It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.
– Will Rogers
So there I was, sitting around my parents’ house on my recent visit. I notice my father squinting at the TV.
“Need to get those eyes checked, Daddy,” I say.
He acts like he didn’t hear me. (It’s an old game we play.)
“Maybe your hearing, too,” I add softly.
But he does hear me. I know because he gets up and slips back to the kitchen table where he begins to leaf through the phone book.
“What are you looking for?” I ask, joining him, but I know the answer.
“I’m going to get my eyes checked,” he says, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I’m looking for an optimist.”
“You mean an ophthalmologist,” I say, trying to show my tax-funded education wasn’t wasted.
My mother is also back in the kitchen, standing at the sink, listening. She speaks up.
“He doesn’t need an ophthalmologist,” she says. “He’s got glasses. He just doesn’t wear them. He needs an optometrist.”
“It would help if they didn’t make the type in this phone book so small,” Daddy says.
“It’s not small,” Mama reminds him, “you just can’t see as well as you used to.”
“I don’t know,” he says without glancing up, “you still look pretty good.”
A slight smile shadows the corner of his mouth.
He’s got her. She either continues to disagree with him and admits that he can’t see, or she accepts the compliment and leaves him alone. She decides to leave him alone and resumes whatever she was doing at the sink.
I sit there wondering if they don’t work on these routines while I’m away and then spring them on me when they get the timing down and work out the punch lines.
“Did you know,” I ask, throwing out a wild card, “that the actual image you see is upside down on the back of your eyeball? You see everything upside down. But,” I add, “your brain turns it right side up.”
He pauses in his search of the phone number and looks up. “That explains why some people have trouble figuring things out,” he says.
I see his face clearly this time, illuminated by the sunlight through the kitchen curtains and I suspect I am looking at my own face 20 years from now.
He returns to his phone book and suddenly, it seems, finds the number. He calls it.
I hear him ask about the glasses. I hear him ask how long it will take.
I hear him say, “Only a day?” a pleased surprise in his voice.
He hangs up.
“That quick?” I ask.
“Yes,” Daddy answers, “he said he thought he could handle it this afternoon.”
“He must be fast,” I say.
“No,` Daddy answers triumphantly, “he’s an optimist.”