One morning when I was young, I went into my parents room to say good morning. My mother had just woken up and her first words were “I can’t see.”
Most of my early memories of my mother (from when I was aged 3-10 or so) are of her in hospital. The sudden morning of her needing glasses, and then the years of surgery and constant medical appointments which followed. The temporary driving license. The need for hospital checks every 6 months and re-test of driving exams and daily eye drops. One set of drops for both eyes. One set for one eye. The cataracts which complicated the condition.
But now, as a semi-adult, I know that these are conditions which are controlled, monitored and thus contained. She’s still able to drive, despite almost complete blindness in one eye. I give her the eye drops when I’m home. It’s all okay; and I don’t really give it much of a thought.
Until last year, when I went for my two-yearly eye test; and they said “you’re on the cusp of needing glasses. I suggest you have them.” and I refused so vehemently that they said “okay, but if you get ANY problems, you come straight back. Check up in a year.”
I went home and cried.
Since my mother’s condition became the norm, my father now uses reading glasses and his father is almost completely blind through another condition. These are part of living, part of the world going round as it always has.
At the weekend, I went for that “yearly” check-up (actually 14 months later, but whose counting?), desperately psyching myself up for the bad news. But I went in after a small sob that morning, and I sat through 90 minutes of tests, chat, discussion and letter-guesses.
I confessed to the effects of my vision:
That I have Comodo Dragon set to 110% zoom for about 50% of websites. That I have almost-constant headaches. That when I’ve done 9-5 day job I come home and write and read blogs/writing advice/books until midnight. That I’m seeing odd flickers of light and shadows at the edge of my vision.
I sat through puffs of strong air, bright lights and fighting my reflexes to not blink. I looked at the photographs of my fundus (which I can now access digital copies of online! Oh goody!), and after an hour of trying to explain that I meant that circle was half-green and half-red; not two circles (which would have been a wrong answer, I was later told); I let the man place a contact lense in my right eye.
As Sorcha will know, I can’t even watching someone else put contact lenses in or out — so to have let someone else do it to me despite being adamant that glasses are demonic and contacts worse than that — I feel quite proud. And although it took three attempts because my ‘slow blink’ was like slamming down a door made of lead, I sat with it in for a good five minutes.
After that, glasses didn’t feel so scary, so alien. Neither did contacts, but let’s not run before we can walk.
I confessed my terror at picking glasses I liked but wouldn’t suit me, and the lady was patient and supportive of the choices as we came to an agreement on a not-too-expensive-but-i’m-hating-this-so-sod-it-if-they-are pair of purple frames; testing them with my hair tied back and loose; thinking about the balance of looking professional at child protection conferences yet being funky for playing on the floor with children I work with.
I took blurry photos with my phone to show mum and OH. And then I walked out with a prescription and the instructions to await a text saying they could be picked up. I bought sweets at the 99p store and managed not to cry for the rest of the day, on occasion bringing up the photo to get used to the look; to familiarise myself with this strangeness.
I reached out for support on twitter, and received some good-humoured responses: being part of the club, having super powers and looking sexy. I showed my best friend; who wears purple glasses herself. And I let myself sink into the normalisation of something that 3 hours before had seemed so traumatic.
They’re not yet ready to be picked up, but it’s beginning to feel a lot less like the end of the world, and more like another hurdle I’ll overcome with time. And since I’ve heard seeing is important in reading and writing — go figure — perhaps they’ll help me to be a better writer:
A sexy writer with super powers.