Savannah’s Brother

by Dieter

She was explaining the reason they had been out after school to my father. On their way home, as revealed by the pleasant aroma, they had stopped for Chinese carry-out. It was my brother’s favorite food. I could take it or leave it but the gist of the moment was fairly obvious. My brother either had cause for a celebration or a need for solace. Once I stepped into the kitchen, I could better grasp the circumstances. The moment I heard my mother’s questions, I began to laugh.

“What do you think of Jaxon’s glasses? Doesn’t he look distinguished?”

“He looks like a dork,” I teased.

“Savannah, stop it!” my mom commanded irritably. “How would you like it if the shoe was on the other foot? I bet you wouldn’t be laughing then.”

“Yeah, that’s enough, Savannah,” my dad insisted calmly.

My brother was so gob-smacked that he didn’t even take up for himself. Honestly, if he looked so distinguished, then why had mom inferred that it would be so awful if it was me that had to wear glasses? Yeah, it was awful for him. But I couldn’t wipe the devious smile from my face. It was my first chance to assert superiority on my over-controlling brother. He had always been the one in charge. Even as small children, we played what he wanted to play. We did what he wanted to do. I was just his little sister. If I wanted to participate in whatever activity he planned, then great. Otherwise, I could go do something by myself. Now that he was in the tenth grade he had begun to assert control over my friends. When it suited him, he thought we ninth graders should be available for his beckoning call. Some of my girlfriends actually thought he was cute. That made it even worse. I really hated it when they would rather cling to him than do things with me.

My taunting, however, was probably too close to home for my parents since both of them wear glasses. But, I continued to smile while listening to the dinner conversation. Witnessing the deflation of my brother’s ego was too much fun. My dad was trying to probe deeper into the situation.

“So what did the doctor say, Jaxon?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Just a bunch of stuff I didn’t understand.”

“Well, you need to take more interest. They’re your eyes, your eyesight won’t magically fix itself, and there’s nothing simple about glasses.”

“I guess,” Jaxon muttered.

“Dr. Williams said that he is nearsighted like me, rather significantly in fact,” my mom intervened. “Enough so that the doctor wants Jaxon to wear his glasses full time.”

“I’m not doing that. I don’t care what the doctor says,” Jaxon interrupted angrily.

The discussion continued in the same direction until everyone left the table. As soon as he could, Jaxon left the house. I presumed he either went to sulk by himself or search for comfort from some of his friends. My parents knew enough to give him space and allow him to have time to work things out on his own. Being the good daughter that I am, I stayed behind to help clear the table and load the dishwasher.

“You know you’re not helping by teasing your brother,” my mom rebuked.

“Of course I know that but if you knew half the things he’s done to me in just that past week . . .” I retorted without knowing how to finish.

“Well, I just hope it doesn’t backfire on you, Savannah.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’ve scheduled an examination for you with the optometrist tomorrow after school.”

“Why mom? I’m not having any trouble with my eyes.”

“Jaxon didn’t know he had a problem either until he failed the vision test for driver’s ed. I thought it would be a good idea to check the health of your eyes, too. You’ve never had an eye exam before. Did you know that, statistically, one in four kids in school have an undetected vision problem? In your case, I don’t want to be responsible for that. Besides, having an eye exam is really no big deal.”

She was right. It was no big deal, especially when there is nothing wrong. Unlike Jaxon, I had perfect vision. I had known since sometime last summer that he could not see very well anymore. There were several times when we had been swimming that it had been obvious. I could hide from him at will because he couldn’t find me across the pool. He had trouble playing baseball, too, particularly when he was batting. You could see him squint. No one seemed to notice but me. But, I knew his days were numbered. A part of me felt sorry for the anguish my brother was having, but then again, not too sorry. If it pleased mom, an examination couldn’t hurt me.

After grabbing a magazine, I opened the screen door and wandered into the back yard. Sitting on a chair in our garden patio behind the garage, I tried to read. It wasn’t long before I tired of that. I just didn’t enjoy reading anymore. As I laid the magazine down on the table, I spotted Jaxon’s glasses. That bonehead had purposely left them behind! If mom and dad only knew they’d be so angry with him. Besides, he had missed a golden opportunity to show the glasses to his buddies. In my opinion, it would be much easier to be discovered by a few close friends and neighbors than to be revealed to the entire school body tomorrow.

