Abstaining did not help
I sat in the passenger seat of the car with a lot of hesitation. Jan, my older sister was about to get behind the wheel, and riding with Jan was a little like taking your life in your hands. Her glasses, which she had reluctantly gotten when she was 16 only because she couldn’t pass the vision exam at the DMV, laid open on the dash, and a few years of sitting in the sun had warped the frames enough so that when she put them on they sat crooked on her face.
When I was 8, I had noticed that there were things in the distance I couldn’t see as clearly as my friends could. So, I told Mom, and she made an appointment with an optometrist.
Apparently I was quite nearsighted, and would need to wear glasses at least for school, and watching television. When I first got my new glasses they made such a difference that I was soon wearing them all the time. I hated it when I took them off and everything more than a few feet away developed fuzzy edges, so I left them on. I was the first girl in my class at school who needed glasses, but after some of my friends tried them on I knew I wasn’t going to be the only one for long.
I had been wearing glasses for about 6 months when I noticed that my glasses didn’t seem to help as much as they had when I first got them. So, I mentioned this to my Mom, and we went back to see the optometrist, who had told Mom that this would likely happen. It was cheaper to buy a whole new frame and lens combination than it would have been to get new lenses put in my old glasses, and that was what we did. I was very happy to again be able to see as clearly as I had when I got my first glasses. The eye doctor told my Mom that my new prescription was double that of my original one, and after I got my newest glasses I could see that it was now really impossible for me to go without them.
I didn’t think there was anything unusual, or wrong about me wearing my glasses. Actually I thought it was wonderful that these 2 little pieces of plastic that I wore in front of my eyes allowed me to see things that everyone else could. But my sister Jan, who was about 14 months older than I was, didn’t think that glasses were so great. She teased me every once in a while about the fact that I was 4 eyed.
By the time I was 10, I needed another change in my prescription. I probably wouldn’t have even asked what my prescription was if the girl at the optical store hadn’t mentioned to my mom that I had a pretty strong prescription for my age. So, I looked at the paper the doctor had given mom, and saw that the numbers on it read -4.50 for each eye. And, when I got my new glasses a couple of days later I noticed that the lenses did stick out behind the wire frame a lot more than my other ones had. My sister made a big fuss about how thick my new glasses were, and of course she had to try them on. My first clue that she might also have bad eyes came that day. When she first put them on she looked around at everything for a while, and then told me that my eyes must be really bad, because she couldn’t see a thing with them. But she had stalled too long while she was looking around, and it made me wonder if she actually could see better with them then without. I felt that if they hadn’t helped her she would have taken them off a lot faster than she did.
Every year after that I seemed to need my prescription increased. By the time I was almost 14 I was looking at the world through lenses that were -10D, and I felt completely helpless if I ever took my glasses off. They were the first thing I put on every morning, and they only left my face when the lights went out at night. I even reached for them and put them on if I made a trip to the washroom at night. I couldn’t see well enough to read without them, even though I did pull my reading material closer to my face than my teachers and my parents thought I should need to when I was wearing them. If I tried to read without them I almost had to bring everything right up to the tip of my nose, and this was very uncomfortable. Because my parents had to buy me new glasses every year, my mom didn’t want to spend the money for hi index lenses, and my glasses were now so thick I didn’t like wearing them nearly as much as I had before.
By 15, when I had my annual eye exam, I was joined by my sister Jan. Jan was a little past her 16th birthday and she wanted to get her driver’s license. But she failed the eye exam at the DMV, so she was now having her first eye exam. I got my normal -1D increase and went up now to -11D, which was no big surprise to anyone. Mom and I were shocked though to find out that Jan needed a prescription of -6.50D. I couldn’t believe that this could have just happened, and I was sure that she had been walking around half blind for years. I fully expected that as soon as Jan got her glasses she would put them on, and become a full time wearer of glasses.
Jan got her glasses, but the only time I ever saw her wear them was when she got behind the wheel of the car. At first she would carefully remove her glasses from their case, and put them on. And, just a few weeks after I turned 16, and got my beginner’s permit dad bought a new car for himself and mom, so he gave the old car to Jan and I to drive. A couple of weeks after we got the old car she started to carelessly toss her glasses on the dash of the car when she got out.
