“Another day another dollar” José said as he climbed into the passenger seat of the fleet truck. “Yeah, I’m gonna go home and get plastered this weekend” I said to him as I started the truck and started to drive away. When we got over the cattle guard and out to the highway, José hopped out and opened the gate for me to drive out. “Mind if I go to sleep on the way home?” he asked. “Go for it, it's gonna be a long drive” I told him.
About 3 hours later and well after dark, I pulled up in José’s driveway and nudged him awake. He thanked me for the ride and jumped out of the truck slamming the door behind him. I backed out of his driveway and pointed the truck in the direction of my own house. On the way home, I stopped by the bank and dropped my pay check in the night depository then headed to Taco Bell for a cheap bachelor’s dinner.
When I got home, I grabbed my glasses out of the glove compartment and headed inside for some relaxation before I hit the hay. Upon getting inside, I looked at the clock and almost died. “12:00??” I exclaimed out loud. “Shit, I better get to bed” I thought. On the way to the bathroom to take my contacts out, I passed by the phone table and saw I had a message on the answering machine. I decided to go ahead and play the message back since I was standing there anyway. “Attention all Texaco employees: There have been numerous recent reportings of lone service technicians being mugged and/or robbed in areas close to the Texas/Mexico border. Please exercise caution when working in these areas and always take a co-worker with you. Do NOT go to these locations by yourself until further notice. For more information, some reference links have been sent to your email address on file with the corporate office.” said the message. I just sat there in awe for a couple of minutes pondering what I just heard. I had heard rumors of this kind of thing happening, but I didn’t think it was real. Now my worst fears were coming true. My life was actually potentially in danger. I proceeded to the bathroom still in shock to go take my contacts out.
Now in my thick, heavy, ugly job safety glasses, I headed to bed. “I’ll call José and the corporate office in the morning” I thought to myself as I laid down to bed. I took my glasses off and put them on the window sill next to my bed and shut my eyes to go to sleep.
Since I was 21, I have worked for Texaco as a remote serviceman. I’m now 28, so that means I’ve been working there for 7 years. I really enjoy my work since I am always out doing things, but the pay really stinks. I get a company truck to run service calls on, but the company doesn’t pay for the gas. Go figure. I get paid $6.50 an hour and for me that is just fine. I have never been married, and never plan to be. I have always wanted a kid or two, but I do not foresee that happening in my future anytime soon. Back when I was going to college, I was dating a really hot girl and we were madly in love. I got engaged to her and we even had a marriage date set for the next year. That whole plan was tragically cut short when she was killed by a drunk driver coming home from work one day. I have never forgotten that day and have never really gotten over the heartbreak that came out of it. I’ve dated several women since then, but none of them compare to my lost love of past years. I finally just gave up on trying to find love and decided to be a bachelor until further notice. Actually, getting married would really put me in a tight spot unless the woman I married worked a job as well. As it is, I can barely afford to keep myself in good graces with the utility companies, but I manage anyway. Money is really tight so I still drive my old 1976 Chevrolet truck and live in a small 2 bedroom house in a fairly low rent neighborhood. All said and done, I am able to save a small amount of money each month and put it into a saving’s account for a rainy day in case I ever need to draw on it.
The next morning I awoke and reached for my glasses and threw them on. “God I love that feeling” I said out loud as the room leapt instantly into focus. I went to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat and to call José and the office about my work assignment for that day. “I’ve been reassigned to go help some other guy out” José said when I called him. “What?” I asked him, “How? You’re my partner!!!” “I don’t know man, I guess you better call headquarters and figure out what you’re gonna do about your work situation” he said to me. “Thanks José. You’re always a pal.” I said to him as I hung up the phone. After I called the corporate office to request another partner, I got a call back and was told to take the day off since with the recent mugging and robbery problem they were short on hands to supply me a partner. “SWEET!” I thought to myself. “I get a 3 day weekend!!!! Time for beer and football!!” I just decided to go around in my safety glasses all day to give my eyes a break from wearing the contacts to work every day. “God I hate those things” I thought to myself, “If the company didn’t require them, I wouldn’t wear them at all.”
