Saturday, January 29, 2011

Musings on Being Nearsighted

In 2005, I totally acted out of character and made the "elective" choice to have lasik surgery to correct my poor vision. Encouraged by my eye doctor who said it would change my life, I signed, with one eye closed, the paperwork presented to me by Wolfson Eye Clinic. I ignored words on the contract about the possible "whoops" of surgery like "blind" or "paralysis."

I also paid no attention to what exactly "lasik" involved -- again phrasing like "cuts" and "lifting flaps" and "burning sensation" I just chose not to comprehend.

Scheduled for August of that year, I assumed I would be in top seeing shape to head back to work at my high school teaching job, but instead, the surgery was postponed because my eyes were not "ready," and I returned to school wearing my two inch thick glasses. [One of the preparations for the surgery was to be without my contact lenses for six-weeks, so I had to wear glasses -- and the six turned into eight -- since the surgeon determined after six that I would need more time for my eyes to "heal" from the callouses worn on them because of the wearing of hard contact lenses for close to forty years.]

The lasik surgery is one of the weirdest experiences I have ever had.

To go from being so myopic that I had to put on glasses or wear contact lenses to do anything except sleep ----- the first action by me in the morning was feeling around surfaces in search of my glasses --

to being able to "see" without assistance was a miracle to this girl who has only memories of being unable to see and always wishing to be able to see like others.

When I returned to the classroom after my out-patient lasik surgery, I told my students -- the procedure was like being taken by the mother ship, physically altered, and then returned to Earth knowing that things had changed -- really changed, but that nobody else knew the difference. { too bad they couldn't also alter the size of my waist -- but that's another story}

I couldn't believe that I was released from the world of nearsightedness -- I could live in the world free of fumbling with the containers, the fluids, and other paraphernalia associated with corrective lenses?


It seemed impossible, but here it was and is.


Wearing glasses had been a way of my life for so long that I have few memories of the time before.

That's what I did from forty years -- I wore glasses or contact lenses.

My glasses were thick [perhaps I was legally blind] --- unattractive -- and mostly uncomfortable.

I was blind as a bat without some sort of correction; I was dangerous --- I couldn't see anything unless I was two inches from it.

I pulled books, watches, items from the refrigerator, small children and sometimes rather large people close to my nose and eyes and peered at it or them to determine what it was or who it was. They were like bugs under glass as I examined them so closely.

Nothing. I mean nothing is the least bit attractive about that.

I didn't know that my vision was poor until , I think, the second grade when my teacher, Mrs. Simpson, asked the class on the first day if "we could see the board."

Truthfully, I couldn't, and she promptly moved me to a front row seat -- one of two tragedies that I would endure that year --- not only did I have to sit on the front row, but that meant that I was seated with the other "nerds" who wore glasses or squinted at the board. The "in crowd" seemed to be behind me, and as I imagined, giggling at my defectiveness.

Second grade.

Hard year.

Not only did I sit on the front row, but in the middle of the year, Mrs. Simpson's husband died unexpectedly, an event that took a favored teacher from our second grade classroom for a month and saddled us with another teacher, one who paced the aisles like Colonel Klink, made the poor readers read out loud in class [with my whispering and pronouncing words for them] and at recess, she stood behind the kindergarten door and sneakily smoked cigarettes.

Was that against the rules at the time?

The smoking not the making poor readers read out loud. :)

Amazing, what the memory chooses to record.

Ironically, except not, my poor vision escaped the notice of the stranger from Atlanta city schools who appeared once a year with an eye chart and a wooden spatula to check every student in every grade's vision.

She moved from classroom to classroom like a scary invader, black heels clicking down the wooden hallways and carrying her instruments of testing, the pointer, a round spatula, and chart; students were afraid that she would label them defective. In she'd come into the classroom, demanding that we orderly line up, and then covering one eye and then the other with that wooden, round spatula, she'd use her pointer and randomly identify letters on the chart that she wished us to see. While the students answered "F" "C" and maybe "V," as I recall, she was slightly deaf, and we exhorted louder that it looked like a "B," and she'd respond, "did you say "T" or "E?" We giggled and snorted and repeated the letters for her ears and used our fingers to point to the right or the left if the letter was turned.

