Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Lifelong Addiction To Myopia

by Specs4ever

Even after 60 years I could still remember her glasses as if it were yesterday. She was a short, slightly overweight lady with grey hair tied up in a bun on the back of her head, and she smelled like apple pie. From the time I was a baby she changed my diapers, and helped my mother raise me for a number of years. But it was always her glasses that fascinated me. The first pair I remember noticing was a rimless pair, with a silver bridge that was fastened with one screw to each lens. The temples were also fastened with a screw at each side of the lens, and they went back over her ears. When she had them off, and I was a little older I could tell that the earpieces coiled around and fitted snugly behind her ears. Later in life I found out that these were called cable temples. But it was the lenses that intrigued me. They were octagonal shaped, with six of the sides appearing to be equal in length. The center side, at the top and the bottom were longer than the others. In the center of these lenses were circles that were between 25 mm, and 30mm in diameter. Behind these lenses her eyes were minified significantly, and appeared to be shrunken back into her head. But when she took her glasses off, her eyes were very large, and were a milky blue in color.

This lady was my grandmother Nona. My mother had done the unspeakable. She had fallen in love with a sailor near the end of WW 2, and he had sailed off into the sunset on his way to Europe, leaving my mother unmarried and pregnant with me. I don’t know if my mother was heartbroken over his departure, nor do I know if she ever tried to track my father down. But I do know that Nona, and my mom lived together in a small house in an older part of the city. Nona looked after me while my mother worked as a teller at a nearby bank, and although I was raised without a father, I had 2 wonderful ladies to guide me as I grew up.
When I was around 10, I remember Nona getting a new pair of glasses. Knowing what I know now about myopia and myopic progression I doubt that they were any stronger than the other glasses, although I remember my mom asking Nona if she could see better with her new glasses, and Nona answered that she could. So there was a possibility they could have been slightly stronger. This pair was black, in the style of the 50’s. The temples were plastic, and the pieces over the eyebrows matched the temples, but there was a gold area at the bridge, and there were gold bands at the bottom of the lenses that held the lenses in. And, of course, there were small circles at the center of the lenses. I was, of course, intrigued with Nona’s new glasses, but what excited me more was that now I knew where Nona kept her old glasses, and I remember trying them on, and being totally amazed at the wall of blur that greeted me as the cable temples pulled the lenses closer to my eyes. How could anyone have such bad eyes as to require these glasses was the question that I asked myself?
I also wondered why my mother didn’t wear glasses. And I don’t know if I worried that someday I would have to wear glasses or not. I do remember wishing I could wear glasses, but also hoping that I wouldn’t have to, because by then I was going to school, and the couple of kids I knew that wore glasses were always teased about being 4 eyed. Then I found out that Nona, and her husband, who had passed away just before I was born, had adopted my mother at birth. I knew it was a good thing that he had died before I was born, because Nona always told my mother that her father would have been very upset that she had gotten pregnant before she was married. I didn’t know much about heredity, but somehow I discovered that since my mom wasn’t Nona’s natural daughter, there was no possibility that either my mother or I would have inherited bad eyes like Nona.
When I was about 15, Nona got another pair of glasses. I still have these glasses, because they were the ones Nona was wearing when she died, and the funeral director gave them back to us, along with her necklace, and her earrings and rings. I guess he removed them before they closed the casket. I remember handing everything to my mother, and my mother’s first reaction was that Nona wouldn’t be able to see without her glasses, but then she laughed and said that probably everyone had perfect eyesight in heaven. And today, as I look at these glasses from the early 60’s I can see the plastic has yellowed on the earpieces, and around the lenses. The temples are silver aluminum, with an embossed pattern of 3 leaves on them. This same embossing is repeated on the silver pieces that are riveted over the top of the lenses on each side, but the yellowing plastic surrounds the lenses themselves. The myodisc circles are 2 perfectly round circles in the center of the glass lenses, and what is known as the carrier is plain glass, flat on both the front and the rear. The circles are small, only 20mm, and I suppose they were perfectly centered in front of Nona’s eyes, because they didn’t have any room for error. Nona only wore these glasses for 4 years, because she died in 1964, when I was 19 years old.