I used to wear my glasses to work all the time when I first started working for them. They supplied me the safety frames and ordered me to have my prescription filled with safety impact lenses. Back then I was only a -7 so my glasses weren’t too thick, but boy were they EXPENSIVE!!!! Since then, my eyes have progressively gotten about 1D worse a year, so each year; I have to keep getting my lenses changed out. I’m up to about -13 now with a fat dose of astigmatism in each eye. Without my glasses I’m totally screwed, and the company knows it. Shortly after I started working there, my supervisor realized that my welding skills were impaired by my glasses as well as some minor spatial skills. He had a talk with my boss and we had a meeting. I was from here on out only to wear contacts on the job unless there was a reason I couldn’t wear them such as a documented medical problem. I had never worn contacts before, so I went to the optometrist’s office and got fitted for them. I elected hard lenses since they can be worn many times without needing replacement. Now each year, I wind out replacing the lenses in my safety glasses with new safety lenses in my new prescription and replacing my contacts as well. The old pair hits the trash as soon as I get home usually since they are then useless to me. My lenses in my glasses are now about a half inch thick at the edges and cost me about $800 a year just for the lenses. If I elected to replace the frames as well, they would run me over $1000. The company refuses to help me pay for them either, so I am still using the same frame they originally gave me when I started working for them 7 years ago. I honestly prefer wearing glasses, but I have noticed that on the job, my performance really does benefit from wearing the contacts so I don’t make an issue of it. I also sometimes wear them to go to clubs and bars and stuff when I go out to be social so they get more use than just work. I always carry a spare contact case and my glasses with me on every single job I go on just to be safe if I happen to have a problem with my contacts. The glasses and case just go in the glove box. I’ve only had to fall back on the glasses once when I got sand in my eyes, so I consider myself lucky so far.
After a wonderful day of relaxation, I was going to head to bed when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number on the caller ID so I wasn’t going to answer it, but something told me I should anyway. “Hello?” I said into the receiver. On the other end of the phone was a woman crying. “Chuck? Is that you?” She sobbed into the phone. “Yes it is who is this?” “This is your Aunt Stephie” she sobbed back to me, “Your cousin Jason and his wife were killed in a plane crash earlier today. We need you to come to the will reading tomorrow morning at 8:00 at Grime’s Law Offices.” I was stunned. Jason and I were best friends growing up. He lived down the street from me and we even went to college together until I dropped out to go work for Texaco my sophomore year. “I’ll be there.” I choked out, “Goodnight. May God be with you and answer your prayers.” With that I hung up the phone. I just went back to the living room in disbelief. I couldn’t believe Jason was dead. Ever since I dropped out of college, I kept in touch with him frequently. I knew he and his wife were going to charter a plane to take them down to the Bahamas for their wedding anniversary. He had been married happily for 6 years to a wonderful woman. They also had a son together who was now 5 if my calculations were correct. I was always jealous of Jason and his success. He came from nothing growing up just like I did, except that Jason majored in Law while I majored in Petroleum Engineering. Jason completed school and got a job with a prestigious law firm and made a shitload of money. There was one catch to that all though, he was an HONEST lawyer. Something that is very rare in today’s day and age. I must say that I respected him highly for that too. I just sat there pondering the situation for about 2 hours still in a state of shock. I finally summoned the strength to rouse myself and start heading to bed when I realized I had taken my glasses off. I didn’t realize I had done it, but apparently I had. I just didn’t know where I had put them. I groped the end table for them and even looked on the floor, but to no avail. I started to get panicky, but finally found them laying in the chair and threw them on. After I brushed my teeth and drained the lizard, I went to the bedroom and set my alarm before taking my glasses off and going to bed.
The next morning, I got up and pulled out my black suit from when my ex girlfriend died back in college. I ironed it all out and put it on. “Fits like a glove still” I thought to myself and I started heading out the door. Suddenly I realized I still had my safety glasses on. “Well damn, I can’t go to a mourning service like this.” I thought to myself and went back in to go put my contacts in. “Damn I hate these” I thought to myself as I put them.
When I got to service, I saw several people I had not seen in many years. I saw Aunts and Uncles as well as cousins, nieces, and nephews I didn’t know I had. At first most of them didn’t recognize me since I wasn’t wearing glasses, but pretty soon I was back in good graces with everyone. Finally it was time for the will reading. The will was very long and true to his lawyer roots, was very technical in its legal jargon. The reading took 2 hours and I was about to give up on getting anything out of it. Jason’s money went to his mother and father. His estate went to Aunt Stephie, the cars went to a couple cousins I didn’t know. His stocks went to our grandmother who just about died of a heart attack when she heard the news. Finally the last part of the will was being read. “And my final wish is for my son Toby to be placed in my 1st cousin and best friend’s custody. I feel that Charles “Chuck” Lowe will be an excellent father and an unmatched role model to Toby as he grows up and matures into a man. I feel there is no one better for Toby to learn from and it has always been Chuck’s dream to have kids. Well Chuck, here is your chance.” Suddenly everyone in the entire room turned and looked at me. I turned red and just stared back with a sheepish look on my face. Then the thought occurred to me “OMG what am I going to do with a 5 year old boy? I work long hours and barely have any money as it is.” However, I went ahead and accepted his final will. “Its what Jason wanted, so he shall have it,” I said out loud to everyone. “I won’t let him down. I promise.” I said. “Fine then, stay afterwards and we will get the paperwork filled out and filed” the lawyer in charge of the ceremony said to me.