She never changed the chart. By the time she got to me, I had usually memorized the chart, never wanting to be someone who failed a test in so public of a manner.

Actually, I didn't want to fail any test.

She was deaf but not blind. Is that some kind of funny or what?

By fifth grade, I began borrowing Lynn Smith's glasses, the only girl in Mrs. King's class who wore glasses, when I had to read the board, or I copied whatever was there from others. Lynn also loaned them to me at recess. It was then that I noted the individual leaves on trees, but the clear vision allowed me to see boys I admired from across the playground ... without screwing up my face with a squint.

Once when Lynn was over to spend the night at my house, I looked out our front "picture" window and admired the streetlight's defined shape, instead of the burst of white light with jagged edges that I was used to seeing.

Wow. The lights look like that?

At some point, my parents determined that I needed glasses, even though I dragged my feet about getting a pair.

I didn't wish to be different from others. I wanted to just be able to see.


My mother made an appointment with Dr. Gershon, an eyes, ears, and nose specialist located across the street from Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta. He was already familiar with my throat as I had chronic tonsillitis as a young child.

When Gershon examined my eyes and read the eye chart, he turned to my mother and said, "my goodness, this child can't see at all." He wrote a prescription for glasses and my life's fate was sealed.

The other thing I remember about that exam was the dilating of the eyes. At that time, the drops that dilated the eyes seemed to affect the vision all day. The worse part was the effect of light --- it was painful for the light to hit the eyes. Even though Gershon gave me a "handsome" pair of paper sun glasses to cover my eyes, I practically had to be led from place to place. If light accidentally hit the eyes, I yelped in pain.

I blame the dilation of the eyes on the first pair of glasses that were chosen for me... white framed cat glasses -- complete with fins like a '57 Cadillac. Perhaps they were "fashionable" at the time in some kind of "twisted" way -- but frames weren't cheap, and with my parents limited budget and the fact that my lenses had to be changed each year because my eyes disintegrated quickly -- I wore that pair for three years -- maybe longer.


My life ruined and scarred by that pair of glasses that allowed me to be teased and tormented by my peers.

Ah, childhood. Good times. Good times.

When I wore my eyeglasses to school for the first time, other students stared, and so I kept them in my pencil case and sneaked them out to see when I thought no one was looking.

If I had my picture made, I took off my glasses.

If I thought someone was looking my way, I took off my glasses.

If I dressed up, went to the pool, played outside, went to the grocery with my dad, I removed my glasses in case I ran into someone I knew.

I knew that wearing glasses removed points from my cool factor... until, I became so near-sighted that I couldn't not wear them.

*shakes head at silly self*

By high school, I begged my parents for contact lenses, a gift for Christmas of my ninth grade year. This gift not only made me feel better about myself, but it totally upped my "cool" rating because then "dropping my contact" caused my friends to freeze in place and finding it as much fun as a mystery.

But that's a blog for another time.

BTW: If you'd like to see me "sporting" lose lovely glasses, just go back a few blogs. You'll see them. :)


  1. I got my glasses in third grade... same experience! Before the lenses, I tried to secretly copy people's worksheet answers cause I couldn't see the questions on the board :( I hated them every day until, yep, ninth grade when I finally got contacts for volleyball. Maybe I'll get Lasik someday?? I'm not so into the "cutting" and "peeling back" aspects...

  2. I got my glasses in the third grade, but I wasn't embarrassed by them. I always chose the simple wire-frames. I'm now so used to wearing glasses all day; I don't want to get contacts.

  3. I got my glasses in the third grade, but I wasn't embarrassed by them. I always chose the simple wire-frames. I'm now so used to wearing glasses all day; I don't want to get contacts.

  4. My sister needed glasses in school (Deanna), and she cried and cried about it. But Rebecca and I thought the glasses were cool, and we were jealous we couldn't have them too.

  5. It seems we share 2nd grade horror stories. I got my glasses in 7th grade, when the opinions of my peers carried incredible weight, and mercifully got the contacts in 9th grade. People didn't recognize me!