The long, dark road

In many respects, the day you’re born you start your journey down a long, dark road to death. It doesn’t seem that way for much of your life because the sun is usually shining, and you’re getting on with things. But that doesn’t last.

I’ll be 77 later this year, not ancient, but certainly not young, not even middle-aged. At this stage, stuff starts to happen, to change. In just the past year, two notable things have befallen me, one is worse than the other.

The lighter one, so to speak, is that I’m not skinny anymore. Since I trimmed down from 225 pounds to about 170 in the early 1980s, I’ve been what I preferred to call svelte. In the past year, I’ve put on some poundage, mostly in the middle, and now my jeans are too tight. I’m planning to purchase new ones at Walmart next week.

No one would look at me now and call me fat, but no one would call me svelte either. I’m more of a normal fellow, aesthetically speaking, and that’s okay by me.

The second thing is worse. Some months ago I noticed that my night vision was failing. I see fine during the day, but at night things get sorta blurry. This is not good for night driving, something that was put to the test this week when we had to return from the nearby state capital in the dark due to a medical appointment that started at 6 p.m.

Before going there, I told myself: It’s mostly a straight shot. What can go wrong?

After leaving the doc’s office about 7, and stopping at a drugstore for some medicine, we headed up the highway. Not too bad, but not too good either. It was worse than I had anticipated. At one point, just for a couple of seconds, I actually lost track of the asphalt. My child bride noticed, asked about it, and I responded, er, nothing.

Fortunately, we made it home intact, but we had a chat the next morning, and I came clean with her. No more driving to or from the state capital, which is about 30 miles away, after dark, something I’ve done off and on for 20 years. If, for some reason, we must be there late, we’ll spend the night in a hotel.

Why not let her drive? Because she has no experience driving on highways at night. None, zip, zero. What driving she’s done in her life has been town travel, plus she’s prone to nervousness, not a good combination for a Mexican highway in the gloom.

And she does not want to.

Life consists of stages. We’ve just debuted on a new one. Drat!

49 thoughts on “The long, dark road

  1. Drat indeed!
    I would like to tell you it will get better. My personal experiences say it won’t get better.

    Additional issues will pile on.
    Buena suerte!

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  2. My friend, if the worst that has happened that you can no longer can drive at night at the coming age of 77, it’s a wonderful life. Stay overnight have a nice dinner, maybe meet some new people, get a new view of the city after dark. How much better does it get?

    Here lakeside, many of my friends have to be home by dark, but they still go out and spend time with friends. It’s a great life. Adapt and overcome.

    I hope you have many more years to enjoy.

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    1. Kirk: I’ll drive around here in town at night because I know the routes by heart, but I won’t do it more than needed. As for staying overnight at the capital, yeah, that actually would be fun. The only fly in that ointment is that we’ll only be doing it during doctor visits, which are infrequent there, but that means one of us probably ain’t gonna be feeling too fine. It’s an imperfect world.

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      1. Given what you wrote, I’d strongly advise against driving anywhere at all at night. While you might know the roads by heart, you won’t be able to see that dark-skinned, black hoodie-wearing kid on the street before you run over him. He, of course, seeing your headlights and hearing the car, will think he’s just as obvious as you are, and so will take no precaution.

        Seriously. If your night vision is failing, just don’t drive anywhere at night. Take a cab, an Uber, or a burro. But your risk of driving is, if anything, greater in town than on the highway.

        As an aside, even being 20-ish years younger than you, I notice that my night vision isn’t what it once was. I can still safely drive at night (maybe), but prefer not to.

        Saludos,

        Kim G
        Boston, MA
        Where it seems almost a requirement for pedestrians to wear dark colors at night.

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        1. Kim: Take an Uber? You’re a funny fellow. Ain’t no Ubers on my mountaintop. We do have burros, however. As for running down cholos in dark clothing, that would be a positive step for humanity, I think.

          I’ll be trying some of those night-vision glasses for sure. More on that later.

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          1. Color me skeptical on the night-vision glasses, especially coming from a Mexican optician. But I wish you luck.

            And no, running down innocent neighbors is not a positive step for humanity, especially that you’ve now provided written proof that you have no business driving at night. You’d land in a shitload of trouble too. What in the hell are you thinking???