After the service was over, I went with the lawyers into the back room and began filling out paperwork. About halfway through the stack of papers, my left contact started sticking to my eyelid. “Oh not now” I thought as I went down the hall to the bathroom to wet it down again. Fortunately I got enough water up in there to get it to cooperate once again. After about 4 hours I finally had filled out all the legal forms and completed the adoption papers so I could take custody of Toby. “Be here tomorrow at 2:00 to pick him up,” they said as I headed out the door. “Thanks, see you tomorrow,” I said as I got into the truck to leave.
As soon as I got into the truck, I realized I needed to pick up some stuff for Toby. “Thank god for the rainy day account,” I thought as I headed to the furniture store. I picked out a bed that would last for several years as well as a decent dresser and a basic end table. When I got home, I immediately got to work cleaning up my house. Since I had been “batching it” for years, I had pretty much let the place go. I had converted the extra bedroom into an office and had an old ‘486 computer in there and numerous papers and other trash all over the place. After I cleaned it all up, I set to work making it into a room for Toby. I set up the bed and put all the other furniture together so that it was ready to go when he got there the next day. After about 5 hours of work I had enough and decided it was time for bed. I didn’t even have enough energy to fix something for dinner. “Just as well” I thought, “more money in my pocket.”
The next morning I woke up early and continued my cleaning rampage until it was about 1:00 when I decided it was time to head over to the lawyer’s place to go meet Toby. When I got there, I was about 20 minutes early, so I decided to go piddle around for about 10 minutes in the shopping center across the street. The closer to 2:00 it got, the shakier my knees got. I didn’t know what Toby was going to think of me, and I didn’t know what I was getting into taking care of him either. Finally 1:50 rolled around and it was time to go meet Toby.
“Uncle Chuck!” Toby yelled when I entered the room. He ran up to me and gave me a huge hug. “Where were you at Christmas?” he asked. I made something up about having to work then went told him to wait while I went to talk with the lawyer. While I was talking to the lawyer, I asked if Toby had any other belongings we would need to pick up. He said they were being shipped to my house since Toby’s house was a good 6 hours North. To drive to San Angelo from Edinburgh just takes too long for a weekend trip to get his stuff. After I signed the final papers making my adoption of Toby legal and official, I shook hands with the lawyer and went back out in the lobby to get Toby and take him home.
Once again when he saw me enter the room, Toby ran up and gave me a big bear hug again. Since he was such a happy kid, I decided that bringing up his parent’s tragedy wouldn’t be a good idea since it would upset him and he wouldn’t understand it fully anyway. The time would come soon when I would have to do that. I grabbed hold of his hand and said “Let’s go home Toby.” He obliged and I led him out to the truck to go home. When he got to the truck, he said, “Daddy drives a sports car.” I replied without skipping a beat “this is Uncle Chuck’s sports car” to which he giggled. I knew right then that Toby had a great sense of humour. I decided this was going to be a lot easier than I thought because I was noticing that Toby was very mature for his age. He was sharp as a tack and had a very advanced vernacular for such a young child. Since it was still summer, he would be starting Kindergarten in the fall. For now though, it would give us some time to bond first. When we got home, I showed Toby to his room which he seemed to like a lot. For dinner I took him out to dinner at a McDonald’s and got him a kiddy toy.
