I had been driving a truck for over 20 years. When I decided to retire early, I had tried to stay away from the life of a truck driver. Unfortunately, I had not been succeeding too well. I would find a day job that seemed to be satisfactory, and I would work at it for a few months, until the expenses exceeded the income. Once that happened, I would usually pick up another truck driving job.
I had hired on with a local company that ran refrigerated freight across the country. I have never liked driving with a partner, but to do this job, I was going to have to learn to accept it. And, Bob, my partner seemed to be a pretty nice person. He and I talked about how I could never sleep properly when the truck was bouncing up and down the road, and he agreed that if I felt tired during my shift, it was best that I pull over and get some sleep, no matter what our schedule was. So, as time went on, I eventually became tired enough that I was able to sleep for a while when it was my turn in the sleeper berth. And, for the most part, I was able to pull my own weight, and drive my whole 4 hour shift.
One day Bob and I had stopped for lunch in Oklahoma City, and when we returned to the truck, Bob climbed into the bunk. I drove for a couple of hours, when I was overcome by a bout of nausea. I quickly pulled over to the shoulder, jumped out, and left the remains of my meal on the side of the road. Food poisoning was the first thought that came to mind. Bob woke as I was retching my guts out, and he offered to drive for a while, so I climbed into the bed.
“Clack Clack Clack Clack,” was the sound I heard as I gradually woke. I looked around my surroundings, but I couldn’t see anything clearly enough to distinguish where I was. This was strange. It was almost like I was very nearsighted. And, as much as over the years I had wished for this to happen, and as hard as I had tried to make myself very nearsighted, I had not succeeded. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I heard voices talking in the room, so I spoke up.
“Hey, where am I?” I asked.
“Theresa, give your father back his glasses,” spoke a soft voice that had more than a faint Irish accent.
“Oh, all right. But, I can see so much better with them on. I want him to get me a pair of glasses of my own when we get to Los Angeles,” the other voice said.
A pair of gold wire framed glasses materialized in front of my nose. I took the temples, and slid the glasses onto my face. I could see again. The lady who must have been my wife was sitting across from the bed in a chair, along with two very pretty young girls.
I knew what was going on. I was dreaming. I would just go along with the dream, and soon I would wake up, and be back in the truck with Bob.
The lady rose, and came over to me, placing her hand on my forehead, as if to take my temperature.
“Well, Thomas O’Riley, it seems that your fever has broken. How is your stomach feeling now?” she asked.
Thinking quickly I replied, “ It seems much better now, my dear. Where are we?”
Our last stop was Oklahoma City, and our next one will be Amarillo. We should be there very soon,” she replied.
I was curious as to which of the girls had been wearing my glasses, so I asked, “ Did I hear you say you could see better with my glasses than you could without them, Theresa?”
“Yes father. In the last few months, just before we left Boston, my eyesight seems to have been getting worse and worse. When you tested my eyes, you said it looked as if I was a little bit nearsighted, but I would be able to wait until you had your new practice set up in Los Angeles before I might need a pair of glasses. Now I can hardly see anything,” spoke the older of the 2 girls, the one with the straight dark brown hair and deep crystal blue eyes.
All right, it looked like in my dream, I was a nearsighted eye doctor, who was moving to Los Angeles with his wife and 2 daughters, one of which was experiencing a spurt of myopia. This had to be a dream all right, as this was just what I would have wished for. Well, maybe I would have had my wife be extremely nearsighted, as well, if I were writing the script, but this didn’t appear to be my story, and I was just along for the ride.
I grasped at a straw. “ Where are my spare glasses, dear?”
They are in your suitcase, Tom. But your glasses are so strong. Surely Theresa will damage her eyes if she attempts to wear them.”
“I just want to see if she can see with them or not. Could you get them out for me?”
