You work in the same office for ten years with the same group of people, and you get to know them pretty well. So, I was a bit surprised when Jerry came back to work, after taking a day off, in a foul mood. Jerry, I might explain, was one of the most even-tempered, cheerful people I had ever met. We usually went for lunch together, so I motioned to him that I was going. He left his desk, and we walked together down the hall to the cafeteria.
“So, what is eating you today?” I asked as we walked.
“Got some bad news yesterday.” Jerry didn’t elaborate any further.
“Like what?” I was curious.
“I’m buying the farm.” He said.
I didn’t follow him. “ What farm?”
“You know. Biting the bullet, exiting stage left, pushing up daisies, taking a long walk off a short dock, visiting the grim reaper.” Jerry said.
It hit me then. These were all euphemisms for death.
“What the heck do you mean? We are all going to die someday.” I said.
“Yes, but I am going sooner than later. I even know roughly when.” Jerry said.
As we sat together in the cafeteria eating our lunch the story came out. I knew Jerry had been having some pain in his gut recently. Well, it turned out that the pain was from an advanced case of pancreatic cancer. The doctors gave him no more than 6 months.
“You have to do me a favor Mike!” Jerry exclaimed. “ You have to look after Melissa and the twins for me.”
I agreed to do what I could to help them out after he was gone, but Jerry wanted me to promise that I would marry Melissa, and raise his daughters as if they were my own. I didn’t really know Melissa. Sure I had met her at a few company functions, and she certainly was easy on the eyes. But, I knew that she was going to have to have some say in this. Just because I wasn’t married, and wasn’t a bad looking guy didn’t mean that she would find me satisfactory as a replacement for Jerry. So, finally, to settle Jerry down, I made the promise.
Jerry kept working for another 2 months. I would have been gone a whole lot sooner, but I understood that Jerry wanted as many sales as he could get, so his commission check would be large enough to help Melissa and the twins carry on after he was gone. I asked Jerry about his life insurance, and almost regretted it, because, while he had a substantial amount, it would have doubled if he died in an accident. Of course Jerry wanted me to find someone to bump him off. But, I couldn’t do that, and I suppose he knew that and was only kidding.
I spent a lot of time at Jerry’s house over the last 4 months of his life. His twins were cute blond 7 year olds, both wearing identical pink framed glasses with lenses so thick that their eyes looked small and shrunken behind them. Jerry had told me that his daughters had inherited their mother’s poor eyesight. Finally, one afternoon near the end I got to see what I wanted. I saw Melissa wearing glasses. Her eyes, red from crying, were even smaller than her daughters’ eyes behind the lenses in her glasses. If I had not had a bit of experience checking out ladies who wore strong glasses I might not have noticed that Melissa’s lenses were what are known as myodiscs, and ladies who wear myodisc lenses are very, very nearsighted. I was hooked. If Jerry wanted me to marry Melissa, I was more than willing. I loved girls who wore glasses, and one of the reasons I had not married yet was because I had not found a girl with strong glasses to marry.
It was going to be hard to replace Jerry in Melissa’s life. Jerry and Melissa had gone to kindergarten together, and had been together all through grade school and high school. Jerry was 19, and Melissa was still 18 when they had gotten married. And, now a short 15 years later, Jerry was going to be no more.
A couple of nights later when I stopped by after work as I usually did. Jerry was sleeping peacefully, and was all doped up on morphine according to Melissa. She invited me to stay for dinner, and I did. After dinner the twins headed for their room to do homework, and Melissa and I sat drinking our coffee.
“You know, just because Jerry wants us to doesn’t mean we have to get together after he is gone.” We both said almost in unison.
Melissa thought that it was funny that we had the same thought at exactly the same time, and she laughed and smiled a bit. She was wearing her contact lenses tonight, but the memory of her fantastic glasses was fresh in my mind, and I could picture her smile, and her eyes minified in laughter behind her glasses. She looked good, really good.
“Melissa, I have no problem with marrying you in the future. I like you very much, and I find you extremely attractive. However, I am more than willing to date you for a while, and let you make up your own mind about me.” I told her.