But my memories of Nona have affected my life completely. When I was going to high school, every girl I asked out wore glasses. Katie Miller was my favorite girl with glasses, and sometimes I almost wish I had married Katie. Katie was 15, and turned 16 when I was going out with her. Just before her 16th birthday Katie got new glasses. These glasses were similar to Nona’s. They had the lenses surrounded by clear plastic, and the temples and the pieces over the eyebrows were of blue aluminum. I loved to look at the power rings, and I even wrote down Katie’s prescription at the time. It was –6.50 x –1.25 x 75 and –7.00 x –0.50 x 85. Katie’s glasses were weak compared to Nona’s, but Katie was always complaining about how blind she was, and how she hated wearing glasses. I suppose she likely ended up wearing contact lenses after we lost touch, and if she is still around I bet she has had some form of eye surgery.
After Nona died, I finished high school, and then I got a job with a road building crew. This job involved building sections of the Interstate Highway System, and I was working in many different states, living in cheap motel rooms, out of a suitcase. But I always managed to find a girl who wore glasses to date in every town I worked near. The popular girls were easy to spot. They were the pretty ones that had half the football team at their side, and they were often dating the quarterback, or else one of the other good players. Once in a great while the pretty girl was a glasses wearer, and I remember a couple of them that were extremely attractive, and also wore pretty strong glasses. But I soon learned that these girls might as well have worn a sign saying “Do Not Touch.” I had no desire to have my head pounded on by the whole football team, and to make a pass at one of these girls was like declaring open season on me.
Often at a Friday night dance in a small town the boys lined up on one side of the room, and the girls sat in huddles on the other side. Most of the boys were too shy to ask any of the girls to dance, and most of the girls had their hopes set that one of the guys they had their eye on would ask them to dance. And then there were the few girls that were considered wallflowers. They might end up later in life being very attractive looking, but at this time they were too thin, too tall, or too flat chested. To use a single word, they were just gawky looking. These were the girls I looked at, and my criteria was that they had to have future potential in the looks department, along with being very nearsighted, and wearing thick glasses. By the end of the evening Carol, or Judy, or Louise or Anne or any other name that you could come up with had become the alibi for their friend, the nearsighted girl I was taking back to my motel room. And early the next morning I would drop the girl I had spent the night with at her friend’s house. Now I had a girlfriend for the rest of the time I was in town, and being the son of a single mother I definitely made sure I didn’t leave any of these girls in a family way.
The nomadic life I was living began to take its toll on me. I wanted to settle down. The girls at the high school dances were getting younger every year – or was it that I was getting older? I hate to admit it, but I think it was the latter. Now I was almost 25, and the high school girls I was meeting were around 16. This scenario was not going to improve with the passing of another year.
I had been very careful not to loose contact with any of the more promising girls from towns I had passed through. There were about a dozen that I wrote to faithfully, and every once in a while I would drive back to see one of them. Two of them were crossed off my list when they wrote to tell me they were getting married, but visits to the other ten proved very fruitful. Nine of the girls were now quite attractive. This was early in 1970, and the larger wire frames of the late sixties were giving way to the big plastic frames of the early 70’s and 80’s. In the days before high index lenses, large eye sized frames were not very flattering to a severely myopic lady. Once a prescription of –9 was reached the normal edge thickness was very close to 1”. It stayed this way up to about –12D, and by this point, to remain with the same edge thickness and a full field lens, the lenses had to be biconcave. By –15D there was no other option but to go to a myodisc lens. I really didn’t like the appearance of the normal myodisc, because they did from –15D to about –18D on a plano front base, and a +6 or so rear base, with the myodisc ground out in the center. And most myodiscs had a center bowl of at least 35mm, with the normal being 40mm. Then once you required –18D or over, the front of the lens became biconcave again, with the rear being the same as the lower powered myodiscs. I knew all of this because my 9 girls had prescriptions that varied from –12D to –19D.
I know what you are thinking. You are sure that I went for the girl with the strongest powered lenses. But you are wrong. I didn’t spend any time chasing after Angela. She was at university, in her final year, and she was wearing contact lenses almost all of the time. This didn’t bother me, because I knew that her glasses would be on her face frequently around the house. What did bother me was that she was now a tree hugger. Tree huggers and road builders are natural adversaries, and while I respect the views of everyone, population growth requires roads. So, knowing that we were not going to be able to agree, I decided to leave Angela on my list of friends without wifely potential.