I didn’t have a clue what suitcase was mine, nor did I have any idea where the glasses would have been. The lady pulled a suitcase out from under the bed, and opened it up. She quickly found a glasses case, and she handed it to me. I pulled the glasses from the case, and looked closely at them. My best estimate of the prescription was around –6D, which was a pretty darned strong prescription for a first time wearer. I switched glasses, and I could tell that the glasses I was wearing now were quite a bit weaker than my other glasses. I looked closely at them, and I thought that they were likely around –7D or –7.50D. I took the weaker glasses off, put on the stronger ones, and passed the weaker glasses to my daughter.
She put them on, and she gasped, “Oh Daddy, everything is so clear now. I can’t really see much of anything without them.”
“Well, if you feel comfortable wearing them, Theresa, I don’t think that they will be much too strong for you. Just pull them down away from your nose, and tell me if things are clearer there?” I asked.
She pulled the glasses down her nose, looked around through them and then pushed them back tight to the bridge of her nose, and said, “I see much better with them close to my eyes.”
Well, this was pretty indicative to me that she needed this strong of a prescription. I wondered how long it had been, since I had tested her eyes, but I didn’t dare ask.
“How could her eyes get so bad in only 4 months?” my wife asked, answering my question.
“Well dear, she was slightly myopic when I tested her, but it seemed to be a mild case of myopia, so I didn’t worry about having her wear glasses at the time. Sometimes when children have a growth spurt, their eyes can grow too long, and they can rapidly become very nearsighted. It does worry me though, as this often leads to high degrees of myopia before the eyes stabilize,” I replied.
I was enjoying the dream, but I was going to have to either wake up shortly, or else find out the names of my wife and my younger daughter, who was still sitting in her chair with her nose buried in a book. Just then, there came a knock on the door of our compartment, and a porter stuck his head in the door.
“Dinner is served.”
With that we all got ready to go to the dining car. Fortunately, my wife called out to my youngest daughter, “Colleen, get your nose out of that book, and get ready for dinner.”
Ok, that left only my wife’s name to figure out. And, for her I could likely get away with calling her dear for a bit longer. We all left the compartment, and I followed my daughters and my wife to the dining car. This was really interesting. My dream was set on an old time train. Everything I saw, including the styles of the glasses we were wearing, seemed to be from the early to mid 1920’s. I couldn’t have asked for a better dream.
“Thomas, Molly, would you like to sit with May and myself for dinner again this evening?” came a booming voice from behind me.
“Sure, we’d love to join you again,” I replied. Well, now I knew that Molly was my wife’s name. But there was another problem. Who the heck was this big oaf of a fellow? And, what had we talked about the last meal we had together. It was going to take all my wits to pull this off. But, it wasn’t all that much of a problem, as the fellow monopolized the conversation. No one else had to say much of anything.
After we returned to our sleeper compartment Molly said, “Tom O’ Riley, you promised that we wouldn’t sit with George and May again after the last time. He is such a bigmouthed, overbearing bore.”
“Sorry Molly, but he was right there. What else could I do?” I asked.
“I know, I know, but please, try not to sit with them again,” Molly replied.
I agreed that I would do my best to stay away from George for the rest of the trip. I did owe him though, for allowing me to find out Molly’s name. The train passed though Amarillo as we were having supper, and I had felt it stop, probably for water for the steam engine, and maybe more coal. As night fell we were passing into New Mexico. Both girls were reading, and Molly was knitting. I wished I had something to read, but soon it would be time for bed anyway. I was dreading bedtime, as it had always been my experience with dreams that once you fall asleep in a dream, you awaken in real life. And, while this dream had taken 4 or 5 hours to get this far, dreamtime is never what you think it is. I glanced over at Theresa, and was pleased to see that she was holding her book a reasonable distance from her glasses. I looked over at Colleen, and saw her nose buried in deep into the pages of the book. Her eyes must have been only a few inches from the print. Was it possible that she too was very nearsighted? I was going to have to check this out tomorrow, if I was still having the dream the following day.