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            1. Kim: Coming from a Mexican optician?! I’ll have you know that we have excellent opticians here, as well as every other category of medical personnel. Tsk, tsk.

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              1. So I did a brief bit of searching. These glasses (https://thetechkit.com/best-night-vision-glasses/) can probably improve contrast a bit and reduce glare. But they cannot help you see a dark street. In fact, by being ever so slightly tinted, they may well reduce your night vision by a smidgen.

                And please, don’t put yourself into a situation where you might run over someone. Frankly, I’m kind of shocked by your prior comment.

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            2. In the first place, my glasses are not “night vision glasses”. They are glasses that correct my vision for low light situations. Headlights are no longer blurry and lights no longer blend together but each is seen with clarity.

              And to honor the board’s decorum I will refrain from commenting on “especially from a Mexican optician” part of your post. You simply aren’t worth the bother.

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              1. Antonio: Thanks again. That is what I will speak to an optometrist about. By the way, do you check the email address that you used to register here? I sent an email there this morning, and I think I did the same some months ago. No replies.

                Please forgive Kim for his insensitive remark, which even surprised me. I know him fairly well (in person), and he’s a big admirer of Mexico. He’s off his game today. I think the inauguration of Sleepy Joe up north yesterday put him into a very bad mood, understandably. By the way, you said that comment was “part of your post.” No way, José. I would never, ever say that. It was in Kim’s comment. I am innocent.

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                1. My inbox shows only today’s email which I have now answered. I checked the spam folder and there was nothing there from you. So it appears your first message never arrived.

                  Yes, that was Kim’s message I quoted from. I must have confused the hierarchy of replies. Seguimos siendo amigos? Jaja

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                2. Antonio: As you know, I’ve already received your reply. Thanks again. I may not have sent an earlier email. Maybe I was just thinking about it. Old-folks disease.

                  Don’t know why your comment went to moderation. Wasn’t me.

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                3. Felipe: Since Antonio was replying to my comment, “your post” referred to my comment, not your blog post. I’ve replied to him in turn. Saludos.

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              2. Antonio: I find it amusing that you are OK with Felipe running down innocent pedestrians, but think I’m some kind of wacko for suspecting that in Mexico, high-dollar night-vision solutions are unlikely to be found at the offices of an ordinary optician. Just to be clear, I’m equally skeptical that such a thing would be available in the USA at any ordinary optician’s shop.

                But now that you’ve clarified the nature of your glasses (which wasn’t at all clear from your initial comment), let me add some context. In low light situations, your iris expands to allow more light to hit your retina. But in the process, your depth of focus decreases. This basically means that the distance between things which are in focus is short. In your case, the optician was able to prescribe ordinary glasses (unless I’m mis-reading something) which correct for this, or essentially change your focus point to something distant and appropriate for driving. That’s not something that’s necessarily going to work for everyone, and it it no way amplifies the light, which you’ve pretty much stated. Your problem was focus, not sensitivity to light. Felipe’s post implies his problem is more sensitivity to light, which is a different (and harder-to-solve) problem.

                Thus you’ve taken my interpretation of what was a vague statement at best, and assumed some kind of negative intent on my part. Thanks for assuming the worst. (By the way, I have no idea where you’re located, so I have no idea where you got your non-night vision glasses.)

                Saludos,

                Kim G

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                1. Kim: Your initial comment did indeed sound very disparaging to Mexican healthcare. Antonio’s reaction was reasonable.

                  And do you really think I was advocating running down pedestrians instead of simply making a silly remark? Tsk, tsk.

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                2. Let’s not pretend that Mexican healthcare is something that it isn’t. It can be very good, but it’s not about widespread use of high-dollar solutions. Widely available night-vision systems don’t sound likely in Mexico. (And what Antonio wrote sounded just like that.) Sorry if my comment came off as insensitive, but I’ve been all over Mexico, understand how people actually live, and can also recite more facts and figures about GDP, average incomes, etc, than anyone I know. Sorry if my belief that multiple-thousand dollar items are beyond the reach of most Mexicans sounds insensitive. It’s not; it’s just reality. Assuming the opposite would be even more insensitive. Right? Assuming folks can pay for something out of reach seems worse. (Let them eat cake!)