I reached for his glasses and put them on. Suddenly, I understood why he didn’t like wearing them. How could he possibly see with them? His eyes are much worse than I thought. Jaxon must be blind! Safely in that secluded spot in the backyard, I tried to keep them on for a while. Though it felt funny to be wearing his glasses, I was curious how I looked. But, it didn’t matter because I couldn’t see with them anyway. Well that was fine with me. I was happy to confirm that I didn’t need glasses. As it was getting dark, I left Jaxon’s glasses where I found them and went inside. It was time to stir up some trouble. First, I called Sindy. She had been hot on Jaxon’s trail since the school year started.

“Sup, Savannah?”

“Guess who got glasses?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Who?”

“My brother, Jaxon.”

“Really? I bet he looks cute. I can’t wait to see him tomorrow.”

Needless to say, that didn’t go as I’d planned. So next I called Daphne. She’s the biggest gossip in the ninth grade. I knew she would join my cause.

“Daphne, guess who got glasses?”

“Shut up! When did you get glasses, Savannah?”

“No! Not me. My brother did.”

“Really, Jaxon has glasses now? Oh, that’s too funny. I can’t wait to tease him tomorrow.”

Perfect. That’s the reaction I was looking for. By morning, everyone would know. I couldn’t wait to see Jaxon squirm.

 

Wearing his glasses, Jaxon stood quietly waiting for the school bus to arrive. He had been told that my mom would notify school officials of his new state of affairs. He knew that his efforts to defy his fate were futile. It was best for him to choose to use his glasses on his own and accept attention on his terms. As we’d seen before, teachers could cause excruciating embarrassment by focusing attention on a new wearer. In anticipation, I knew to keep my mouth shut. There would be enough excitement soon without me being the one to instigate it. My prospects for revenge were outstanding.

As we boarded the bus, the younger children noticed Jaxon but knew better than to make comments. We traveled a few miles before someone embarked that had no fear of my brother.

“Nice specs Jaxon,” one of his baseball teammates said derisively. “You look like a chemist.”

Others joined in laughter but Jaxon wasn’t amused. He simply scowled. I quietly snickered. At school, we went our separate ways. It wasn’t until lunch that I even thought about my brother again. After sitting at a table with my girl friends, the talk began.

“I can’t believe your brother needs glasses,” said Dorothy. “He’s always seemed like such a jock to me. Not the kind of guy to wear glasses.”

“Yeah, it was such a surprise to see him in them this morning,” added Martha.

“Not to me,” replied Janet. “Daphne called me last night. I was watching out for Jaxon. I couldn’t wait to rag on him when I got the chance.”

“I think he looks gorgeous,” said Sindy. “Sexy, spexy, Jaxy.”

“Oh, gawd,” retorted Dorothy sarcastically.

Sindy failed to notice the remark though as she exclaimed enthusiastically, “There he is!”

She jumped from her chair with her tray of half-eaten lunch and hurried towards Jaxon who had just entered the cafeteria.

“I love your glasses, Jaxon. You look really handsome.”

He stopped dead in his tracks and returned a relaxed smile. I swear that Sindy was batting her eyes. What did she see in my brother? And he was sopping up her attention. Out of earshot, the two of them stood in quiet conversation for several minutes.

“She only likes him wearing glasses because she has bad eyesight herself,” Janet declared maliciously. “It makes her feel less broken.”

“I didn’t know that,” I said, surprised.

“Oh, yeah,” added Martha, “she got glasses in, like, the first grade. She switched to contacts just last summer.”

Finally, Jaxon got in the food line while Sindy found a couple of chairs at a vacant table and waited for him. They were still together when I left. I wanted to yell, ‘Get a room!’ But as I left the cafeteria, I began to have a change of heart. The conversation with Dorothy, Martha, and Janet showed me just how cruel people could be at someone else’s expense. There wasn’t any reason for anyone to be mean. Neither Sindy nor Jaxon could control what had happened to them. I realized the other girls were simply jealous of Sindy because she had used her positive assets to show interest and attract the attention of my brother.

After school, my mom was leaning against her car waiting in the parking lot. She waved at me before I could get on the school bus. I had completely forgotten about my eye examination. During the ride there, she continually rattled on in conversation. Nervously, I occasionally responded but I can’t remember anything she said. I was much too worried about what an eye doctor does in an exam. Does it hurt? Is it anything like going to the dentist? He’s always sticking me with needles and picks or scraping my teeth. I hoped the eye doctor wouldn’t stick me with things. I heard for a fact that they put drops in your eyes. I hate to have anything in my eyes. I’m not even sure if I’m going to ever be able to deal with mascara.

