I’m sitting in a space-age medical chair, gazing into high-tech eye-doctor equipment. The optometrist is shining an aircraft landing light into my eyes and giving me an exam.
The doctor sort of talks to himself while inspecting me. He clicks his teeth and makes doctor sounds, like: “Mmm hmm, yep. Oooooh yeah.”
And I keep asking what’s going on, but he doesn’t answer me.
I don’t like to admit this about myself, but I don’t like doctors. They scare me because they are always doing More Tests. It’s just part of who they are.
You have a doctor sitting in an office full of high-dollar, kick-butt, slick-as-a-whistle medical equipment and you can bet your HMO he’s going to do More Tests whether you need them or not.
“Am I gonna pull through?” I ask.
He laughs and says, “This is just an eye exam. But just to be sure, we need to dilate your eyes.”
Dilate? This sounds like a very invasive procedure. I am suddenly lightheaded.
“I think I need to sit down,” I say.
“You are sitting down.”
So, basically, I need eyeglasses. And why not? Everyone I know wears them. My mother wears glasses. My wife wears them. My dogs chew up about three pair each week.
My father wore them, too. Though, he didn’t need them. What happened was that my father wanted to wear glasses because he thought they made him look cultured. He believed eyeglasses made him appear like the kind of high-society guy who ate his fishsticks with a fork.
He would go into antique stores, pick up pairs of antique eyeglasses, and try them on for kicks. The glasses would usually make him look like Buddy Holly on an algebra field trip. My mother would see him and say “Take those off, you look ridiculous.”
The thing is, my father had perfect vision, and this always disappointed him somehow. He wanted to wear glasses.
One time he was walking through a supermarket parking lot and found a pair of spectacles lying on the ground. He put them on, then looked into his truck’s side mirror and winked at himself.
That week, he took them to an optometrist and got them fitted with fake lenses. He wore them whenever he was at church, reading the newspaper, or when he was thinking about something long and hard. Sometimes he would remove his glasses and bite the stem for effect.
He never wore them to work. He was your quintessential ironworker, an all-American welder, a blue-collar man, clad in denim and boots. Glasses clashed with his image.
But at home my father was an avid reader, a music nut, a Ford Motor Company evangelist, and he devoured books like they were hard candy. I guess a man like that needs glasses.
He finally got his wish. Not long before he died, the doctor told him he was going nearsighted from reading so much. The doc knew how badly my father wanted eyeglasses, so he said, “Congratulations, Mister Dietrich, you need glasses.”
My father was so excited that he bought steaks for the whole family.
I suppose I have spent a lifetime remembering little things about my father that don’t mean much. Insignificant details that wouldn’t matter to many. There are just some things about your parents that, if you don’t write them down, you will forget.
Such as the fact that my father wanted me to be a writer. In fact, he might have been the first one to suggest this idea when I was a kid. He dreamed up this notion before I knew how to make sentences, back when the most creative things I could form were mudpies.
But when I became old enough to start using that Sea-Foam blue Lettera 32 typewriter, I did write. I wrote all sorts of silly stories, pecking out sentences with two index fingers. And he was always the first to read my tales about shameless women, pirates, and cowboys. His glasses would sit low on his nose.
He would mark the paper with a red pen, writing comments like: “This line doesn’t work.” Or “LIE NOT LAY!” And: “Don’t use a three-syllable word when one syllable will do.”
Despite all his shortcomings, he made me feel like somebody.
At his funeral, I behaved oddly. You’re going to think it’s weird when I tell you. I feel silly even writing it down.
But I wore his clothes to his visitation. My father died when he was 41-year-old man and I was a child. He was a 34 waist, 34 inseam, and a 42 long. I wore Sears & Roebuck “Husky” pants. On the day of his service, I wore his tweed sport coat, his necktie, and if my mother would have let me wear his trousers I would have.
I looked like a fool. People came through the funeral line to see an awkward boy standing there, swallowed in a mass of his father’s clothing.
To complete the ensemble, I wore his glasses. Even though I didn’t need them.
My doctor flips on the lights. My eye exam is over, and he is making notes on a clipboard.
“Good news, Mister Dietrich,” he says. “It looks like you’re at the age where you’re gonna need glasses.”
I almost tell him that he’s got the wrong Mister Dietrich, but I can’t see him.
christina - June 24, 2020 7:11 am
Now you are going to look like a real writer with those important glasses on, Sean! LOL! I love how you remember your dad’s love of wearing glasses and how that made him feel. And how much you are like him in so many ways. Thank you daddy Dietrich for seeing the writer in Sean.
Ted Leach - June 24, 2020 9:49 am
Neill Morgan - June 24, 2020 10:42 am
Beautiful, Sean. I am sitting here reading your post on my laptop with my head turned a bit to one side. Why? Because my glasses are scratched up from dropping them on asphalt too many times. If I turn my head just right, I can read in between the scratches. Someday, my risk assessment will balance out and I will go to the optometrist to get my lenses replaced. Until then, I will look at everyone sideways and make them wonder.
Frank - June 24, 2020 11:19 am
Jack - June 24, 2020 11:55 am
I just want to say thanks for your stories and the podcast. When it seems the world has gone crazy and I begin to hyperventilate and become paralyzed with anxiety, I read your email or listen to your podcast. I can slow down. I breathe better. I see that there is some sanity. Your stories are real. Thank you for making my life better.
