Dollar Store Sunglasses

I’m pretty good about keeping up with my things. Items I routinely use have homes where I replace them so they are waiting for me when I need them: keys on a hook, wallet by my sink, and phone on the nightstand. I try to put things in their place because there is nothing more frustrating than looking for something you’ve lost.

The one exception is sunglasses. No matter what I do, I can’t keep them. I either lose them or crush them. When I buy a pair, it is inevitable that they will soon be gone. Because of this, I buy my sunglasses in bulk at the Dollar Store or when I splurge, Walmart.

I learned this lesson the hard way. I was in college in the height of Top Gun’s popularity. Of course, everyone had to have Ray Ban Aviators – which, at the time, cost about as much as my car. But I sucked it up and bought a pair. I remember the Lexington Sunglass Hut where I bought them. I also remember exactly where I was when I sat on them – about 2 weeks later. Since then, I have never paid more than about $5 for a pair of sunglasses… until now.

Being old for some of us means reading glasses. And a beach trip means reading sunglasses, which I found on Ebay for $12. This price goes completely against my mantra and it’s hard to rebel against a long-held life philosophy, but I took the plunge. Since they are so valuable, I still packed a Dollar Store pair to wear into the ocean.

It ended up a good plan because the first wave that hit me stripped them off my face. The water was clear and I searched during the calm between waves, but I couldn’t find them. I did see them once just before I got pummeled by the biggest wave of the day. And then they were gone. Yes, my strategy paid off. I didn’t lose my reading sunglasses… but I still hate losing things.

You don’t get to 50 without losing some things. We’ve all lost money, time, pieces of sanity, and more important things like family members and friends. Whenever I sit in this sand, I remember the most precious thing I’ve lost: Kylie. I can point to the right and remember where she buried me in the sand, and to the left where we built a castle and discovered moats are hard to fill. Out in the water where she floated beside me, determined to keep up with her sisters.

I close my eyes and feel the ocean breeze, the heat of the sun. I hear the relentless pound of the surf and the call of the gulls. The rhythmic hum and weightlessness of the beach lulls me until I hear a familiar giggle.

“Daddy, don’t sleep. Come play with me.”

“Sure, Peanut. What do you want to do?”

“I want to build the highest sandcastle anyone’s ever built!”

“That’s a tall order for a girl so small. Think we can do it?”

“Sure we can. You dig.”

With a pink shovel barely the size of my hand I dig, filling pail after pail with soft, white sand. She pats and prods methodically, pouting a little when a stray wave foils her best plan. When we’ve gathered all the sand in sight, we sculpt turrets with windows, high towers, a drawbridge, and walls so thick no one could ever knock it down. Together we build a mighty fortress. I am working down in the moat while she is forming the highest tower, almost out of view.

“Should we have alligators or sharks for our moat?” I yell up.

“Um, alligators,” she decides.

“What are you building way up there?”

“This is the tower where the prettiest princess will live until the prince rescues her,” she calls down.

Her voice floats on air. It is a mist… a vapor… I almost can’t hear.

I stop my work in alarm. Lifting my head, I shield my eyes from the blinding sun and look toward where she was…


Something hits my leg. I’ve grown accustomed to the lapping waves – and even the stray wave that submerges my chair won’t rouse me. This is more substantial. I can tell. I fight curiosity in hopes of returning to my dream of her until I am poked again. Reluctantly opening my eyes, I find my sunglasses lying on the sand beside me. What I have lost has returned.

Yet… what I had…

As I leave the beach, I crush the sunglasses in my hand and deposit them in the rubbish bin. Dollar store sunglasses are not the lost thing I wish returned.