The wait in the reception area was dreadful. Hundreds of eyeglasses were hung by category on the walls. Lenses were displayed to demonstrate tints, coatings, and amazing thinness. Large glass cabinets had specially arranged designer glasses shown as though they were expensive jewelry. There were photos of people wearing glasses. There were posters of models using provocative poses to look sexy with glasses. It seemed so blatant like it was more fashionable than medical. ‘Yeah,’ I thought sarcastically, ‘like this stuff would make me wish I could get glasses’. Worst of all, most of the people waiting were already wearing glasses. It was humiliating to even be there. I was embarrassed because I felt certain that everyone else thought that I needed glasses, too. I mean, why else would someone be there? Well, except for me. Why had mom made me do this?

If the wait seemed horrid to me, imagine how unbearable it must have been for my brother. With the way he had been struggling to see, he had to know he would be getting glasses. When my name was finally called, I got up from my chair but my mom stayed behind.

“You’ll be fine, honey,” she assured me, “they’ll let me know if there is anything wrong.”

As I was seated in a large swivel-chair, the optical assistant turned off the lights to the room, flipped another switch, and then said cheerfully, “Savannah, please read the letters projected on the far wall if you can.”

“D, E, F, P, O, T, C,” I replied rapidly without hesitation.

“Very good,” she sang. “You have no problem seeing the 20/20 line. Doctor Williams will be with you in just a few minutes.”

I exhaled with relief since no one had jabbed me with anything sharp, so far. In the darkened room I waited, nervously. It seemed to take forever. Was the doctor really so busy? Didn’t he know I had better things to do? When the door finally opened, an attractive young woman entered. Petite, athletically fit, and with short blonde hair, she was wearing very stylish glasses that were a two-tone black and powder blue. They were very striking as was she. A strange thought occurred to me. If I had to wear glasses, that’s the way I would want to look. She seemed confident and strong. I noticed her lenses looked similar to the ones in Jaxon’s glasses except that for some reason they appeared to be much stronger. I didn’t know why. Until the previous day, I had never had an awareness of lenses in glasses. They had just been . . . . . clear.

“Hello, Savannah. I’m Dr. Williams,” she said while looking at her clipboard. “So you had no trouble reading the letters on the wall?” she asked with the inflection of a statement. “Let me take a look inside your eyes. Focus on one of the letters over my shoulder, please.”

She pushed her glasses on top of her head. Using a small instrument with a sight, I could see her eye until she moved too closely. She stopped just short of touching me but by then the bright light of the instrument was blinding. I could feel her breathe while she searched methodically inside my eye. My family doctor had done something similar before, but Dr. Williams seemed to be working with more perception and concentration. Initially, it was uncomfortable to have someone nearly touching my eye in such close confines but I soon relaxed as I began to feel confident in her competence. When she finally moved to my other eye, my first eye felt sightless from the intensity of the light.

“Hmmm,” she said after finishing with my second eye. Her utterance startled me and I became concerned with her recognition of something amiss. My fear of being poked with something sharp had returned. Flipping a switch that focused a light over my shoulder and onto my lap, she held a small card about twelve inches in front of my face.

“Savannah, can you read this to me?”

I tried to back my head up, but the headrest in the chair stopped me.

“No, you’re holding it too close,” I said.

“How about here?” she asked while moving the card to about eighteen inches.

I am glad that you can see the words,” I read. “It’s still too close for me to read the rest,” I reported. I could only tell that the letters of each sentence were progressively smaller.

“Can you read the next line now?” Dr. Williams urged as she moved the card to about twenty-four inches.

The old car drove the long road in the dark.” With squinted eyes and a furrowed brow, I continued, “The fish jumped from the boat into the lake. The . . . toys . . . donut . . . that’s all I can read,” I conceded. “The rest is too far away, now.”

The boys do not want to leave their parents,” she finished. “They are silly little sentences, aren’t they? But you managed three of them. You have good accommodation, Savannah, but I’m not surprised you couldn’t read farther. Relax a minute and tilt your head back.”

From a small bottle, she squeezed a few drops into each eye. I flinched from their coldness.

Handing me a tissue, she said “Close your eyes for a few minutes while that begins to work. I’m going to go get your mother.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. She just told me I had something good. Why did she need to get my mother? And why did she know I wouldn’t be able to read the card?

When Dr. Williams returned, she asked my mom to have a seat. She pulled a large apparatus in front of my face and told me to rest my chin on it. Dr. Williams adjusted the two halves of the instrument so that small windows were positioned in front of my eyes. Using her bright light, she began looking inside of my eyes again. This time she was changing something that moved in front of my eyes. After a minute or two, I realized she was moving different lenses that were being focused through my pupils. She was fitting me for glasses! How could I need glasses if I had perfect 20/20 vision?