“That is probably a good idea Mike. We can date for a while after Jerry is gone, and then we can decide together if we want to get married. If we were to do it just because Jerry wants us to, it probably wouldn’t work. I am surprised that you would still feel attracted to me after seeing me wearing my glasses the other night. ” Melissa replied.
“Heck Melissa, a pair of glasses couldn’t hide your beauty. Actually, if you hadn’t been crying the other night I would have told you that you looked good in glasses.” I said.
“Do you mean that? They are so strong and ugly looking. Jerry always told me that it didn’t matter to him that I had to wear really thick glasses, but I was sure that they would turn other guys off. Jerry didn’t even want me to get contact lenses.” Melissa told me.
“So why did you?” I asked.
I wanted to, but I had to convince Jerry that I needed contact lenses because I wouldn’t be able to drive anymore if I wore my glasses. My doctor told me I was borderline, and that was all I needed to convince Jerry.” Melissa said.
Jerry didn’t last much longer. If you want to have a well attended funeral, it would be a good idea to die in your mid 30’s. If you wait until you are old, almost all your friends will have died before you. And, Jerry sure had a packed funeral. Almost all of his clients came, and the entire office attended. Many of Jerry and Melissa’s school friends came as well. It was a hard day for everyone.
Finally Jerry was no more. All Melissa and the girls had to remember him by was the crematorium urn. The girls knew that their dad was now in a better place.
Melissa didn’t want to start dating immediately, but I continued to stop by for dinner one night a week. Finally, after 4 months I was able to manage to convince her that we should go out together.
“Melissa, I am sure this is going to come out sounding wrong, but is your vision good enough to go to a movie. I would love to take you out to dinner, and then we could go to see that new Tom Cruise movie that is playing.” I asked her.
“Sure, lets do that Mike. My eyesight is pretty good with my contacts in. I might want to sit a little closer to the screen than you feel comfortable with, but I am sure we can compromise.” Melissa replied.
We had a really good time together that evening. This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship. We went to a lot more movies over the next few months, as well as to a number of dances. Jerry had not wanted Melissa to ever have to work outside the home, and fortunately he had left her financially secure. But she was a friendly, fairly outgoing person, and it was driving her crazy just being at home all day. She wanted to be there to see the girls off to school, and she did want to be there for them when they returned from school, but that was not as important. My sister had a small store where she sold some pretty high-class designer clothing, and I convinced Claire to give Melissa some part time work. Melissa was a natural at the job, and Claire was thrilled with me for bringing Melissa to her. Claire even told me that I should marry Melissa, which was a big step for Claire.
It was the first anniversary of Jerry’s death, and Melissa and I had been going together for 8 months. While I really wanted to, I had not made any major sexual advances towards Melissa. We had a couple of discussions, and I basically told Melissa that I would leave it up to her to advise me when she was ready for stage 2 of our relationship.
One evening, I had stopped by a little early, and Melissa was still getting ready to go out to dinner.
“Oh shit!” Melissa exclaimed from the bathroom.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I just tore one of my contacts. I was meaning to order some new ones yesterday, but I forgot. Now I don’t have a spare pair. I am going to have to wear my glasses for a few days until I can get some new lenses.” Melissa told me as she came out of the bathroom wearing her glasses.
“Well, don’t get new contacts on my behalf. You look great wearing glasses.” I told her.
“That is what Jerry always told me. However, I have to get new contacts. My vision with glasses is crap. I can almost see around 20/30 with glasses, but I am pretty close to 20/20 with contacts. And that makes a big difference. We had better just have dinner, and then come back here tonight if that is all right with you. I don’t feel like sitting in the front row at the movie house, and I don’t think you would enjoy that either.”
No, you are probably right. I can handle that. All I want is the pleasure of your company.” I told her.
She blushed, her eyes smiling behind the thick myodisc lenses. At that moment I wanted so badly to make love with her. We went to a nearby restaurant, and had a meal that wasn’t exactly memorable. But, it was memorable to me to have her sitting across from me so that I could gaze at her beautiful face with the fabulous pair of glasses sitting on her nose. We finished dinner, and went back to the house.
