A peculiar thing has happened: At 45, I've been prescribed my first pair of glasses.

A peculiar thing has happened: At 45, I've been prescribed my first pair of glasses.

It's hard to believe I made it this far without having been ordered to don spectacles. Few people I know, and certainly no one else in my family, have escaped wearing framed glass on their heads for so long.

Mine are reading glasses, which means I'll get to set them down and lose them a lot. Should I find a rhinestone chain and wear them around my neck? Perhaps wear only shirts with front pockets? Maybe find a piece of string so they can dangle at my wrist, like those "idiot mittens" we used to wear as children?

You don't take reading glasses everywhere. Certainly not out to the car for a leisurely drive in the winter sun. But what if you stop somewhere for a bite to eat? There might be a menu with small print! Then, heaven forbid, you might have to ask someone to read the menu to you. What kind of an independent soul would you be then?

But wait. The fuzzy eyesight is just the beginning. So I wonder, as my body parts break down, as the knees don't bend so well, as I have to ask you to repeat what you just said, wouldn't I be smart to start practicing dependence rather than independence?

So what if I asked a stranger to read something for me?

We certainly are proud of our self-reliance. When elderly people live on their own, we applaud them, as if it's of great value to need no one.

I think about my mother, living alone in a house in northern Michigan, no longer driving, not only quite happily independent and solitary, but she'll bite if anyone dares to imply she should get others to help. I've tried to get her to move to Southern Oregon (she's been here many times and says she doesn't like the weather), but to no avail. She's proudly on her own. And she's the norm in our culture.

This may be backward, this independence of ours. Because, ultimately, we have to let go of everything — death makes no exceptions.

So maybe I'd benefit from learning to ask for assistance. Then it won't be such a shock when I can't feed myself. Maybe a world in which we rely on each other isn't so horrible.

So, on second thought, I think I'll leave the glasses at home from time to time. And if you see me, would you mind getting the door?

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail mlanders@mailtribune.com.