A Myope Goes West

by Specs4ever

When you are a 16-year-old male, you don’t want to listen to anyone, especially not your parents. That was the worst year of my entire life. Stay in school, go to university, join your father at the bank – my life seemed to be all mapped out in front of me. All I wanted to do was quit school, catch a train out west, and be a cowboy. But, I had a minor problem – well, maybe a major problem. Unless it was my younger sister, Ruth, I had never known anyone who wore glasses as strong as the ones I needed to see anything more than a few inches in front of my nose. Our father was nearsighted, but his glasses were not very strong, and he wore them on a little chain that was attached to a pin on his lapel. When he was reading, his glasses went into the top pocket of his suit jacket, and when he needed to see anything in the distance, he would take them out, spread them apart a bit, and perch them on his nose. Our mother also had very poor eyesight, but she was too vain to wear glasses with earpieces that kept the glasses on permanently like my sister and I had to wear. Mother had her glasses on the end of a piece of thin bamboo, and when she needed to see anything clearly, which was more often than she cared to admit, she would unfold the glasses, and hold the lenses in front of her eyes. She also had another pair like fathers, that sat on her nose, and dangled from a pin on her blouse, and she often wore them pinched to her nose when she was out of sight of other than family members.

But, Ruth and I couldn’t hide the fact that we were severely myopic. Ruth was only 14, and her glasses were already a bit stronger than mine, which were around –15 D. We both wore small oval gold frames, with very thin wires that went back, and curled around the back of our ears. Our lenses were glass, and when I cleaned my glasses, I could tell that the front went in as much as the back did. The eye doctor called them biconcave lenses.

At 16, I had gone almost as far in school as I could without going on to university. I had started grade school young, had advanced rapidly, and was going to leave high school within a month – just after I turned 17. I really didn’t want to join father at his bank, but with my poor eyesight, I was pretty well stuck in the city. The few times I had tried to ride a horse, I found that as the horse bounced, so did my glasses, and as I tried to see through the lenses bouncing in front of my eyes, I became quite sick to my stomach. One afternoon, while glancing through the paper, an advertisement caught my eye. “High school graduates wanted to teach school in the new State of Oklahoma.” Well, I was going to graduate shortly, and I wanted to go west, so I answered the ad.

School ended, and I graduated. My father was intent on having me attend university, and I really didn’t have any other option, until the day the letter arrived from the mayor of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The letter advised me that they were offering me a teaching position, to start in the fall session. Against my parent’s protests, I wrote back, accepting the position. Soon I purchased all the clothing and supplies that I thought I would need, and went to my eye doctor for a new pair of glasses. Again, I had a slight increase in my prescription strength, and I was now up to –16 D. So, I purchased a new pair of glasses, and brought my old ones with me so that I would have a spare pair. My parents, and my sister reluctantly saw me off at the station.

I arrived in Independence, Kansas and stayed there for the night. I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep that night, as drunken cowboys were shooting guns off every few minutes. But, I was on the stage to Bartlesville when it left the next morning. When the stage pulled into town, I took my luggage to the hotel, got a room, and then walked to the Mayor’s office. He was pleased to see me, and he took me over to the schoolhouse. Then he took me to meet the widow Bradley, who had agreed to supply me with room and board. My pay wasn’t much, but it did include room and board.

I spent the next few days getting my classroom ready. Was I nervous? You bet I was. It had only been a couple of months since I had been a student, and now I was the teacher. From the looks of it, I had 27 students, starting in grade 1, and going all the way to grade 10. But, I prepared things as best I could.

The first day of school found me walking the dusty trail to the schoolhouse. Children were running past me, so they could play on the swing in the schoolyard for a few minutes before classes started. I reached the door, which was open, and walked inside. There was a young girl who looked to be about 12 or 13, sitting in one of the front desks. She had her face almost completely buried in a book, and she didn’t even bother to look up, when I walked in the door. From my own experiences, as well as from my sister’s, I strongly suspected that this young lady was most likely very nearsighted. I rang the bell, and called the children inside. I introduced myself, and seated the children according to a seating plan I had made up. When it came time to place the young lady who had seated herself in the front desk, one of the other students advised me that Emily couldn’t go anywhere other than the front row, because she couldn’t see. So, I shuffled things a bit, and left Emily where she was.

I spent 2 days watching this young lady. She could see things that were brought very close to her face, but when she looked up to the front of the room, her eyes had a vacant, unfocused look. By the end of the second day, I resolved that I was going to bring my spare glasses to school and let her try them, to find out if she could see any better. So, on the third morning, I arrived at school with my spare glasses. Emily was again seated at her desk, and as usual had her nose completely buried in her book. I went over, and sat in the desk next to her.

“Emily”, I said, “I think that you have a vision problem similar to mine. So, I have brought a pair of my glasses for you to try on, to see if they will help you see.”