After a couple of days I finally got my opportunity to explain the situation to Toby. He came up to me that evening and asked, “Where are Mommy and Daddy?” Fortunately I had been planning on having to answer that question so I had been working on it. “Mommy and Daddy went away for a while. For now you get to live with Uncle Chuck.” I told him. “Mommy and Daddy aren’t coming back are they Uncle Chuck?” he asked. (I told you he was a sharp kid) “Well no. Something happened to them and they can’t come back even though they would love to. You get to live with Uncle Chuck instead. You will make plenty of new friends here,” I told him. He nodded and made it known that he understood. “I love you Uncle Chuck,” he said to me as he climbed up in my lap. “I love you too Toby,” I said back. He snuggled up against my chest and closed his eyes. Soon he fell asleep in my lap so I took the opportunity to look him over. He had a very strong looking face with a very serious look. He had big bushy dark brown eyebrows and a thick mop of dark brown hair on his head. His complexion was very clear and fortunately (since he had his mouth open and I looked inside) his teeth were fairly straight. That meant I could better use that portion of money on his college when the time came around for it. All said and done, he was a very cute kid. I could tell he was going to grow up to be a really handsome man and he had the potential to be very athletic if he wanted to. He was already fairly slim and didn’t have any of the pudge most kids his age have. I didn’t know how tall he was, but I figured he was about average for his age. After looking him over, I gently carried him to his room and put him in his bed. “Goodnight Toby” I whispered. He moaned something back which I took to mean goodnight. I then made my way to my room to take my contacts out and go to bed myself.
The next week I went back to work since I had finagled a week off to bond with Toby and get things all set up. The first thing I did was go to my boss and explain my situation. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry to hear that” he said. “Is there anything we can do to help out?” “Well that’s why I’m here,” I told him “I don’t have the resources available to care for him. $6.50 an hour isn’t going to cover food, bills, rent, school expenses, and Toby,” I told him. “I need either a raise or a promotion in the worst way or I’m going to have to find a supplementary job. There’s just no way I can support both of us on $6.50 an hour.” “You know Chuck, this is the first time you’ve ever asked for anything while you’ve been working here. We were actually discussing promoting you before this all happened. I think you’ve well deserved it. I’ll get the ball rolling on getting you promoted to Area Supervisor. You’ll get to keep your truck, but you’ll get a fleet gas card, a raise to $12 an hour, as well as a benefits package that involves stock in the company, medical, and dental. As I said before, I honestly think you’ve earned it and we value you as an employee and a member of this company” he said to me. I was flabbergasted. I wasn’t expecting to get promoted on the spot, but I did. I was at a loss for words for a couple of minutes, but eventually I regained my composure. “Oh thank you sir. Thank you so much. You have no idea what this means to me!!!” I said to him. He just nodded and shook my hand. “I’ll have the paperwork for you to sign here in the morning. If you will come back then we can get everything worked out then. For now though, please go out and take a look at Well #77. It is having some problems with a switching unit and should be a fairly easy fix for you so you can get home early,” he told me as I was about to leave. “Will do” I told him and walked out the door.
The day flew by. By the time it was time to go home, I felt like only an hour had passed. I was excited to get home to go check on Toby. I had hired my next door neighbor to baby-sit while I was gone since she had grandkids of her own. She was more than happy to oblige. When I walked in the door, I got the same greeting I was becoming accustomed to: A loud “UNCLE CHUCK!” followed by Toby running up and hugging me. I took his hand and led him back home and fixed some dinner. Afterwards, I told him we would be having more stuff around the house since I would be bringing home some more money. He just grinned at me. Suddenly one of my contacts blinked out right on the dinner table. I nonchalantly picked it up and said “I’ll be right back Toby.” I went to the bathroom and put my contacts away and put my glasses on then headed back to the dinner table. “Uncle Chuck, why do you wear glasses at night?” Toby asked. “Well Toby, I actually wear glasses all the time, I just have small ones that fit in my eyes during the day” I explained to him. He nodded his head in approval then asked “So why don’t you leave the little ones on all the time?” I had to explain the difference between contacts and glasses to him and that contacts are uncomfortable at the end of the day. He once again nodded his head in understanding. “I want to wear glasses just like you!” he exclaimed. “Well one day you might” I told him.