With a lump in my throat, my heart began to pound. As she finished, Dr. Williams said, “Focus on the letters on the wall again, Savannah. Can you read them clearly?”

“No, they are fuzzy now.”

She changed the line to larger letters. “How about now?” she asked.

“Sort of but they are still fuzzy.”

“Once more,” she asked.

“P, E, C, F, D,” I read slowly.

“Good, you can see the 20/40 line. That’s fine for now. Your vision will get sharper soon. Now read the card, Savannah.”

As I clearly read the sentences aloud, Dr. Williams moved the card closer. The letters never went out of focus.

“As I was telling your mother, you are hyperopic or more commonly known as long-sighted. Have you noticed recurring headaches or been struggling to read?”

“No,” I shrugged my shoulders.

My mom interrupted saying, “That’s because she never reads anymore. Savannah used to read books and magazines all the time.”

Mom was right but I hadn’t acknowledged that until that moment.

“You need glasses to correct your vision,” Dr. Williams said in no uncertain terms.

Those were the dreaded words I had neither expected nor wanted to hear.

“So, I need glasses to read?” I hoped.

“You need glasses to see everything, Savannah.”

“I don’t understand. I read the 20/20 line on the wall better without the lenses than with,” I protested, “and I couldn’t see a thing when I tried using my brother’s glasses, yesterday.”

“Your brother is nearsighted, as is your mom, as am I,” Dr. Williams responded.

“You’re farsighted like your father, Savannah,” my mom interjected.

“The lenses in our glasses would only multiply your problem,” Dr. Williams added. “Your glasses will have different lenses. While using them, as your eyes relax to see, your vision in the distance will improve. Within a few weeks, you should be able to see well at every distance. However, the prescription I’m giving you is a starting point. I need you to return in about six months. We will adjust your prescription after your eyes relax fully. If you become aware of problems earlier, call for an appointment.”

My mom continued in conversation with Dr. Williams for several minutes. I think she wanted clarification on some issues since she seemed unfamiliar about dealing with visual maladies of the sort that I purportedly had. My hearing had completely shut down. I hoped I didn’t need hearing aids, too. For the moment, I could only deal with one problem and that was about me wearing glasses. I had walked into the examination with no regards for any vision problems completely under the guise that my eyesight was perfect. How could this be happening to me? My mom would make sure that I, too, would wear glasses. Just like she threatened to do to my brother, she would notify school officials and follow up. And just as my brother had done, there would be no recourse other than to comply.

When I reentered the waiting area, I winced from the brightness of the sunlight shining through the windows. Covering my eyes, an assistant asked the receptionist for sunglasses, and then forwarded them to me.

“Your eyes have been dilated. You’ll need these until your pupils are back to normal,” she said.

“Thanks. My very own cardboard sunglasses so everyone knows I need glasses, gee,” I grumbled facetiously.

I reached for the door to leave the waiting room when I heard my mom, “Savannah, don’t leave yet. We have to choose your glasses.”

“Right now?” I whined.

“Sure, there’s still time. They can have them finished in about an hour.”

‘Don’t do me any favors’, I thought. I would just as soon they forget to make them altogether. After hearing my mom, I felt certain that everyone else in the waiting room heard that I needed glasses, too. I wanted to turn to them and announce, ‘Yes, you were right. I’m here like everyone else because I need glasses.’ Instead, I turned and followed my mom to the wall and began searching through the selection of frames.

“Is there any style or colors you prefer?” she asked.

“Mom, I’ve never thought about wearing glasses before. I really have no idea.”

“Have you ever seen something you liked on one of your friends?”

“I did like the glasses that Dr. Williams was wearing,” I remembered.

“Ladies, may I help you with something today?” a young man asked.

‘Yeah, could you get me a new pair of eyes,’ I thought, ‘preferably ones that don’t need glasses.’

“Yes,” my mom answered, “the frames that Dr. Williams is wearing, are they available?”

“They are,” he replied while leading us to a display case. “They just arrived last week. Dr. Williams had hers made up the very first day.”

Retrieving them from the display, he handed the glasses to me to try. Containing lenses with a logo, the plastic frames looked expensive and trendy. But when I placed the frames on my face, my eyes were annoyed by trying to see around the logos. The frames were ill-fitting, felt crooked, and were terribly uncomfortable. Wearing glasses was going to be just awful.

“Those look precious on you, Savannah,” mom said.

“They do look rather perfect,” the optician agreed with a nod.

Looking into a mirror, I was pleasantly surprised. I did look sort of good. I felt kind of sassy and hip. Then a strange thought reoccurred to me. I had said that this is the way I wanted to look if I had to wear glasses. Did I really mean that? Perhaps wearing glasses will make me seem confident and strong.

