Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Peek-A-Boo! I Can't See You!

I dread The Question.



I dread The Question almost as much as
I dread that puff of air they always shoot into your eyes to test for
glaucoma. Nearly every visit to the eye doctor involves someone asking,
"Have you considered laser eye surgery?" And I just dread it. 



I usually cast a dilated eye downward and mutter something like, "Yeah. I don't think it's for me."



Some docs push it harder than others, but pretty much all of them do a hard sell. Imagine never needing to fuss with contacts and glasses again! Imagine waking up and being able to see! 



And when I resist they almost always think it's because I'm some Luddite coward. The technology has improved dramatically and the results are fabulous!



Truth
is, I'm not afraid of lasers in my eye (though I think hirsute lil' me
would be better served if the lasers were pointed more southward). I
just don't want to give up my bad vision.



I know that sounds ridiculous. That's why I dread the question.



True, I can't see my
own face in the mirror unless I'm so close to the glass that my breath
steams over my reflection. And true, my handicap forever prevents me
from being a pilot in the Air Force or a viable contestant on
"Survivor." But I can live with these limitations.


What I don't think I could live with is a completely altered identity.
 


I've
always been the "blind girl." I was the blind girl when I was 6, and I
had to squint at all the puppets and overhead projections and
chalk-drawn alphabet letters that the rest of my first-grade class
seemed to have no problem seeing. I was the blind girl in the second
grade, when an astute teacher finally figured out what was going on and
mentioned to my parents that I might need glasses. I was still the
blind girl in the third grade, when an overly indulgent teacher let me
stand by the chalkboard during her lessons like some kind of magician's
assistant.


And I was the blind girl in the fourth grade, when I
finally convinced my stubborn father to pretty please let me get some
glasses so I could go to school and, you know, learn stuff.
 


Dad
didn't much like the idea of his pretty daughter covering up her face
with homely glasses, so he built up a cataract of denial around my
deteriorating vision.


"I don't need glasses. Your mom doesn't need glasses. You don't need glasses," he'd say.
 


"OK," I'd answer, before bumping into a wall.


When
he finally did concede -- after a teacher's intervention -- I had to
agree to only wear my specs in the classroom. If I was going to be
ugly, I'd have to do it on my own time.
 


I interpreted his
admonition to mean that I couldn't wear my glasses on the playground,
either. And it was there that my strained vision gave me two things I
love more than anything else: attention and an excuse not to exercise.


Can't
play dodge ball if you can't see what you're dodging. So, instead, I'd
sit on the sidelines and mock the boys until they cracked little smiles
at my jokes or gave up their games altogether to talk to me.
 


Dad
and I reached a d├ętente when contact lenses became more popular and
readily available. He never understood why my vision (and then later my
sister's vision) was bad, but he finally admitted it was and shelled
out the money for my first pair of contacts.


Since then, my
blindness has been less of an attention-getter than an escape. Other
people with bad eyes might disagree with me, but there is something
almost soothing about taking out your contacts and not being able to
see anything. A kind of visual shush that absolves you of the
responsibility of sight. I don't meditate, but a few minutes of blurry
vision every day comes close.
 


So I was relieved the other day
when my new eye doc didn't ask The Question. We talked about changing the
type of contact lenses I wear. We talked about getting new frames for
my glasses. And then, without any mention of lasers, she sent me to the
receptionist to place my order.


"Wow," the receptionist said, noting the prescription.
 


"Yeah," I answered brightly. "I'm pretty blind."


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