I didn’t know just how right I was. The next week, I took Toby down to the local elementary school to enroll him in Kindergarten. Part of the enrollment process was an eye and ear screening. When we got to the eye screening, I was crossing my fingers that Toby would pass since I didn’t have the money at the time for glasses for him. “Mr. Lowe, your son Toby failed the eye test. You need to take him to an optometrist and bring verification of a current prescription to us for him to be admitted to this school. You can go ahead and register him, but he will not be allowed to participate in class until this is completed,” the nurse said to me suddenly. “Well crap” I thought to myself. “There goes some more of the rainy day fund.” “OK, I’ll get right on that,” I told her. On the way home, I explained to Toby that he would be getting glasses after all. He was ecstatic. “Now I’ll be like you Uncle Chuck!” he cried out with glee. I had never seen anyone so eager to wear glasses in all my life. I guess he really looked up to me or something. When we got home I decided to try to test his vision to see how bad his eyesight was. I found a black and white picture of a cat and held it up. I told Toby to tell me when he could see it clearly. About 4 feet from him, he said stop. “Oh damn.” I thought to myself. He’s gonna be a myopic one. I thought he was probably going to be about a -1 or -2 when we went in to the optometrist’s office so I went ahead and made the call to set up an appointment the next day. When we got there, the doctor took Toby in the back and did all the usual tests that I was so familiar with by now. About 30 minutes later, he came back out and told me that Toby was slightly nearsighted. (Well duhÉ..) I asked about his prescription. “Well that will be about -2.50 for his right eye, and about -1.75 for his left eye” he told me. “Wow” I thought to myself. “He’s going to be a blind one when he gets older.” About 5 minutes later Toby came bounding out into the waiting room. “Do I get glasses Uncle Chuck?” he asked. “You sure do” I told him, “Let’s go pick out some for you.” I went through the kid’s frames and picked out some that looked sturdy and would look good on him and got him to try them on. “Look in the mirror and tell me what you think” I told him. “I like them!” he said. “We’ll take these,” I told the attendant. “When can we pick them up?” “You can come back tomorrow after 5 and they should be ready by then,” she told me. I went ahead and paid the cashier and took Toby back by the school so I could give the nurse a Xerox of Toby’s prescription.
After I got off work the next day, I swung by the optometrist’s office to pick up Toby’s glasses. They had polycarbonate lenses in them so that they wouldn’t shatter in his eyes if they got hit. I couldn’t wait to see Toby in them to be honest. I thought he would look cute in glasses. When I got home, I went next door to collect Toby. I got my typical greeting and had to chase Toby home because he went running to get his new glasses. “Boy, this kid really wants glasses,” I thought to myself. He beat me home and found the glasses sitting on the table and threw them on. “Now before you get carried away, let me teach you how to care for your glasses,” I told him. I sat him down and explained how to clean them, and how to avoid breaking them. I also told him the importance of wearing them at all times and not scratching the lenses. Then I asked him the important question, “Can you see any better with them on?” “Oh Uncle Chuck, its fun. I can see stuff I couldn’t before,” he said to me. I was happy with the glasses if they worked for him that well then. I told him how to rest them upside down on the nightstand so they wouldn’t get broken or fall off on the floor and took him to go to bed.
The next week school started. When I got to the classroom to take Toby in for his first day, I was surprised to see that Toby wasn’t the only one wearing glasses. Lots of other kids were wearing them as well so I wasn’t concerned that Toby would be made fun of. I said my goodbyes and kissed him goodbye. “I’ll see you after school” I told him. “Be sure to take the bus to the babysitter’s.” Then I went to work to work my new job as area supervisor. I really liked the new job. It certainly had its perks having my own truck and having the gas paid for. I did miss José’s constant chatting though. Being by myself gave me plenty of time to think about things and get things done, but I was awfully bored without my partner of 7 years. “I’ll get over it though,” I thought to myself. Lots of driving was involved in my new position. I had to go around to all the gas pumps and oil wells to make sure everything was working properly. I also had to check the tanks and make sure they weren’t full or overflowing. I also had to go check the work of all the other technicians under me so anytime work was performed; I had to drive out to the jobsite and inspect the completed job. Even in this position though, I was required to wear my contacts and keep my safety glasses updated. I didn’t quite understand that, but I didn’t question their judgment.
***Flash forward 7 years***
Finally my vision had stabilized. About 3 years ago, my vision quit deteriorating at about -14 in my left eye, and about -15 in my right eye. I was OK with this since both eyes were stabilized around nice round numbers. However, since my prescription was so high now, my safety glasses lenses were biconcave now. It took me a good year to get used to the new distortion introduced by the new curve of the lenses, but I finally adjusted. I didn’t like them as much now, so I found myself wearing the contacts pretty much fulltime.
Toby’s sight on the other hand rapidly deteriorated. By the time he was in 6th grade, he was up to -7 and -8 in his left and right eyes respectively. I felt sorry for him being so blind so fast. I figured if he kept up the way he was, he would outdo me by the time he was 20. He was also developing into a nice looking man as well. Now that he was 13 and in the 7th grade, he had started puberty. He started growing like a weed and his voice started dropping. I noticed that his arms were getting somewhat fuzzy and he was getting peach fuzz on his face. He also was about to start playing Football in the fall when school started. I went ahead and got him fitted for contacts so that when he played football I didn’t have to worry about him breaking multiple pairs of glasses. Of course keeping in the Toby tradition, he earned straight A’s all the way up to the present. He was very popular in school and always had friends dropping by the house.
