When I first spotted her she was carrying one daughter cradled in her left arm and her other daughter was clutching her right hand as they walked into my classroom. I didnít envy her the fact that she had 2 young children so close together in age, as the one walking appeared to be around 5, and the other one was maybe 3 or 3.5 years old.
As she drew closer I could see that the 5 year old was wearing glasses. They didnít appear to be very strong, but I could tell from the distortion that they were a minus lens.
Just then the girl in the mothers arm turned to face me, and I could see that she too wore glasses. The youngest child wore a pair of plastic frames with cable temples, and as I looked a little closer at the lenses in them I could see that there was a bit more of a prescription in those glasses than there were in her older sisters.
I have a thing for glasses. I am very nearsighted myself, and have worn glasses since I was 8 years old and in grade 3. I married an optometrist, and he keeps my -15D prescription tuned up with the proper contact lenses and glasses. So whenever a child wearing glasses comes into my kindergarten classroom my ears perk up. Or maybe I should say my eyes perk up.
The young mother introduced herself as Shelly. The 5 year old was Bekki, and Bekki was going to be in my kindergarten class for the year. Her 3 year old sister was Courtney, and on closer examination I estimated that Courtney was wearing a prescription of somewhere between -3 and -4D. I signed Bekki in, and took any pertinent information such as who to call in case of an emergency.
ďBekki has just started wearing her glasses, and she likes to take them off unless I am watching her carefully. Glasses are too expensive to be thrown around carelessly, and her doctor feels that she should wear them, so will you please help me out and make sure that Bekki keeps her glasses on?Ē Shelly asked.
ďI can do that for you. I am pretty nearsighted myself, and my daughter wears glasses also so I know how expensive glasses can be.Ē I replied.
Bekki was a really good kid. She liked to read a lot; so much of the time she spent reading or coloring. When she returned to class after Christmas break I thought her glasses looked a little stronger, but I wasnít sure. When Shelly came in for a parent teacher night she had Courtney with her, and then I knew that my suspicion about Bekkiís glasses being stronger was likely correct. Now Courtney appeared to be wearing lenses that had to be somewhere between -5D and -6D, so I figured that Bekki had a small increase at the same time as well.
My husband is the only optometrist in our town. With a population of only around 6,000 people the town wasnít really big enough to support him, however we were in a large farming community, and there was enough of a customer base around that he did all right. I asked Jim that evening if he knew Shelly and her 2 kids, but they had not been into see him. I didnít think anything of it, as I figured that they had gone to see a pediatric ophthalmologist at the hospital in the city.
Jim and I were pretty busy working at our jobs as well as keeping our daughter Valerie on track. She was a pretty little 13 year old, and was going through a bit of a rebellious stage at this point in her life. Nothing seemed to suit her. She hated her glasses, but with a -8.50D prescription couldnít do much of anything without them. She wanted her dad to get her contact lenses, but he had seen too many young girls damage their eyes by wearing contact lenses for too long at a stretch, and he wouldnít do it yet. Val had had never minded wearing glasses before, and until this point she actually seemed to like her glasses. Of course it didnít help that I very seldom wore my glasses out of the house, and when she tackled me on that as a reason for getting contacts I felt that I had to show her that I didnít mind wearing glasses.
And I really didnít mind wearing glasses. But I had fallen into the trap of wearing contacts. If you had a -15D prescription you would find, like me that it is not as easy to switch between glasses and contacts as things seem to be far more distorted through the lenses of the glasses. After a few days of wearing glasses things go back to normal, but wearing contacts again throws everything off. But with Val using me as an excuse to get contacts I did go back to wearing my glasses, and put my contacts away for special occasions.
I guess my own problems had occupied my thoughts, because I had noticed, but hadnít really thought about it that just before the summer holidays Bekki was wearing a new pair of even stronger glasses. She looked darling wearing them, but I could tell that her prescription now was probably up around -4D.
The following year Bekki was in grade 1, so I didnít see her except when she was in the halls of the school. She seemed to be a popular child, and always had friends around her. It gave me a bit of a shock when I did finally get a good look at her just before school was dismissed for the following summer that Bekki seemed to have had a pretty good increase since the previous year, and her glasses had to be pretty close to -8D now. That was a very strong prescription for a 6 year old to have this early in life.
Courtney was in my kindergarten class the following year. The lenses in her glasses now had flat fronts, and looked to be around a -10D prescription. There was no question of her ever being able to take her glasses off, and I wondered how strong her prescription would end up in later life. Courtney was a really good kid as well, and like Bekki she spent a lot of time reading and coloring.