She looked up at me, squinting her eyes almost shut, and allowed me to place my old glasses on her nose. As soon as the glasses came close enough to her eyes that she was able to see through the lenses, I saw her eyes light up. I was right. My old glasses helped. I had written some letters on the board in front of us. I had made a large A, and then below it, in smaller letters, I had written BC. Below the BC, I wrote, in even smaller letters, DEF, and on the fourth line, in even smaller letters, I wrote, GHIJK. This would be close enough to an eye chart to enable me to figure out how well she could now see. With the glasses pressed tightly to the bridge of her nose, she could read the BC, but no further. I took off my new glasses, and put them on her and I put on the spare pair. Now, I could barely read the DEF. But, even with my stronger glasses, Emily could also read no further than the DEF. She did not want to give me back my new glasses, but finally, reluctantly, and only after I told her that she could wear my old glasses until we got her some proper glasses, she returned them to me. For the rest of the day Emily wore my old glasses, and it was amazing to see the change in her.

That afternoon, after school was dismissed, I went to the telegraph office, and sent Ruth a wire, telling her about Emily and asking her to send me her old glasses with her last prescription. Later that evening, while sitting with the widow Bradley, enjoying a cup of tea, a knock came at the door. I went to the door, and Emily was there, accompanied by a Native American lady that I took to be her mother, and a rough and tough looking cowboy. They introduced themselves, and thanked me for letting Emily have my old glasses. They had thought that Emily was blind, as she had been taken ill with a very serious fever when she was quite young, and had not been able to see anything after she recovered. And the doctor had told them that there was nothing that could be done about her eyesight.

I didn’t tell Emily, or her parents that I had asked my sister to donate her old glasses to Emily, and when the package from Ruth arrived, I opened it, took out Ruth’s old glasses, and asked Emily if she would try them on. Her eyesight must have been quite similar to Ruthie’s, as she was very happy when she put them on, and she could see far better with Ruthie’s glasses than she could with even my newest glasses.

Emily turned 14 before the end of that school year. I went back to New York, during the summer to visit my parents, and my sister, and I told them of the fantastically beautiful, extremely smart, half-breed young lady that Ruth’s old eyeglasses had helped so much. Ruth accused me of falling in love with Emily, which of course I denied. After all I was 18, and Emily was only 14, and was a student. I would have lost my job, if I had taken a romantic interest in an under aged student. When I returned to Oklahoma in late August for my second year of teaching, I had another new pair of glasses for myself, as well as a stronger pair of Ruth’s old glasses for Emily in the event that she too needed stronger glasses.

When school started again, and I saw Emily for the first time since the spring, I was amazed at how much she had blossomed. She was gorgeous as a child, but she was now beginning to look like a beautiful young woman. She was about 5’ 4”, had light brown skin that was very smooth, black hair, and black eyes, and full breasts. She smiled at me warmly when she saw me coming through the door. I let her try the pair of glasses that Ruth had sent with me, and was not surprised to find that Emily felt that she saw much better with these glasses than she did with the previous pair.

Since Emily had gotten glasses, she had gone from a grade five level all the way up to a grade 8 level in only 2 school years. She was now helping me teach the younger children to read and write, and was very good at it herself. I had decided to stay in Bartlesville that summer, but I knew I required another eye exam. So, I arranged to take Emily with me to Oklahoma City, so that we could both have proper eye examinations done. Either Emily’s eyes had gotten much worse over the past year, or else Ruth’s glasses had not been strong enough, because Emily required a very strong prescription. She was now needing –19D lenses, so I ordered her a new pair of glasses in her proper prescription. I too required new glasses, and I was now wearing –17.50 D lenses for my new prescription. The following year saw Emily complete both grades 9 and 10. She turned 16 that year, and I was totally and helplessly in love with her. I knew that if I wanted to marry her, her parents would likely approve, but the townsfolk would burn me at the stake. So, I applied for a teaching position in Tulsa. With my four years of teaching experience in Bartlesville, I had no problem getting the job. Once I got my letter of approval, I asked Emily to marry me, and she immediately accepted. So, I went to her parents and asked their permission. They readily gave it, so we were married in the church in Bartlesville. The pastor wasn’t too happy to marry a former schoolteacher, and his former pupil, who also happened to be of Native American decent, but he finally agreed, and we had a nice, small wedding. My parents came out from New York, along with Ruth and her boyfriend. It was great to see Ruthie again, and to have Ruth and Emily finally meet, but I was sorry to see that Ruthie’s eyes had gotten so much worse. She was wearing new glasses, and they had weird little lenses in the center of a bigger lens, with small circles inside the center lens. Ruth told us that they were a new type of lens called a myodisc lens. She had been working with the inventor of this type of lens, and was the first person ever to wear this type. She told us that if your prescription got stronger than –20 D, that is the type of lenses that you had to get, otherwise the lenses had to be quite small and very thick. And, I was surprised to see that my mother also had finally reached the point where her desire to see had overcome her vanity, as she was now wearing pretty strong glasses all the time.

