Since I was a boy I’ve played a private parlor game: Which of the five senses can I least afford to lose? Working backwards, the olfactory is the easiest scratch, followed by touch. I would regret the loss of taste but my mother’s cooking long ago inured me to blandness. Now comes the only tough choice: hearing or sight? The loss of music and conversation would diminish my life but I could handle it. I would have to preserve vision. I can’t imagine not seeing the faces of my wife and kids, and I would never have the fortitude to learn Braille. Given my nature, not being able to read would be the cruelest of fates.
“Reading a book? We don’t see that very often,” said the receptionist as she led me to the examination room. There had been seven others in the waiting room, all of them looking at their phones. By now the scene is banal and I can observe it without getting overheated. I was content to read my book, especially when I found Ryan describing a scene set just before the Normandy landing that begins with this sentence: “Some men tried to read.” One man in the 1st Infantry Division is trying to read Kings Row, a 1940 bestselling novel by Henry Bellamann, but he’s too worried about the waterproofing on his Jeep. A Canadian soldier on a landing craft loaded with tanks is reading “a pocket book intriguingly titled A Maid and a Million Men.” And best of all:
“Chaplain Lawrence E. Deery of the 1st Division on the transport H.M.S. Empire Anvil was amazed to see a British officer reading Horace’s odes in Latin. But Deery himself, who would land on Omaha Beach in the first wave with the 16th Infantry Regiment, spent the evening reading [John Addington] Symonds’ Life of Michelangelo.”
My astigmatism has grown 0.4 percent more severe since my last exam. For the first time since I was ten years old and had my first eye examination, I was told I don’t need new glasses.