“We have to talk.” Melissa said as she brought me a coffee.
“You decide on the topic, and I am more than willing to discuss it.” I told her.
We have to talk about a number of things. You have told me more than once that you love me. Do you really mean that?” Melissa asked.
“I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. I would marry you tomorrow if you would agree to it.” I replied.
“You know that Jerry and I grew up together. He was my friend when I first got glasses at age 4, and he stayed my friend as my eyes got worse and worse, and my glasses grew stronger and stronger. He married me knowing full well that our children might end up with poor eyesight. Can you handle the fact that I have lousy vision, and my 2 children have worse eyesight at their age than I did then? Can you live with the fact that I am essentially blind without glasses or contact lenses?” Melissa demanded.
“I can accept that, and I don’t have a problem with that. I also realize that if we have children, they would likely inherit your eyesight as well.” I responded.
“Do you understand what is wrong with my eyes?” She asked.
“Well, I know that you and the girls are all extremely nearsighted.” I replied.
“It is a little worse than that. I have a condition that the doctors call progressive degenerative myopia. I inherited it from my mother, who inherited it from her mother. And, I have passed the condition on to my daughters. My grandmother became blind in her early 60’s from a number of retinal detachments. At that time they didn’t have the technology that they do now. My mother has had detachments in both eyes, but she has had her retinas reattached successfully. Now she has the signs of age related macular degeneration, which is quite common in extremely high myopes. It is probable that I will end up with both of these problems.” Melissa told me.
“Is there anything that can be done?” I asked.
“Well, I can’t reverse the myopia. My doctors tried everything when I was younger. They tried bifocals, they tried giving me weaker lenses than I needed, they gave me all sorts of eye exercises to do to try to strengthen my eye muscles, but nothing worked. My girls are going to have some new drug used on them to see if their progression can be halted, but this drug wasn’t around for me. But, I am taking some vitamins that are designed to help the eyes, and I am taking a product called luetin to help my retinas. And, I am being fitted for rigid gas permeable contact lenses, which are supposed to be a lot better than the soft contacts.” Melissa answered.
“Are there any operations that could help?” I asked.
“Not really. There is Lasik, but that is only safe up to around –10D, and you have to have a certain corneal thickness before they can try that. I am wearing –25D lenses in these glasses, and they are a little weak right now, so I probably need –26D or so. So, the best-case scenario would be to reduce my glasses to –16D. The cost, combined with the danger isn’t worth it to me. Then there is a new procedure where they put a contact lens right inside your eye, and it stays there forever. That is promising. But, in the end I still have to face the fact that I am an extremely high myope, and any surgical procedure is dangerous. Also, I feel that the danger of having one of these procedures would tend to make me forget how fragile my eyes really are, so I think I am better off facing my poor eyesight every day.”
“I think that is very wise of you. I happen to think you are as beautiful wearing glasses as you are when you are wearing contact lenses. I do thank you for being so straightforward with me, but I can live with whatever happens. I love you very much, and I would like to marry you.” I told her.
“All right, then that leads me to my last point of discussion. You have given me the right answers so far. Would you like to stay here and sleep with me tonight.” Melissa asked.
This required no thought. As surprised as I was with her forthright statement, I immediately replied, “Yes.”
When the time came we went to her bedroom. I glanced around, and saw that there were no pictures of Jerry in the room, but I didn’t say anything. I only had my underwear and T-shirt to sleep in, so I undressed, and brushed my teeth with a new toothbrush that Melissa gave me. I asked her which side of the bed she slept on and I climbed into the other side of the bed. I waited for Melissa to come out of the bathroom. She climbed into bed beside me, and I gently reached for her glasses, to set them safely on the nightstand. She stopped me.
“The rules are that when the lights are on, my glasses stay on. When the light goes out, my glasses can come off. Jerry used to like to leave the light on. I will leave it up to you.”
The light stayed on.
We had a small wedding a few months later. The wedding dance was an open party, and the attendance there was as large as it was at Jerry’s funeral. I was very grateful that my friend had pressured me to take care of his wife and children.