After my family left, Emily and I departed for Tulsa. We had decided that Emily would continue on in school to obtain her high school diploma, and we could both be teachers. We rented a house, and got everything set up for the fall at my new school, where I was going to be one of four teachers. Emily enrolled in a school close to our house, as we thought that it would be best for her not to be attending the same school where I taught.

The following two years went by very quickly, and quietly. The year we were married, we didn’t bother with our annual eye examinations, as we both felt that our eyes hadn’t changed at all. The following year we went, and it was confirmed that our existing prescriptions were satisfactory for another year, but we both ordered new glasses anyway. After all, 2 years of constant wear took a pretty heavy toll on the gold rims, and the fine wire earpieces, and with our prescriptions we couldn’t afford to be without glasses.

Emily got her diploma, and the school that she had graduated from hired her. That summer we went for our eye tests, and Emily had to get a bit stronger prescription. She was now just under –20 D, and the doctor told her that if her eyes got any weaker, she would have to go to New York for her next examination, and her glasses. My eyes had also gotten worse, and I now required –18.50 D lenses. Both of our lenses were quite thick, and very heavy, even though they were quite small.

I think it was because I loved gazing through the lenses of Emily’s lovely thick glasses into her beautiful tiny black eyes, while we were making love, that the inevitable happened. Emily had only been teaching for 2 years, and was now just nicely into her 3rd year, when we discovered that she was pregnant. Emily finished the year, and in the early summer, she had a beautiful baby boy. We named the new addition, Henry, after Emily’s father. And, once we found out how to produce babies, in no time at all, Emma was born. Then, after another 18 months, Rose came along. We then thought it would be a good time to stop.

Henry was 3 years old, when Emily and I decided that his vision seemed to be poor. Actually, we noticed that his distant vision was nonexistent, and Emma seemed to have the same problem. Although doctors had made no connection between severely nearsighted parents producing nearsighted children, this was not surprising, as my own nearsighted parents had produced very nearsighted children. Our local eye doctor could not do anything for the young children, nor could he do anything further for Emily’s vision, which I was sure had deteriorated further as well. I had noticed her straining to see over the past 3 years, and recently I had noticed that she no longer even tried to see anything in the distance more than about 10 feet. And, although my distance vision was never very good, I knew I was straining to see as well. With the children, we had not taken the time to look after our own needs.

So, I resigned my teaching position in Tulsa, and our family went by train to New York. My parents met us at the station, and we traveled in my father’s new automobile to our house. This was not the first car ride Emily and I had taken, but it was far superior to any of the automobile travel that we had experienced in Tulsa. Here the roads were bricked, but in Tulsa they were dirt tracks, dusty in the summer, and muddy in the winter. And, to see well enough to drive, my father had finally gotten a proper pair of glasses as well.

I applied for a teaching position in New York, and I was accepted, so we, with father’s assistance, purchased a house near the school where I was to be teaching. Once we were settled, we focused our attention on our own, and our children’s vision problems. When Emily was examined, it was discovered that her myopia had indeed increased by over –4 D, over the past 4 years. The doctor thought that the changes might have been due to her three pregnancies, but he wasn’t sure. Emily now had to wear glasses with myodisc lenses, similar to my sister Ruth’s, and the new lenses were going to take about 2 months to obtain from the only lens grinders that could make these very high prescriptions. My own eyes had also passed the –20 D mark, as well, and I was forced to order myodisc lenses too. My sister Ruth was now wearing –28 D myodisc lenses, and we were fortunate enough to find one of her old pairs that Emily could again wear until her own glasses came. I was then able to wear Emily’s old glasses, to give me reasonably good vision until my new ones arrived.

Then, we went on to have the children’s eyes tested. Henry got his first pair of glasses, with a –12 D prescription at the age of 3 ½, and Emma, at 2 was discovered to need even stronger lenses. Emma’s first prescription was –14 D. Rose was just over 6 months by now, and our eye doctor decided that he would like to try to examine her eyes, as well. He discovered that Rose was also quite nearsighted, but he couldn’t really determine how strong of a prescription to give her, so we decided to wait for another year. We knew that poor little Rose was essentially blind as she didn’t seem to see things unless they were right up close to her face.

And as expected, when Rose was old enough to be properly tested, her eyes required a –12 D prescription. And, as the years passed, the children have grown and have needed new glasses every year and sometime twice in a year. Little Rose’s glasses had 1” thick lenses when she was 11 and the next year at 12, she got her first glasses with myodisc lenses. When she was in high school, she had a prescription of –28 D for both eyes. Emily and I have had no serious increases over the years, but we, and all three of the children all wear very strong myodisc-lensed glasses. Some people call us the five blind mice, as we all need coke bottle glasses to see anything.

Specs4ever, with A.J.’s assistance

Nov 2001