“The boys at school won’t be able to take their eyes off of you,” the optician added.

“That’s not exactly what a mother wants to hear, young man,” my mom reprimanded.

“It’s what I want to hear!” I replied impertinently.

The optician seated me, began taking measurements, and asked some questions. My mom answered most everything. With phrases such as high index, aspheric lenses, transitional tints, scratch resistant, and UV coated, though not entirely new to me, I had no idea of their prices and whether I could afford them. When he concluded, the optician told us to come back in an hour and my glasses should be ready. We went for ice cream a few doors down the street. Wearing my trendsetting new sunglasses, I couldn’t help but feel that I was enjoying a last meal of sorts. When we finished with ice cream, my fate would be sealed.

After returning, the cute optician placed my glasses on my face with both of his hands and felt behind my ears for fit, before leaving to make adjustments. He touched my ears with his finger tips while holding my cheeks with his thumbs. Each time he repeated the process, I felt pleasant chills up and down my neck. He could do that all day for all I cared. When he finished, I took a walk across the room and looked into a full length mirror. As I approached it, I liked the image of myself. I was thinking that I might have found a rather stylish accessory until I got close enough to see my eyes. They didn’t look anything like Jaxon’s. Through the lenses in my glasses, they were slightly enlarged. I was google-eyed!

Worse than that, to go outside, I had to wear the cardboard sunglasses over my new glasses. At least no one could see my googled-eyes. When we got to the car, I couldn’t take it any longer. The stresses of the last few hours had been unexpected and the abrupt changes in my life were too much. Before mom could even back out from the parking space, I quietly began to sob. She immediately stopped and put the car back in ‘park’.

“Savannah, it won’t be so bad. They’re just glasses. Lot’s of people wear them.”

“But I’m only fourteen. Why me? Why now? Boys have just started to notice me. Nobody’s going to like me with big eyes.”

“I know you won’t believe me but I can assure you that it will be alright. I know this from experience. I started wearing glasses at your age, too. I thought it was the end of the world. But I found out that it was only the beginning.”

On the ride home, I wanted to believe my mom. But, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for myself. Even if I didn’t look as awful as I felt, I was struggling to read signs and see things far away. I kept taking my glasses off to compare how much better I could see without them. Well, at least until my mom noticed what I was doing.

“Savannah, your eyes will never get used to your glasses if you keep taking them off. Put them on and leave them.”

My ability to cope was being tested to the extreme. There was one thing I had to admit, however. My capacity to see in close proximity was vastly improved; so much so that I was looking forward to using my glasses to read when I got home. But how long was it going to take before I could see in the distance again? What was it going to be like showing up at school tomorrow? It was I who was gob-smacked now. Then, I realized. The shoe was on the other foot and I didn’t like it one bit. I would have to deal with Jaxon when I got home. He would be ruthless and I deserved it. There was no doubt he owed me. I certainly had done everything I could to make him miserable.

As we pulled into the driveway, I saw the pizza delivery guy talking to my dad on the front porch. He was holding two large boxes. That was fair enough, I guess. It was my turn to be comforted and pizza was my favorite. It was obvious that mom had called home, alerted my dad and brother, and they had made plans accordingly. Jaxon was already setting the table in the dining room. As I removed my new glasses to detach the cardboard sunglasses, I braced myself for his wrath. He turned when he heard me enter the room.

“Well, put them on,” he directed, “let’s see how you look.”

Using both hands, I put my glasses back on and made final adjustments before releasing my fingers. With a smirk, I then held my arms to my sides as if to gesture a ‘ta da’ fanfare. Jaxon studied my face for a few moments while holding his hands to form a movie screen. I pled in my mind ‘Just get it over with. I can deal with whatever smart-ass remarks you have schemed for me.’

“They look good, sis. You look feisty and clever.”

“But?” I said in anticipation.

“No ‘buts’. You really look good in glasses. You’re a full-fledged member of our family, now,” he said with a wink. “We all wear glasses, you know.”

“You don’t think I look bug-eyed with these lenses?” I asked seriously.

“No, I kind of prefer that. Sindy was wearing her glasses after school today. Her lenses are like yours. I told her she should quit using contact lenses. Her glasses look much better. I think she’s considering it.”

My brother is the greatest. Since that day we’ve been best friends. And you know what? Today, he is the CEO and majority stockholder of an agrichemicals company. He built it from startup. That’s right. Jaxon is a chemist. He makes more money than all of the guys combined on his high school baseball team. I know because I’m his manager of marketing.

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