One day, after football practice, Toby came up to me and asked, “Uncle Chuck, would it be OK if I just called you Dad?” I just broke down crying. I couldn’t help it. “It would mean the world to me if you did that Toby.” I told him. “Then it’s settled” he said, “Dad you are.” And he walked away laughing hysterically. That comment just made my whole year. I had always wanted to be a “Dad” and now I was. He walked back in the room for a brief minute and said “by the way DAD, I need some more contacts. I’m wearing my last pair.” “I’ll put in the order tomorrow” I told him. “Take care of those, there’s about a 2 week lag to get new ones in. You might have to wear glasses a couple days to school before they come in. Save your contacts for football practice.” He nodded and walked outside to go play football with some of the other boys down the street.
The next day I put in the order for the contacts on my way to work. “They’ll be in around 2 weeks from now,” the receptionist told me. Off to work I went. When I got home, Toby was sitting at the kitchen table in his glasses reading a paper. “Well I blinked out a lens earlier today Dad” he said. “I guess I’m in the specs until those contacts come in.” “Well be careful with those” I told him, “To save money, remember that we used the same frames as your last few pairs so if you break those, you don’t have a spare pair.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah I know” he said, “I’ll see if I can do football practice without them.” Fortunately a week and a half passed and he still had a whole pair of glasses, but then one day while I was out on a job I got a call on the cell. It was the nurse saying Toby had been injured in football practice and that he had broken his glasses. She was wondering if I had a spare pair that I could bring in for him. I told her I did not and that I’d try to do something for him when I came in later that evening.
When I got home that evening Toby was sitting at the kitchen table with his leg up on the extra chair with ice on it. When he heard me walk in, he screwed up his face to squint at me. “Hi Dad” he said miserably. “So what happened” I asked him. “Well we were doing practice and I stepped wrong and fell and wrenched my ankle. When I fell my glasses came off, and got trampled by the other team members. They’re toast.” He said grudgingly. “I’m up shit creek,” he said. “I can’t see worth a darn. Everything’s blurry. I can’t recognize people. I’ve never gone without correction before. It sucks!!” “First of all young man, don’t cuss in this household. Say stuff like that again, and you won’t have to worry about football anymore. Furthermore, life happens. Don’t worry about it. Your contacts should be in either tomorrow or the next day and then you can be held over until I’ve got the money to buy you a new pair of glasses. Next time help prevent this by notifying me when you only have one pair of contacts left,” I said to him. “It’s all OK, I’m not mad at you or anything. Everything will be fine.” “But what about school?” he asked, “I can’t see the boards or figure out where to go.” I told him about sucking up to girls who take good notes and being able to get copies if he’s nice enough. He liked that idea so I left him with it.
Unfortunately his contacts didn’t come in the next day, or the day after that. So I called the optometrist’s office demanding to know where they were. “The supplier was backordered,” the secretary said. “We expect them in any day now.” When I got home I told Toby that since it was Friday, he wouldn’t have any contacts till Monday at the earliest. “Why do I have to be so blind?” he moaned. Suddenly I had an idea. “I’ll be right back,” I said to him. I ran off to my room and began searching through old trunks and boxes of old backed up crap. Finally I found what I was looking for. My old glasses from college. I took them out of the box and cleaned them all up and walked back in the kitchen where Toby was trying very hard to read the funny papers. “I’ve got a present for you” I said to him. “What is it?” he said. “You’ll like it, I promise,” I said as I placed the glasses in his hands. “They’re not quite your prescription, but it should help you out until you get your contacts in. He threw them on and got up and hugged me. “Thanks so much!!” he exclaimed. “I can see pretty well with these out of my left eye. The right one is working a little, but I can survive.” He said. “They should be pretty well suited to your left eye” I said, “They’re -7, but they’ve got some cylinder in them so you might get some blurry spots on occasion or some mild headaches trying to compensate for it.” “I don’t care.” He said, “Just being able to see the clock on the wall is a HUGE improvement. Plus these are kind of comfortable. I love the retro 70s octagonal rimless glass lenses! JUST KIDDING!!” he joked. We both had a good laugh on that one. Monday, his contacts finally came in. Both of us were happy about that since now Toby could see properly again. “Just in time for the big game Wednesday” he said when I came home and put the box of new lenses on the table in front of him.
