepared, though. I hurried into my bathroom to grab my tweezers, thinking they might be useful if the screw was too tiny for us to grip easily.
Sighing, and breathing a silent prayer for help, I knelt by the bed, resigning myself to begin the arduous task of re-aligning a slippery metal frame around a thin piece of glass and plastic while simultaneously slipping a very tiny screw into very small eyelets, then tightening it before the whole thing could come apart in my hands. Eleven-year-old Damien had already begun the process by fitting the lens into place and holding the frame together. All I needed to do was to put in a screw. Not such a difficult thing to do. On paper.
Apparently, from our handy repair kit, I had selected a screw that was too small, if such a thing were possible. It somehow slipped easily into both eyelets, but refused to grip anything as I painstakingly twirled it around and around several times. We would have to start over.
My patience, which, even after giving birth to four healthy children, had not developed very far, was already wearing thin. “Please, God, You have to help me! This is terrible!” I grumbled aloud several times.
Damien did not find my words too helpful as he reminded me that whereas he was doing his part, all I had accomplished up to this time was to drop the wrong screw into place, take my time finding a good replacement, then without any effort whatsoever, managed to miss the connecting eyelets several times by just a millimeter or two.
While we were struggling just to begin, there was a loud knock at the door. Lacey, bored with the dogs and their petty disagreements, wanted to join us, and see if she could be of assistance. “Are the dogs with you?” I demanded. When she answered in the negative, I unlocked the door, hastily closing it and replacing the lock as soon as she was in.
Now, instead of having a miserable, unproductive time by myself, with only Damien as witness to my failures – which seemed to stretch on out to the horizon – I had a second witness. But, instead of sitting mostly silent and gracious like her brother, Lacey was quick to point out everything I was doing wrong, and she didn’t have to look far to find fault this time. “You dropped it again, Mom!” she complained. “All you have to do is to fit it into the two parts and tighten it!”
As if I didn’t already know that! “Why don’t you try it for yourself?” I challenged her.
Shaking her head, she replied, “My fingers are too large. I could never get a good grip.” By that time, my fingers were feeling a bit large and clumsy themselves.
“Let’s try it again,” I told them.
“Mom,” Damien sighed, “You let the frame come apart again. Now I’ll have to put the lens in again, and that is not easy! Try not to drop the screw again!”
Like anyone would have to try to mess up this many times! By this time, I was beginning to fantasize about going ahead and taking that inconvenient trip across town to the eye doctor’s office, where a skilled optical technician would probably be able to complete the whole operation in under three minutes, without breaking a sweat. Besides magnetized tools, high-powered magnifiers, and a work station free of both debris and interference from dogs, I wondered what they had that we didn’t have.
Probably patience. I would give it one more try before jumping ship to engage myself in more interesting—make that, practical—or, at least, productive – kinds of work around the house. Were those the dishes I heard calling me? Normally, doing dishes was a chore I put off as long as possible, stalling with more desirable work, such as eyeglass repair, or any other convenient distraction. But the dirty dishes waiting for me in the kitchen were looking good right about now.
“Mo—oo—om!” Lacey and Damien exclaimed together, “You dropped it again! How are we ever going to finish? ”
“I really need my glasses, Mom!” Damien added. “I can’t keep going without them.”
“I tell you what!” I announced, straightening up. “We are not going to finish this task.”
While they both stared at me, I continued, “You two are welcome to continue the work for as long as you have the patience. If you finish the job and save me a trip to the eye doctor, I’ll give you five dollars.”
“Apiece?” demanded Lacey.
“No,” I replied. “You’ll share it.”
“Oh,” she answered, clearly disappointed.
“As for me,” I continued, “I’m off to the kitchen to start those dishes that I hear calling my name.”
The children had already returned to work as I firmly shut the door behind me. “Don’t even think about going in there without my permission!” I wanted to tell the dogs. But, being otherwise engaged at the time, they remained hidden from view. For now, I could devote myself, almost without guilt, to cleaning the beautiful coffee mugs my husband Sergei and daughter Rachel had given me for Christmas.
The coffee mugs were drying on a mat on the counter in nice neat orderly rows, waiting for me to towel them off and put them away when Damien came bounding into the kitchen. “We did it!” he joyfully announced, showing off the glasses that now rested in one beautiful piece on his face. “I don’t care about the five dollars! Lacey can have it. I’m just so glad my glasses are fixed again!”
I looked over at the clock. Thirty five minutes had passed since I had left the two of them alone together. The drive to the doctor’s office alone would have taken almost all that time. And now I wouldn’t have to bother with that. Hallelujah!
“That’s great!” I replied, smiling.
Damien, who was beaming, could hardly keep his feet on the ground, so great was his elation.
“There’s just one more thing to do before you’re finished,” I told him, watching his elation evaporate slightly and his shoulders drop.
“What is it, Mom?” he asked, impatient to be done with the whole thing.
“You and Lacey need to tighten the screw on the other side of your glasses, then tighten both screws on her pair. You know, it’s a whole lot easier to tighten a screw that’s just a little loose, instead of putting in a new screw after the old one falls out.”
Nodding sadly in agreement, he left the kitchen, but returned smiling a few minutes later. “You were right, Mom,” he said. “My other screw was loose, and Lacey’s glasses also needed to be tightened.”
While I cleaned and dried more dishes, Damien and Lacey returned to my room to put the repair kit away and return my tweezers to the bathroom. They had successfully completed their repair mission, and the morning that had begun so imperfectly had now become joyful again. Not by my good planning, or wise instructions. No. By the simple and abundant grace of God. What a transformation!
January 3, 2013
After she edited it, my mom said that she liked this story. So, I e-mailed her this question: “Are you saying that you were riveted by my riveting story about rivets?” For some reason, she did not get back to me right away.
Praying for God to bring you joy in your work today,