Finally, we all went to bed, and I lay there for a while listening to the clacking of the wheels, and the huffing and puffing of the engine. I had never had a dream as real as this one seemed. Eventually, I too drifted off to sleep.
Light was filtering through the curtains, and I awoke gradually. I looked around, and everything was extremely blurred, so I knew that I was still in my dream. I found my glasses, and slid them on, watching the compartment gradually come into focus. The movement of the train had stopped. I quietly got out of the bed, dressed rapidly, and went out into the corridor. I spotted a porter.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“Flagstaff Suh,” came his reply.
Well, that meant around 10 more hours to Los Angeles. I went back to the compartment, and found the ladies all getting dressed. I was full of questions, but I couldn’t ask them without seeming like an idiot.
“Well, 10 more hours, and we will have to find a place to live,” I spoke.
My wife gave me a puzzled look. Darn, I had blown it. We must have already had a place to stay arranged.
“Aren’t we staying with Aunt Mary Rose?” Colleen came to my rescue.
“Yes, for right now, but we will have to get our own place once I get my office set up,” I said.
We headed for the dining car, but it was closed. The attendant on duty told us we could get off the train to eat in a nearby restaurant, as we were going to be in Flagstaff for over an hour, while we wait for 2 more engines to come in with the eastbound train. I knew that there were some pretty good grades between Flagstaff and Los Angeles, so that didn’t surprise me that they would be adding 2 more engines. We had only needed 3 engines to come from Amarillo, but now it would take 5 to take us the rest of the way.
As we were walking to the restaurant, I spotted a large sign on the building that said, “Welcome to Flagstaff.” I remembered what I wanted to do.
“What does that sign say, Colleen?” I asked.
She looked in the direction I had pointed. She didn’t squint, or scrunch up her eyes at all. She just said, “What sign?”
“I think you are going to have to have your eyes examined as soon as I get my equipment set up,” I replied. That sign was quite large, and Colleen had to be almost as nearsighted as her sister, if not worse, if she couldn’t see it.
After breakfast, we climbed aboard the train for the final leg of our journey. Before long, we were pulling into Los Angeles. Once we disembarked, I had to arrange to retrieve our baggage, and when I came back to my family, I was pleased to see that Molly was hugging an older lady. That must be Mary Rose I thought. Now what the heck is her husband’s name?
“Did you get all your baggage, Tom?” Aunt Mary Rose asked. “Jim brought his little trailer behind the car to put everything in.”
Saved by the bell again. “How is Jim feeling these days,” I asked.
“Oh, he is as fit as a fiddle,” she replied. “Here he comes now.”
Together Jim and I loaded all our possessions into his small trailer. I must have shipped some stuff, but darned if I could figure out how and where to find it. Oh well, if this dream lasted another day or so, I was sure I would find it.
We drove south through the streets of Los Angeles to a town called Long Beach. This obviously was where Jim and Mary Rose lived. The weather was perfect for this time of year. After all, when Bob and I had left Boston with the truck, the leaves had all changed color, and the fall rains had left a chill in my bones. I realized that I was going to like it here.
“You are going to be staying with us for a few nights, but we think we have found a house for you to rent,” said Mary Rose. “ And Jim has found a storefront that might make a pretty good office for you, Tom. It isn’t very far from the house.”
I managed to get through the next few days without any faux pas. My strong point has never been keeping my mouth shut, but I was able to do pretty well. The railroad informed us that my goods had arrived, so Jim and I went back up to the train depot in Los Angeles, and brought another full trailer load back to Long Beach. Jim was a wonderful help, and in no time at all we had my optometrist’s office set up.