                  It never occurred to me that Antonio was writing about an ordinary pair of glasses. I’ve never heard of “night-driving glasses,” and apparently you hadn’t either.

                  As for you running over folks, your comment about “cholos” (a derisive term) and how running them down would be a good thing also sounded very disparaging of your neighbors who might dare to wander the streets at night, innocently expecting not to be run over.

                  And honestly, I’m quite surprised on your blog here, that we all are suddenly worried about “insensitivity.”

                  Don’t make me tell you my preferred pronouns, hehe!

                  Cheers,

                  Kim G

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  3. A good optometrist can fit you with eyeglasses just for that purpose. Mine are always in the vehicle, ready when needed. Without them I am a danger to everyone on the road. With them, night becomes day as far as clarity of vision is concerned.

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      1. I did make a mistake in my first post when I used the word optomotrist instead of ophthalmologist (I had to look up the spelling) but regardless, you will obviously be much better off consulting with Dr. Kim G than any impoverished and poorly equipped Mexican oftalmólogo.

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  4. When I was working up north we worked in stormy, low light and no light. I used a yellow lens and still do now for night driving. Also cuts down on the blinding light from headlights. Very low cost fix, cheap safety glasses.

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    1. Kirk: I was just investigating online and see that most of that type of glasses are yellow. No matter. I’ll be getting something from an optician. It will be whatever he recommends.

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      1. The blinding LED headlights on newer cars are what gets me after dark. Ophthalmologist told me about yellow lenses to mitigate that issue. Those headlights are so bright it is like looking directly into the sun.

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  5. I suggest you see a qualified ophthalmologist. To me, it sounds like cataracts. I am about two days older than you, and at the age of 50 I started having problems seeing at night. Eventually, when I looked into the engine compartment of the car, all I saw was black. I had to get the kids to check the oil for me. I quit driving until I got my eyes fixed.
    Don’t put yourself or your family in danger. See the doctor.

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    1. Señor Gill: I get annual checkups by an ophthalmologist. The last was six months ago. He always checks that. I do not have cataracts. I see just fine (with my glasses, which I have used fulltime since I was 40) with this new exception. So, not to worry!

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        1. Señor Gomez: Thanks for the confirmation. I’ll be doing the same. My regular annual checkup is not due till August. Guess I have to move that date up quite a bit.

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  6. Consider yourself fortunate to have the health that you do. Macular degeneration is a nasty eye condition that does not get better, special glasses or not. Central vision goes for good. A friend, a man now 87, has had that eye deterioration for a number of years. A high-ranking U.S. Navy officer who retired years ago began that decline and then along came dementia beginning about four years ago. He is now in a resort-style care facility. That came into clear focus when he fell in the house and broke his left femur right at his hip joint. He had to have a partial hip replacement and while in hospital the medical establishment intervened. He went from there straight to that care facility. With COVID-19, visiting is very restricted.

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    1. Carole: I appear to be in better-than-average condition for my age. For instance, I take no daily meds whatsoever. How many of my vintage can say that? Actually, I think many oldsters often are over-medicated.

      I attribute my good condition to having a child bride. It raises the spirits.

      My sister, who turns 80 next month, has had macular degeneration for many years. Since I have not communicated with her in nine years, I don’t know her current situation, but before I deleted my Facebook account some months back, I would quietly check in on her, and she was still posting her leftwing rants on a daily basis. I guess she could see the screen.

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      1. And a P.S. My 98-year-old aunt takes no meds and drives around in town short distances. She’s a redhead like me.

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  7. Sorry to hear your tales of woe. I’m glad you have the sensibility to give up night driving. I never liked doing that at any age. The good thing is you have a younger wife who can still drive plus taxis and busses are relatively cheap in Mexico. I’m a decade younger than you but I’m noticing the decline as well. I’m just getting used to taking reading glasses everywhere and remembering to use them. My wife likes to remind me to put them on rather than pretending to read a menu. My New Years’ resolution was to get healthier, so I’ve cut way down on my alcohol intake and am doing strengthening exercises every day as well as walking a mile or so. I’m already noticing a difference. It’s way too easy here in Mexico to just sit by the pool and do nothing. We should’ve been home before Christmas but extended our trip until February because of spiking cases of the China virus back home. Our condo owner is very happy about it as tourism has completely dried up.

