Commentary: Lessons from the old man

The Kansas City StarDecember 2, 2012 


Lewis Diuguid is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.

MBR — MCT/Kansas City Star

Sometimes the kid in me saves the old man I’ve become.

That happened regularly when my daughters were girls and I joined them on bike rides, jumping rope, swimming and having fun on playgrounds.

But they’re grown now and living in other states. The old man in me got tired one evening watching television and fell asleep on the couch.

That happens a lot with busy work weeks, capped by snore fests. When I was a kid I watched my grandfather do it.

He would fully intend to watch his favorite show but would nod off on the first commercial.

My dad did it, too. He’d sit in a recliner to see his favorite sport — golf — only to drift off watching what my siblings and I called “paint drying.”

Recently I stretched out on the couch to watch reruns of “Star Trek” only to fall asleep after the first commercial. When I awakened three hours later, my glasses were in pieces.

Both lens had popped out as I somehow managed to knock my spectacles from my head. A screw holding the wire frames together appeared to be missing. It was 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday and past time for bed.

I put the damaged glasses pieces on the dining room table where I could repair them on Sunday before going to church. That had to be the first order of businesses.

I’ve been glasses-dependent since I was 9 years old. A great thing about teachers is they notice things that parents often overlook. My fourth-grade teacher let my folks know that I couldn’t read what was on the chalkboard. A trip to the eye doctor resulted in glasses for life.

The first thing I do every morning is put on my glasses and the last thing at night is to take them off. When we were kids, my older brother and I either playing basketball, softball or just horsing around would break our horn-rim, nerdy glasses. We never shattered the lenses.

We wrecked the frames. We broke the arms that extended to our ears and even split the nose bridge in two.

Neither Mom nor Dad were the type of parents to drop everything to rush to get us new frames to replace the ones we carelessly damaged. Mom would have us tape them together, which never lasted more than a few days.

Dad’s repairs were more extensive. When I examined the damage that I had done to my glasses because I had fallen asleep on them as a 57-year-old man, I drew on the skills Dad taught me when I was a pre-teen. The frames to my bifocals were mostly intact. However, a piece that was supposed to hold the screw in place had snapped off.

That made popping the lenses back in and merely tightening the screws impossible. The first thing that ran through my head was to get some duct tape as Mom would have done to bandage the broken frames.

It would look terrible but would hold long enough perhaps until Monday when I could get a decent repair done. But nothing is just repaired anymore. It always means a complete replacement.

After a closer examination in my basement workshop, I figured I could try a fix like the one Dad taught me.

We’d heat up a needle on a Bunsen burner at his chemical company and then burn four holes in the plastic frames of my youth on each side of the broken arm piece or on each side of the broken nose bridge. Then we’d cut a piece of copper wire Dad kept in a special tool drawer.

We’d thread the wire through the holes and then twist the ends to fasten together the broken glasses. Copper wire isn’t very strong. Sometimes we’d use a different type of wire with a greater tinsel strength.

That made for a fairly good fix. We’d then get some auto body compound and bond the section so that it gave the patch greater strength. Then we’d sand and color the patch so it wouldn’t look too goofy.

That worked well for the plastic. But the auto body patch wouldn’t do on my old-man wire frames.

In my basement, I stripped some insulation from speaker wire, tightened it around the broken frames and re-inserted the lenses. I then bent the crushed frames back into the right shape. That held for weeks with no one — not even TV — audiences noticing.

I did get new frames and a new prescription, the first since Barack Obama was elected in 2008. But the fix from my youth helped the old man that I’ve become get by as if nothing age-related had gone wrong.

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