Once I had my wonderful brand new De Zeng Optometer fastened to the wall, I brought my daughters over to the office to examine their eyes. Theresa had taken to the wearing of my old glasses so well that I assumed that they were probably the correct strength for her. However, when I slid the lenses into the machine to enable her to clearly read the eye chart, I could see that she needed very close to –7D for both eyes for her prescription. Then I gave Colleen a thorough eye examination. I was shocked at the results. Colleen required a prescription even stronger than mine. She was right at –8D in both eyes. And, since this was only a dream, I decided I would sit myself down in front of the phoropter, and see how strong a prescription I could tolerate myself. I started off with the exact prescription I had given Colleen. I could see the eye chart quite well with the stronger lenses. So, I added another diopter, making my prescription –9D in my right eye. I could see the 20/30 line fairly well, but the 20/20 escaped me. To balance out my eyes I was forced to drop my left eye back to –8.75D. I ordered new glasses for the 3 of us.
It hadn’t taken too long to find some customers. I discovered that I had also been a watchmaker back in Boston, so between examining eyes, and repairing watches, and eyeglasses, I kept myself fairly busy. Every morning I woke up, and as I opened my eyes I wondered if I would be able to see clearly, or if I would see a complete blur. And, so far, every morning I had to put my glasses on to bring things into focus. I was becoming a nervous wreck wondering when this rather wonderful dream would come to an abrupt ending.
We had been living in Long Beach for about 4 months, when I noticed my wife giving things that weren’t that far away that myopic squint. I had noticed before that she had trouble with seeing things that were off in the distance, but she had resisted any suggestion of an eye examination. This time when I mentioned it, she grudgingly consented, and she ended up with her very own pair of - 1.75D glasses, which she hardly ever wore.
This was becoming quite a dream. I knew Bob would have woken me in around 4 hours, and my dream had passed through a period of about 5 months. But the more involved I became in my dream world, the more I wanted it to go on.
And, somehow it did go on. I developed quite a large list of clients, and soon I found that I was becoming a specialist in childhood myopia. Medical doctors in the area were sending me their young patients for their vision examinations. And, I was gradually finding that the earlier a child was discovered to be myopic, the stronger their prescription became. I also discovered in a number of cases that myopic children had one, or both parents that were also myopes. I also found that the children usually were much more myopic than their parents.
After we had been living in the Long Beach area for a year or more, I discovered my own wife wearing her glasses more and more. Even when she was wearing glasses now I observed her squinting at anything that was any distance away. So, I convinced her that it was time for another examination. I was able to almost double the strength of her glasses, and she now required –3.50D for her new lenses. Once she had gotten the new lenses, she became a full time glasses wearer. Both my daughters required stronger prescriptions as well. Colleen, the youngest jumped from the –8D she had started with to –10D, and Theresa was following very close behind her, now requiring –9.25D. I tried to see if I could increase my own prescription quite a bit more, but at this time, I could only get another –0.50D, so I did order myself new lenses with a –9.50D prescription.
The first year rolled into a second year, and both the girls again required increases in their prescriptions. I couldn’t believe that my dream had lasted for as long a period as it had. And, as many times as I pinched myself, I found that it hurt, but I didn’t wake up. I remembered that in the mid 1990’s – over 60 years hence, there was a television show that had a time traveler going back into time to right things that were wrong in the past, and my mind started to wonder if something like this had happened to me. Had Thomas O’Rielly and John Dorner both passed away at exactly the same time, and place 75 years ago? Had the man upstairs decided that he had made a mistake, and returned one of them to earth, having me – John Dorner – accidentally end up in Thomas O’ Rielly’s body in 1925? I couldn’t accept, or comprehend this, but now I knew that this was not a dream, and that I would never wake up from it.
So, I decided to accept this new life, and I was very grateful for this unexpected turn of events. Both Theresa and Colleen grew to be very pretty women, but both of them were extremely nearsighted and had to wear very strong glasses to see. It was a good thing that I was an optometrist and could provide proper care for their eyes. Molly’s eyes also needed special care. When she was 55, she developed cataracts and they had to remove the lenses in her eyes when she was 58. She then had to have very strong glasses (+ 20D) with trifocals (+5 & +2.5) to see anything and was very happy to have a husband that was able to give her proper glasses so she could see.