Our daughter Val turned 15, and her dad told her that she could have contacts now if she wanted them. Maybe it was the fact that I had worn glasses myself for the past couple of years that contributed to her saying no, but maybe it was just a 15 year old being contrary. Valís glasses had gotten a bit stronger over the past couple of years, and she was now wearing a pair of -10D lenses in a very hi index plastic, so her glasses did look very nice on her, and maybe that helped her make her decision as well.
I was asked by the principle if I would take the grade 6 class for a year or 2, because he had a new teacher he wanted to hire that had just completed a new course in childhood education. I was ready for a change, so I consented. I probably would have consented even faster if I had thought about the fact that my new grade 6 class would be my old kindergarten class that Bekki was in. So again I had Bekki in my room for the next school year.
Bekki was now 11 years old. And her glasses were a whole lot stronger than they were the last time I had paid any attention to them. I was pretty sure that now Bekki was wearing glasses that had to be very close to a -20D prescription. The lenses were probably not hi index lenses however, in the smaller lens size that she wore, her lenses were flattened out around the edges and they were almost like myodisc lenses. Her eyes were miniscule behind the strong lenses. But Bekki seemed to be able to see well with her glasses, so I really didnít give it much thought.
By the end of the school year, just as Bekki was going into Junior high her glasses had gotten even stronger. Now they were real myodiscs because there was a distinct circle within her lenses. I had seen her younger sister Courtney again, who was now finishing grade 4, and Courtney was also wearing myodiscs that didnít appear to be any stronger than Bekkiís. These girls obviously had an aggressive case of galloping myopia.
When Courtney was in grade 6 she was also in my class. Now her myodiscs seemed to be done in a biconcave lens, as the face of the lenses were dished in. I spoke to Jim to see how strong a prescription that indicated, and his reply was that it could be anywhere from -25D on up. But I didnít notice that Courtney had any trouble seeing things, so I assumed that this was just the way it had to be for her poor eyesight.
While Courtney was in my class that year her parents separated. They were doing the shared custody thing for the balance of the year, and Courtney graduated into Junior High.
Early in the fall I noticed a headline in the local paper. It read:Ē Mother Accused of Destroying Childrenís Vision.Ē As I read the article I saw that the mother in question was indeed Shelly Morrison, and the children were Bekki and Courtney. Apparently Shelly had allegedly been providing her children with stronger and stronger glasses without the requisite eye exams. Further details in the article were that the children were staying with their father for a couple of weeks, and Bekki had broken her glasses. When Peter Morrison, the father, had questioned his daughter to find out where Shelly had gotten her glasses Bekki told him she didnít know. Nor could Bekki tell her dad the name of the eye doctor that she had gone to. In fact Bekki told her dad that she never had gone to an eye doctor, and that mommy just gave her the glasses to wear. Peter Morrison was very nearsighted himself, and since he had always trusted Shelly to arrange for eye exams and doctors appointments for the kids he was really upset. His own severe myopia had led him to believe that his children had inherited his poor eyesight.
He rushed the children in to see my husband, and Jim confirmed that both kids were actually wearing the correct prescriptions in their glasses. Jim was able to put Bekkiís lenses into a new frame, so Bekki was not left walking around in a myopic blur. Jim couldnít say anything to me, because he was now going to be called to testify in court, but after I read the article in the newspaper he did confirm that they had checked all of the ophthalmologists and optometrists in the area surrounding our town, and not one of them had ever examined the childrenís eyes. So Shelly was being charged with 2 counts of child abuse, and she was going to loose any further shared custody of the children.
I had not had any suspicions that the 2 girls were wearing anything but the correct prescriptions in their glasses. I suppose that Shelly had originally started making the girls wear glasses just before she brought Bekki and Courtney to my classroom the first day I met them. And I suppose that she also gave them stronger glasses at least 3 or 4 times a year in order for her to get Courtney up to a -28D prescription by the time she was 12. Bekki, at 14 was now wearing a slightly weaker -26D prescription. I was not sure why Shelly had stopped when she did, but I thought she might have decided that there prescriptions were strong enough now and that she had better not give the kids stronger glasses anymore after she and her husband separated.
Shelly didnít serve any jail time, but was sentenced to do community service. And she was forbidden any contact with Bekki and Courtney until they were 16. But I suspected that after the girls were of age they would be spending time with Shelly, and a few years later I saw the 3 of them together shopping. Bekki and Courtney were still both wearing their very strong myodiscs, but they recognized me from a distance and came over to chat with me. Jim and I talked about this case a lot, and the only conclusion that we could come up with was that Shelly had a real thing for men with severe myopia, and that this had translated into her wanting her children to be high myopes. We also felt that if Shelly had been able to make herself severely myopic she would have willingly done so. Jim and I couldnít condone her actions, and we thought the courts had gone lightly on her, but we decided that what was done was done and the kids seemed to have accepted their high myopia and had taken their mother back into their lives.