I knew the signs to watch for. It took about a year of Jan wearing glasses before I would notice her squinting at things like street signs, or informational signs. Jan denied this when I asked her about it. And, over the next 4 years I could tell that her eyesight was getting worse and worse. But still, her glasses came off as soon as the car stopped rolling. Once she took off her glasses she no longer squinted, not because she could now see, but because she saw so poorly that there was no use in squinting.
I couldn’t understand this. I hated it if my eyes got even a tiny bit worse, and as soon as I noticed that things were slightly blurry in the distance to me, I was off to see the eye doctor to get a new, stronger prescription. And, unfortunately the trips to see my eye doctor had gotten more frequent since I turned 15. There were a couple of years, one being the year that I was 17, and the other the year I was 18, where I needed 3 changes a year. There were no longer any thoughts of getting me the cheaper lenses, and each time I needed a stronger prescription it cost my dad about $350.00 or so for new glasses. By the time I was 19, my prescription was right at -18D, and even with the thinner hi index lenses my lens didn’t quite reach the outer rim of my glasses, but instead had a little flat area along the outer rear edges of the lenses.
I was totally amazed that Jan could find her way around anywhere. I had mentioned this to her best friend Sheila, who told me in confidence that she often had to help Jan with her notes in the lectures at university. Sheila couldn’t understand Jan’s reluctance to wear glasses either, and apparently had done her best to attempt to talk Jan into getting new glasses. We both decided that Jan must have an awfully high tolerance for blur, because we knew that all she could see was a massive blur.
The day I got into the car with Jan I was more than a little worried about her driving. The sun was shining through the front window of the car, and even with my proper correction I was having a hard time making out the color of the lights. As Jan came up to a light that just turned red I saw that she wasn’t going to stop, and I was sure that she hadn’t seen it. At the last minute I screamed, and she managed to brake sharply, and bring the car to a halt just over the line.
“Shit, you didn’t even see that the light had turned red. You could have gotten us killed. I think you had better pull over and let me drive.” I said angrily.
“I could have seen it if the sun wasn’t right in my eyes.” Jan said defensively.
“I doubt it. I am serious about me driving. I am not riding with you any more until you get new glasses.” I said
Jan pulled over to the side where there was room for us to park. We switched sides, and I drove on. Jan was going to drop me off on her way to her destination, but I was serious about not letting her drive, so I drove past my destination and took her to the place where she had to be.
“Call me when you need me to pick you up.” I said.
Later that afternoon my cell rang. It was Jan and she was ready for a ride. I had finished a bit earlier and had been sitting around visiting with friends hoping that Jan would call soon. So I said my goodbye’s and went to pick Jan up. I parked in the area I had told her I would park, and I could see her standing, waiting for me. She wasn’t very far away, but she couldn’t even see the car. So, I got out, slipped around behind her, took her arm and led her towards the car.
“Pretty bad when you can’t even see a car a few feet away.” I said.
“I could have seen you if I had looked that way.” Jan retorted.
“You looked all right. I could see you looking right at me. You just couldn’t see me. What can’t you accept that you are blind as a bat, and need to wear your glasses” I said.
“I don’t want to have to wear glasses that are as thick as yours. When people look at you they know you are blind.” Jan said.
“Well, get contact lenses then. That way no one will be able to see how thick your glasses are.” I answered.
“I tried back when I got my glasses, but the doctor said my eyes were like yours and were too dry for me to be able to wear contacts.” Jan said.
At least that was true. I hadn’t realized that Jan had tried contacts, but I had, and my eyes wouldn’t tolerate them. So, I resigned myself to the wearing of thick glasses. I figured I had no other choice. Jan got in the passenger side, and we drove home. As we turned on our street I heard Jan mumble something.
“What did you say?” I asked.
“Are you going to squeal on me about me almost running a red light?” Jan asked.
“Not if you tell mom and dad tonight at supper that you need to have your eyes checked again.” I answered.
“Well thank goodness for small mercies.” Jan answered sarcastically.
“Wearing glasses won’t kill you, but getting broadsided by another car when you are running a red light will.” I replied.
