Today, Robb and I went to Eyewise to see our awesome eye doctor Alex. Robb needed new reading glasses, and my own glasses were so scratched that I needed to replace the lenses.
The rest of the afternoon was spent hiding in the house, waiting for our pupils to return to a normal size. Going into our lovely sunny backyard was like walking into a Hollywood version of the afterlife. It was all white light and impossibly high contrast.
For whatever reason, getting my eyes examined sparked off a chain of memories, and let me see things in a light that I had never considered before. And, I'm sad to say, it wasn't a very favorable light.
* * * * * * *
When I was a pre-teen, my mother took me to the eye doctor. I had an examination, and it was determined that I needed glasses. And then between the actual exam and the picking out of the glasses, my mother and I got into some kind of a fight. Goodness knows what it was about. I don't recall. What I do remember is that my mother dragged me out into the parking lot. She was furious, and I was told that she would not be buying me glasses.
Now, I had no context for my vision, or really any other part of my life. I saw and experienced the world the way I always had. Having nothing to compare myself to, things just seemed normal.
I suppose that when I went to get a driver's license, the issue of my eyesight would have come up again. But I did not learn to drive as a teenager. My father did not teach me to drive. He was a good guy, but no teacher. He had no patience for people who lacked skill, and no aptitude for teaching.
My mother (a renowned teacher) and I would get into fights because I was apparently too difficult to teach. Her standard practice for in-car fights was to dump me on the side of the road, with no pocket money, and no clue where I was. My mother did this all the time. We'd get into some kind of fight, and she'd kick me (or my sister) out of the car. My mother was a master at the Power Game. She had all the power, and my sister and I, being children, had none. She'd abandon us on the side of the road, and if we didn't find out way home in a reasonable period of time, she'd either double back, find us and then beat the hell out of us, or she'd call the police and report us "missing." I'll never forget the humiliation of these episodes. One time I was sobbing on the side of the road, and a substitute teacher from my school recognized me, pulled over, and drove me home. When I when I think of that now, I feel positively queasy with shame. (Of course, I now wonder how it was that no adult ever stepped in to help me and my sister. It was a different time, then. Family matters were Private, and there was simply no discussion of domestic issues. )
* * * * * * *
I didn't get glasses until after I had finished college. Friends convinced me that I could afford glasses, and I bought myself an eye exam and some remarkably chic specs. I'll never forget looking out my apartment window in Baltimore, and marveling at how far I could see. It made me really sad to realize how much I had been missing.
Remarkably, it was only yesterday that I really saw about how perverse it was for a parent to withhold something as basic as proper vision from their child. I imagine I just didn't let myself think about those sorts of things, because as a child, I just had no say in the matter.
It's stunning how wrong it looks to me, in hindsight.