I went back and dated Carol, the girl who came after Angela in my original dating sequence, for a while. Carol had a prescription of around –12D with about –4D of astigmatism, and because of the astigmatism had not tried contact lenses. But Carol had not had a prescription increase in over 4 years, and I knew that I would not be happy with a wife that was a stable –12D – not when there were others on my list with even stronger prescriptions.
I bounced around for a while, still living out of motel rooms and a suitcase. One of the cities I stayed in for a while was the home of 2 of my other old myopic girlfriends, and I dated them each for a while before I moved on. I can’t give you a reason why I moved on. It was just that neither girl felt right for me.
Then I ended up in the city where Brenda was living. Brenda was training to be a nurse. Brenda was not quite the youngest of my former girlfriends, but at age 20 she had the second strongest prescription of the nine girls. When I started dating Brenda again she had just had a prescription increase, and her prescription was now only slightly lower than Angela’s. We dated for six months, and I really liked Brenda, but what clinched it for me was when Brenda required another prescription increase within 6 months. Now Brenda had a prescription of –18.50D, with about –1D of astigmatism in each eye. And because of her shifts, Brenda was not inclined to wear contact lenses. She often had to work nights and sometimes if they were very busy at the hospital, or if another nurse was ill, Brenda had to do a second shift.
I had been fortunate enough to get a job with the city. My experience in highway road building had been just the ticket. So, Brenda and I moved in together, and for the first time in many years I didn’t always wash my own clothing. Because of Brenda’s long and variable hours I did help around the apartment a lot, giving Brenda a little bit of time to relax when she was home. I soon suspected that Brenda would continue her myopic progression, as she was an avid reader, and would go for hours with her nose buried in a book, her eyes dancing along the words through her thick strong myodiscs.
One more increase, when Brenda was 22, pushed her prescription up to –20D. We had been living together now for almost 2 years, and I knew I wouldn’t get the chance to find another high myope. Most girls with a prescription as strong as Brenda’s wore contact lenses now. Brenda had contact lenses, but since she never seemed able to stick to the necessary regime for wearing them, building up her tolerance for the hard plastic lenses with a gradual increase in wearing time, she was stuck with only being able to wear them for about 4 hours at a time. And that was just fine with me.
So, I asked Brenda to marry me, and she accepted. My mother had met Brenda a few times, and had not said anything to me about her strong glasses. However when she came a few days early for the wedding, she casually remarked to me that she knew why I was marrying Brenda. She was convinced that, because of the strong glasses, I was marrying Brenda because she reminded me of Nona. To satisfy mom, and because she was right, I told her she was correct.
After we were married we both continued working. We had decided that we didn’t want children before we were married. Then we decided that we would maybe have children, but we weren’t even going to try to have any children for at least 5 years. Brenda stopped taking the birth control pills soon after our 4th anniversary. Of course she became pregnant, but unfortunately, after carrying the baby for almost 4 months, she lost the fetus. We waited a while, and then tried again. This time we had a healthy son as our first-born. Just under 2 years later we had a daughter, so now we had a perfect family.
Of course, to me, a really perfect family would have had both my children becoming quite myopic, as they grew older. With what I knew about myopia, and myopic progression, I knew that both kids could have myopia induced if I were to find a way to have them wear glasses from an early age. However, I didn’t want to do this. To me, damaging my children’s eyes for my pleasure was child abuse.
I was pleased when Linda was prescribed a weak minus when she was 13. I knew that she was likely to have some increases, but I also knew that her final prescription would likely not exceed –6D or so. Alex, at age 11 didn’t show the slightest sign of needing glasses. Would I have been better off if I had chosen one of my other girlfriends? Obviously my children had not inherited their mother’s severe myopia.
I don’t really know when the idea first came to me, but I do know that Linda was around 12 when we first started. There were always children that had been removed from their natural parents by the Children’s Aid. Most of these kids ranged in age from 5 to 16, and the older the children were; the harder it was to find adoptive parents for the child. Also, with many of these children, the birth parents still had rights so they could regain custody if they were able to clean up their act. Most of the kids had been taken from the parents because of the parents drug use, or because of abuse of the child. I began by becoming a volunteer. I went by the old converted rooming house on Saturdays, often with my own children, and we would take one or two of the kids out with us for an outing. It wasn’t anything major. One weekend we would go to the zoo, another weekend would find us at the lake, and often it was just a trip to the playground.