“I’ll tell mom and dad then. Are you satisfied?” Jan said.
“There is nothing for me to be satisfied about. I accepted many years ago that I needed glasses. I got them, I wore them, and all there years when I was seeing everything clearly you were walking around in a blur. What were you thinking?” I asked.
“I watched you wear your glasses, and your glasses kept getting thicker and thicker. I didn’t want that to happen to me.” Jan replied.
“I think it pretty much did anyway.” I retorted.
With that we drove into the driveway, and I parked the car in its usual spot. We got out and went inside. During supper Jan casually mentioned that she thought she might need new glasses, and dad agreed that it might be a good idea for her to have her eyes checked.
A couple of days later Jan had her eye exam. I was pretty sure her eyes had gotten so bad that she wouldn’t be able to get her new glasses the same day, and I was right. Her prescription was now -12D, and I couldn’t believe that she had been going around without correction. Heck, I couldn’t believe I had been riding in a car with someone who had -5.50D of uncorrected myopia. Her old -6.50D glasses must have been next to useless to her.
When Jan got her new glasses I honestly think that she was going to try to wear them only when she needed them – which to me meant all the time. But it didn’t take any more than a couple of times of trying to whip them off and function bare eyed before her glasses became a permanent fixture on her face.
It didn’t really surprise me much when Jan started complaining that her glasses were no longer strong enough about 6 months later. And another eye exam showed that she was now at -13.50D for her new glasses. She was still a long way away from my -18D prescription, but for the first time in my life I had visited my eye doctor and my prescription had not changed since my last visit. I knew why Jan’s eyes had gotten worse after she started wearing glasses. She was no longer struggling to try to keep things in focus, so her eye muscles had relaxed. And I wasn’t going to be surprised if Jan went through a couple more prescription changes. She likely wasn’t going to ever catch up with me, but I was pretty sure her eyes would take a while longer to stabilize.
It turned out I was correct. During the year Jan was at teacher’s college her prescription jumped another -1.50D. And the following year, her first year of teaching, saw another -1.00D increase in her glasses prescription. My prescription had stayed the same as it had been when I was 19. Now at age 22, I was experiencing a little bit of blur at distance, and my own eye exam that year saw me get a slight increase to -18.50D. Now if you looked at Jan, and looked at me, our glasses looked to be almost the same strength. Unless you knew exactly what to look for you really couldn’t tell that my lenses had another -2.50D of prescription power in them.
I hadn’t wanted to become a teacher like Jan. So I looked around at a number of different careers. I liked the outdoors, but a lot of the jobs that would put me out in the field were not available to me because of my poor uncorrected eyesight. Airline stewardesses could wear glasses, but not when they were as strong as mine needed to be. Police officers were the same. So, it was with great reluctance that I followed Jan into the teaching profession. I thought about becoming a lawyer, but I realized that lawyers spent a lot of hours pouring over law books looking for precedents. So, I didn’t want to take the chance that my eyes would not be able to stand up to the task.
Now Jan and I are both teachers. We have both married, and have started families of our own. My husband and I were over at Jan’s place for dinner last weekend, and Jan’s oldest girl, Emily was wearing glasses. Emily is only 5, and I was a little surprised to see her with her glasses on, as they looked to be a fairly weak prescription.
“I see Emily is wearing glasses now Jan.” I said as we washed the dishes together after dinner.
“Yes, we had her eyes tested before she went into first grade, and she needed a low prescription of only -1D to give her 20/20 vision.” Jan replied.
“What happened to your theory that wearing glasses only makes your eyes get worse?” I asked.
“I don’t know if that is actually true or not. As you know, I refused to wear glasses all through school, and now my prescription is almost exactly the same as yours.” Jan said.
“What – you are almost -19D?” I asked.
“Actually I am over -19D. I think I am around -19.50 according to my last prescription.” Jan answered.
“So, for over 10 years you walked around in a fuzzy world, not being able to see a thing more than a few feet in front of you because you refused to wear glasses in case wearing glasses made your eyes worse. And now your eyes are just a little worse than mine anyway. I guess abstaining from the wearing of glasses didn’t help much did it?” I replied.