Sal - June 24, 2020 12:46 pm
Thanks for the reflections on your experiences through your eyes. You are a gifted writer.
Phil S. - June 24, 2020 12:51 pm
As someone who wore thick glasses for over 50 years before cataract surgery, I congratulate you, Sean. Now all you need is a long-stemmed pipe to chew on to make you look even more scholarly. I got glasses at age 14. Up until then everything was worse than a cheap TV screen with poor reception. I Thought glasses would destroy my life, that guys would laugh and point and girls would giggle. I walked around in the woods with a shotgun squinting at everything. “Is that a squirrel over there or my cousin’s coonskin cap?” When I finally was dragged kicking and screaming to the eye Dr., I heard the same sounds as you: “Hmm, ooh yeah”, and a big “WOW!” Once I got my glasses a whole new world opened up. I wanted to sing the first verse of Amazing Grace about being “blind but now I see.”
Your dad was a special man, Sean, in so many ways. One of those was recognizing the distinguishing quality of eyewear. Keep writing about him.
Mary - June 24, 2020 12:56 pm
Your father is proud of you!
Christine Washburn - June 24, 2020 1:07 pm
Great story about your dad. Loved it♥️
Laurie Wasilewski - June 24, 2020 1:20 pm
One of your best writings, Sean. I absolutely loved it! Thank you.
Kathy Daum - June 24, 2020 1:51 pm
It’s the details that are most important. My mom sang lines from songs to me all the time. These things keep people real.
Sheila Gustafson - June 24, 2020 2:14 pm
Reading your story today made me remember that I wore one of my Mother’s dresses to her memorial service. My two sisters and I each wanted to have something of hers with us, touching our skin, probably more to comfort us than for any other reason. So I totally recognize what you did, Sean, and suspect there are many others who have worn or carried some talisman that reminded them of their beloved one when gathering to mourn their loss. Thank you for reminding me of this.
Linnea Johnson - June 24, 2020 2:23 pm
I love your storytelling. Keep it up. We need more of this in the world.
Anne - June 24, 2020 2:29 pm
Thanks for sharing your remembrances (4 syllables 😉) about your Dad. My Dad died by suicide when I was 8 years old. One of my grandkids recently asked what I remembered about my Dad. I don’t have many stories. I wish I had your ability. I think writing helps. Maybe I should just start writing. I’ve also sensed a change of tone in your writings – less self-deprecation (5?) and more acknowledgment of the love between you and your Dad. Keep writing and sharing. You have a gift.
Chasity Davis Ritter (Freddie’s daughter) - June 24, 2020 3:03 pm
In every line you write about your dad I think about mine. Please never stop remembering and writing things down. Thanks for keeping them both alive for the duration of each blog you email to me. Now where did I put my glasses?
kitkat6556 - June 24, 2020 3:25 pm
After my son was killed I decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon in his memory. I had never run before or since! The first few times I went to the gym I was wearing his shorts, shirt and shoes. It just felt like he was with me. I’m sure I looked foolish and only wore them a couple of times but I understand the need to do that. Grief has no right or wrong.
Linda Moon - June 24, 2020 4:29 pm
I would have worn my daddy’s clothes to his funeral when I was a teen-age girl if I had found something less masculine to put on. I don’t think that’s weird. I think I see the right Mr. Dietrich each time I’ve read what the young Mr. Dietrich has written about him. I “see” John Dietrich. Don’t stop writing…..I’ll gladly continue to use my far-sighted dollar-store reader glasses to see each word.
aleathia nicholson - June 24, 2020 4:41 pm
Can’t you just see Sean in those baggy clothes?
Barbara Barnes - June 24, 2020 5:34 pm
In May of 2006 I wore my favorite navy blue pantsuit to my mother’s funeral. I’ve never worn it again. It’s in the back of my closet and will stay there in memory of our last day together.
snortinshatzie - June 24, 2020 6:01 pm
Sean, I can empathize with your comments as I just had to have an eye check…you are right on! So enjoy your columns. They are down home, funny, warm and totally enjoyable. Keep up the good writing!
Jess Rawls - June 24, 2020 7:11 pm
Unlike your father, Seam, I was hoping I’d never need glasses. I had 20/20 vision until I reached age 40. I was a bit upset that I had to wear glasses, but I got over it. Years later I had surgery to remove some cataracts and now I don’t need glasses any longer, except for real small print. I’m glad your father see the writer’s potential in you. Now so many of us get to enjoy your writings and it helps make our days a bit brighter. Thanks for all you do.
Holley B. Calmes - June 24, 2020 10:41 pm
Sean, you continue to astound me and make my eyes misty. Thank you for another beauty. I’m a writer to, though not nearly up to your speed. But, I have just had a story accepted to be published. My first! It’s about my Father. He’s 94 and I treasure him every day. You inspire me, Sean. Bless you.
Robert Chiles - June 26, 2020 12:26 am
I’ll never forget getting glasses in the third grade- I discovered that trees had leaves, and that the sidewalk had dirt all over it.
Stevie - August 2, 2020 1:07 pm
I am an optician. I love helping people with their glasses. Can’t wait to read about yours!