The first weekend Diane was with us I knew that Diane was very shortsighted. I could easily tell, not by how she scrunched up her eyes and pulled on the sides of her eyes when she was trying to see something in the near distance, but rather by the blank expression on her face as she looked into a wall of blur at anything that was more than a few feet away. There was no use for her to try to see, because obviously she couldn’t.
Both my kids liked Diane, so I managed to convince Brenda that we should become foster parents. Our first stop on day I was to pick Diane up and bring her to our house to live was at the mall, where I had an eye exam scheduled for her. And, as I had suspected, at the age of 9, Diane was very nearsighted, with quite a lot of astigmatism. Her prescription was –6.50D x –1.75D x 30 for her right eye, and –7.00 x –2.25D x 150 for her left eye. I had gone to the optometrist at the one hour optical, so we were able to get a pair of glasses for Diane before I even brought her home. When Diane got her glasses she was quite pleased, and she told me that she had glasses before. She had gotten her first glasses when she was 4, and had worn them until she was 6, and they broke. By this time her parents were so messed up on drugs that they had no concerns for their little girl. I felt very badly that she had been forced to go almost 3 years without having glasses. She wore these glasses for about 6 months, and I began noticing that she was squinting at things. So I scheduled another eye exam. I also made appointments for Linda and Alex. Linda was discovered to need a slightly a slightly stronger prescription, so Linda got glasses with a prescription of –0.75D for each eye, and Diane had an increase in both her spherical and her cylinder prescriptions. Now her new prescription was –7.75 x 2.00 x 30 and –7.75 x –2.50 x 150. Her glasses were starting to look fairly strong, and this time her front base curve was flat.
Brenda and I would have liked to adopt Diane, but we couldn’t because her parents were still in the equation. They could have seen her anytime they wanted to, but they didn’t. They could have gotten off drugs, and regained custody of Diane, but they didn’t. The only thing that their continued existence did was to prevent us from actually making Diane our legal third child. But Diane didn’t seem to mind. She considered Brenda and I her parents, and she had written off her own parents completely.
By the time Diane was 14, her prescription had climbed to –9.00 x –3.00 x 30 and –9.50 x –3.75 x 150. At age 17 Linda had only increased to –2.25D and Alex still didn’t need glasses at all. Linda wanted contact lenses, but because Diane couldn’t get proper correction with contacts because of her high astigmatism, Linda didn’t push too hard, and continued wearing her glasses – when she drove, or when she felt like it that is. I had almost wanted Linda to get contacts, because I felt that her eyes would have increased if she had worn correction all the time, instead of when she felt like it. Most of the time Linda went bare eyed, with her glasses safely in their case.
At age 18 Diane had added another 3 diopters to her spherical. Now her most recent prescription was –12.25 x –3.50 x 30 and –12.50 x –4.00 x 150. When she was examined this time the doctor felt that Diane required a bit of prism, so he had given her 5 degrees base out prism. Her lenses, even in the new high index plastic that had just come on the market, still looked quite thick. They even looked thicker than Brenda’s newest glasses that had been made with the same hi index plastic. Brenda had stayed with her same old –20D prescription since we were married, and the opticians had tried all the tricks in the book to make her lenses thinner. She had gotten a lens called a superlenti lens when they first came out, but she hated it. She had worn biconcave lenses, and she had tried the thinner hi index glass lenses. The only thing she wouldn’t wear was a straight myodisc lens. She hated the looks of them, and was willing to wear the thick plastic. I never protested.
Diane is now 27. Her prescription has remained about where it was when she was 18. Linda is still about –2.50D, and still won’t wear glasses except when she has to. Alex completely escaped wearing glasses. Diane has not yet married, but she has given us 2 grandchildren. Her little boy, Danny, was given an eye exam last week, and he appears to be slightly myopic, however the doctor wouldn’t recommend glasses for him just yet. Linda and Alex are both in relationships, but neither of them are married. Since Brenda’s myopia was not really passed on to either of our children, I have hopes for my future grandchildren, because high myopia often skips a generation.
I have my very myopic Nana to blame for my lifelong addiction to myopic ladies, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
May 2008

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