A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Flunk A Homemade Eye Exam

I had no idea I couldn't see well.  The change must have occurred gradually, my eyesight progressively getting worse without me picking up on any of the subtle changes.  I guess there was one warning sign, though, in about 4th grade.  I remember I was in Mrs. Laird's music class, and we had a test which consisted of answering questions that were written on the blackboard.  I suppose I couldn't see the questions, but not being one to make trouble, I must have written down some random music terms that sprang to mind.  I recall my paper being handed back to me with a grade of "F."  I normally didn't make that kind of grade, but still blissfully unaware of my condition, I quickly dismissed my misfortune.  For the rest of 4th grade and all of 5th, I continued to function as normal, at least as best as I could. 

Sometime in the fall of 1967, I arrived home from school to discover that my brother Gary had constructed an eye chart.  He proceeded to administer a professional eye exam to both my sister Janet and I.  Gary was and is somewhat of a Renaissance Man, so a rudimentary eye exam was no problem for him to produce.  Janet went first and did fine.  When it was my turn, I could see that there was in fact a piece of cardboard tacked to the wall, but as to the particular contents of that piece of cardboard, I had not a clue.  Gary took his own glasses off and put them on me, and instantly I was able to read the script on the cardboard.  There was much discussion that night as to how I was able to move about without running into things.

Well, an appointment was made with Dr. Broomfield, our local optometrist.  His results confirmed Gary's earlier diagnosis; I was significantly nearsighted.  I was not upset at all; in fact, I had been secretly wishing that I wore glasses for some time.  It was not because I knew I needed them, I just thought they would undoubtedly improve my appearance.  Dr. Broomfield took me and Mama out to where all the frames were on display, and I picked out a great-looking pair of tortoiseshell frames.  I wished I could have had my glasses right then, but it would be a week before my pair arrived. 

Finally the day arrived when I could get my new glasses.  Dr. Broomfield carefully placed them on my face, taking them off and on to make minor adjustments in the frame until he was satisfied that they fit just right.  He gave me a nice glasses case with a small picture of a rocket on the front and a snap to hold it closed.  I immediately began to see the benefits of my new glasses.  As we drove home, I was incredulous to see what all I had been missing.  The trees had individual leaves!  I had forgotten what they were supposed to look like!  And my beloved Scholastic books could be read at arms length, without having to pull them up close to my eyes. 

The first person I went to show my glasses to was my grandmother, who lived down the street.  She bragged effusively on how good I looked wearing them.  I took them off and on quite often to make sure that there was nothing on the lenses, prompting her to express her concern that I might wear through the lenses by rubbing on them so much. 

Well, obviously, my enthusiasm for wearing glasses waned over the following years.  I broke several pairs, once from sliding down on an icy street, another time in a pick-up basketball game, and a few other incidents that I no longer recall.  At one point I invested in a little plastic strap to wear behind my head to keep them from sliding down my nose, which didn't help my looks any but did keep the glasses in place.  In wintertime, it was impossible to walk into a room from outside without having them fog up to the point of being unable to see.  And, my eyes continued to worsen, resulting in thicker and thicker lenses.  So, after my freshman year in college, I went back to Dr. Broomfield to make the switch to contact lenses. 

It is amazing to think how I was so unaware that I needed glasses.  I always kept that in mind when I was a teacher, realizing that some of my students might be in the same predicament as I was. 

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