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  8. Time for me to “weigh in.” I’ve weighed about 195 lbs for the last 20 years. After I fell and broke my leg last year, I dropped to 177, and have remained there for most of the year. A nice feeling, not having to carry around 25 pounds wherever I go.

    For several years I’ve kept a wonderful little rechargeable LED penlight next to my chair. It charges using the same cord as my cell phone. Last Monday I lost it, The first thing I wanted to do was grab it to look under my chair. I used it every day to read fine print. (Have you ever noticed how anything from China comes with instructions in such tiny print?) I felt half blind without it. But good news. Last night just before going to bed, I found it. I heartily recommend one. With Li-ion batteries, they last a long time between charges. And they put out a nice, even beam of light. So all is well again north of the border.

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    1. Phil: Whenever I think of age issues, you enter my mind. Did when I was writing this post. You still drive, right? Amazing.

      As for the penlight, I don’t see how it would benefit me currently. As for really small print, my cell phone has a magnifying app. Works great. Light is rarely an issue. As for your weight loss, hard to put it into perspective without knowing your height, but since you’re happy with it, that’s great. Svelte is almost always preferable to tubby.

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      1. My height is also decreasing. For years I checked in at 5′ 8.5″. Now it is more like 5′ 7″. Yes, I still drive, drove by myself back to Phoenix, 110 miles, on January 5th. Last Saturday I drove 15 miles to meet my cousin (once removed) for breakfast. I enjoy driving. That keeps me going. I find grocery shopping my biggest chore.

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        1. Phil: With all due respect, as they say, I don’t think I’d want to be the car ahead of you at a red light. Reactions slow down with age, as you know. And as for height, yes, shrinking is common. I guess I have too. Haven’t measured myself in decades.

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  9. Felipe, I, like Kirk and Carole, recommend using the yellow lenses for night driving! I first used them on my local firing range to enhance accuracy while target shooting. Now my cataract has been replaced with a new lens, the yellow glasses are fab for night driving! Cuts down glare and enhances my view! Try a cheap pair before splurging on a prescription! Cheers!

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    1. Dan: Excellent idea. I just ordered some clip-ons from Amazon. Be here next week. Cost me about $20 U.S. I’m not too optimistic, but it does make sense to try that option first. Thanks.

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  10. Felipe, how are your headlight lens covers? Are they all fogged up? Mine are. I just read an article on time to restore them to clear, like-new condition. Mine are bad, and I have a kit to polish them. I guess I’ll have to do it when it gets a little warmer.

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    1. Phil: Yes, they are, but not too badly because the car spends most of its life in the carport. There’s a body shop here in town that makes them like new, and I have been meaning to have it done. Once I had a carwash do the polish thing. Did squat. However, that’s a separate problem.

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  11. I have restricted myself from driving in our local villages at night. I am fine on larger roads. But the number of bicycles, strollers, motorcycles, pedestrians, and unlit cars appearing as if out of nowhere on dark side streets has unnerved me a bit. I was concerned that I might have cataracts, but my optometrist cleared me of that possibility. My reflexes are still good, but certainly not of fighter-pilot standards. I just prefer to cut down my odds of running down someone when there is very little reason to be out at night in these parts.

    My sole age-related concern lately is something new — bilateral shoulder and arm pain. I suspect an impinged cervical nerve. I just have not manned up to the possibility that I need to see a doctor about it. Doctors are not commonly the bearer of good news.

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    1. Señor Cotton: I find that my doctor visits are split pretty evenly between good news and bad. I prefer the good.

      For instance, the reason we were at the doctor this week was for my child bride, not me. And she received good news.

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    2. Señor Cotton, P.S.: Let me correct that. I find my doctor visits almost always leave me in good spirits. I go with a problem. I leave with a solution. That’s positive. Fact is, the only bad doctor visit that I recall in years was the one in which he told me I had a heel spur, not something easily resolved. Then it resolved itself eight months later.

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