Wednesday evening, I went straight from work to the stadium to go watch Toby play his first game. To my surprise he was the star quarterback. That made me even more proud of him. Star quarterback is quite a distinction. After the game I complimented him on his game and even gave him a few pointers on the way home.
***Flash forward 3 years***
Now Toby was finally in the 10th grade and was about to turn 16 in 7 months. His eyesight had progressively worsened, and now he was up to -10 in both eyes with .5 of cylinder. “Now you’re getting close to what I have to go through” I told him one day. “Yeah, it kind of sucks getting up in the morning and not being able to see the clock to see what time it is,” he replied. “I’m gonna go take a shower” he said. About 5 minutes later, he came back to the kitchen with just a towel wrapped around his waist. He didn’t have his glasses on either so I took the opportunity to look at him. He had continued his quick maturing and now he had above average hairy legs, hairy arms, and a very nice happy trail. He was also getting a noticeably hairy chest and he was only 15!!!! “What’s up son?” I asked. “The water just went out,” he said. I walked over to the sink to confirm, and sure enough the water was off. “I’ll call the utility,” I said. “For the time being, there’s a bottle of water under the cabinet in my bathroom. Go grab it and rinse the suds off” I told him. After I called the utility, I found out that a backhoe on the next street accidentally ripped through the water main and cut off water to our entire side of town.
Lately Toby had been complaining about his eyes bothering him and his contacts irritating his eyes. I called the optometrist and set up an appointment for him to be examined. That evening I told Toby about it and said, “by the way, I’m selling the old truck.” “But I wanted that to drive to school when I get my license” he complained. “I just don’t trust it enough for you to drive that old clunker around. When I get some more money, I’ll help you buy a car of your own.” I told him. What I didn’t tell him what that the reason I was getting rid of the truck was to get him a car for his birthday in a few months. I found an old Mazda RX-7 downtown that needed some fixing up so I was selling the truck to get enough money to give it a paint job and an engine overhaul. I was going to keep it in a storage locker until his birthday. He knew none of this and I figured he would be pretty happy when I presented him with the car.
Since Toby was 15, I was putting him through Driver’s Ed and in the evenings I would take him out driving to give him practice. He always drove with his contacts in, so one day I said to him, go take your contacts out and put your glasses on and come out to the truck. “What for” he asked. “Just go do it. I’m going to teach you something.” I replied. He went inside and changed into glasses and came back out. “Now take the wheel and start driving” I told him. “Wow, things seem different with my glasses on” he said. “They certainly do.” I replied, “Distances are different, proportions are different, signs are smaller, and your reaction times are different. This driving lesson is all about how to drive with your glasses. After you’ve done it a couple times, you won’t even think about it anymore. It’ll just come natural to you,” I told him. I also had a feeling that the optometrist was going to tell Toby that he couldn’t wear contacts anymore when he went in for his checkup.
Sure enough, the result of the checkup was that Toby couldn’t wear contacts anymore. “You’ve got calluses under your eyelids where the contacts have been rubbing for so many years” the optometrist said, “This is a pretty common occurrence in a lot of people who have fairly dry eyes or have an allergy to something in the lenses. Stop wearing the contacts or you might cause yourself to have some serious damage in the future.” Toby was not happy to hear this news at all. He had grown attached to his contacts and didn’t like glasses much anymore because of the distortion he was noticing with his high prescription. “One consolation I can offer you Toby is that now that you aren’t wearing contacts anymore, I can get you a good pair of high index stylish glasses if you choose to.” I told him. “But what about football?” he whined. “Well that’s what Rec-Spex are for” I said. “Those nerdy goggle things? Oh hell noÉ” he bickered. “Suit yourself” I told him.
Toby picked out a nice black plastic frame, and I had it filled with the highest index material the optometrist’s office offered. Later that day I was off to work. This was to be the worst day in my life for many years to come. When I got out to the job site, I had to stop to open a gate. When I got to the oil pump, I had to walk a ways over to the switch box to turn it all off. When I turned around there were a bunch of Mexican gang members surrounding the truck and headed towards me. One of them picked up a handful of sand and threw it in my face. “OH MY GOD MY EYES” I screamed out in pain and hurriedly started pawing trying to get my contacts out. I was in some severe pain and my eyes were watering all over my chin and shirt. I finally got the contacts out and put them in my hand, when suddenly my hand was kicked and the contacts went flying. “God damn Gringo” one of them yelled at me. I heard the engine on the truck start up and then I heard rocks being flung out from under the tires as they peeled out and tore down the road. “Well fuck,” I thought to myself. “I am totally fucked,” I said out loud. Only then did the gravity of the situation set in. I was about 20 miles down a dirt road on a person’s ranch out in the middle of nowhere. And I was BLIND. No contacts and no glasses. And the worst part was that when I got home, there would be none there either, since I kept re-using my frames, and the contacts I had were out in the field somewhere. Now my glasses were in the glove box of my stolen truck and I was left to find my way back into town without being able to see anything. I decided to just start walking down the road. After about 3 hours of walking, I was hot and took my shirt off and tied it around my hips. Only then did I realize that I still had my Cell phone. I screwed up my face and held it up to my nose to try to see if I had signal. To my horror, there was no signal, and there was a low battery warning on the screen. “Well FUCK!” I thought as I turned off the phone to save the battery until I could use it.
About 5 hours later, I finally got out to the highway. I decided to take a seat next to a row of mailboxes and wait for a truck to come by to get a ride back into the nearest town. No such luck. I sat at that damn mailbox row until the next day when the mail jeep showed up. When he showed up, I blindly looked into the jeep and begged for a ride back into town. “Well normally I would say no, but you look like you’ve been through a lot” the mailman said to me. “You’ll have to ride with me for the rest of the route though if that’s not a problem.” “Problem?” I asked, “You’re my only solution.” After what seemed weeks, we finally started cruising back into the nearest town. “What town is this?” I asked, “I can’t read the population sign.” “This is McAllen,” he told me. “Great!” I thought to myself. I powered up the cell phone and called Toby. “Get the old truck out and drive down here to McAllen and pick me up” I told him when he answered the phone. “I don’t have a license yet,” he said. “You want me to drive anyway?” “Get in the damn truck and get your ass down here” I said to him grouchily. “I was mugged, I have no contacts, and my glasses are in the glove box of a stolen company truck” I bitched into the phone. “Oh my god!” he exclaimed; “are you alright?” “I’m fine, just REALLY headachy. Bring the Excedrin when you come. I’m at the Holiday Inn on I-37. Put a hustle on that.” “I’ll be there shortly Dad. Just hang on,” he said.
Finally after what seemed like years, I felt someone tapping on my naked shoulder. It was Toby. I just stood up and gave him a big bear hug and started crying. “It’s OK,” he said. “You’re safe now. Let’s go home.” “I agree,” I said and off we went. The first thing I did when I got back to the house was shove my face in my paperwork and call INS on the gang that mugged me and stole the truck. Then I strained to find my boss’s home number, but my eyes were giving out on me. “Toby, come in here and help me,” I yelled. “Whatcha want?” he asked casually. “Find my boss’s home phone. I can’t see it.” I said. He found the number and dialed it in the phone for me. When I told my boss what happened, he said he figured something had happened. He said he sent out another crewman to check on me, but apparently he went to the wrong well and never saw me. “Anyway, you need to put out an APB on my truck, and I won’t be in to work for a few days until I can get a pair of glasses so I can see again.” I told him. Toby went down to the optometrist’s office to pick up his new glasses, and when he came back said to me, “You did it for me, and I’m doing it for you. Here’s my old glasses. They’re only -10, but they should help you out until you get yours remade.” I hugged him and threw them on. They made things a lot less blurry, but still being about -4 under-corrected, I still couldn’t see very well. However, it was a huge improvement over not having correction at all.
***Flash Forward 2 Years***
Toby graduated Salutatorian of his high school class. His lifelong ambition was to become an ophthalmologist. He was admitted into Rice University where he is now studying Ophthalmology. He graduates in 2008 with a Ph.D. in Medicine with an emphasis in Ophthalmology. I am very proud of him. I myself finally convinced my boss to allow me to wear glasses at work again. At first they all made fun of me, but once they realized I could do my job just as well with them as with the contacts I had to battle with before, they lightened up. Toby finally got the RX-7 on his 16th birthday. I gave him a card with a keycard in it for the storage barn where it was being stored. When he came back home driving his “new” RX-7 with a fresh cherry red paint job he was just ecstatic. He couldn’t stop oodling over it for days and days. I’d never seen him so happy except for when he first got his glasses back when he was 5 years old. I finally got a promotion again at work and now I am Vice President of the service branch of Texaco. I still live in my 2 bedroom house in Edinburgh, and occasionally go up to Houston to go see Toby. He and I still keep in constant contact just like his father and I used to. Looking back on it, I am deeply saddened that Jason had to die, but at the same time, he lives on strongly in his son Toby. To make a long story short, everyone is happy and things are looking up for the Lowe family.