Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The eye exam.

I remember once upon a time, I thought having a retainer was the coolest thing in the world. Of course now I feel blessed that I didn't need braces and even proudly say "No, these are my 'real' teeth" when asked about my smile. But you could not convince me of this when I was 10. So, instead my sister and I (who was also wickedly blessed with straight teeth) took metal paper clips, straightened them out as best we could, hooked the back and wore them around stating we had retainers. But what about the snazzy little case you put them in at night when you didn't wear them?

We had that angle covered too. We just put our metal friends in our ear plug case. That's right folks; where we 'lacked' in great teeth we made up for in crappy ears. Three sets of tubes in our ears made swimming a hot and sexy thing - bundles of wax protruding from our ear canals, many times with tangled up wads of hair mixed in. So, what we got out of the deal were nice clear cases - perfect for our beloved retainers.

I was sent back to this blast from the past when asking myself "Where did he get this!?" Lets rewind 14 days ago ....

This past summer I had noticed Maysen doing a weird squinting thing with his face. He never noticed it and I found myself starting to call him out when he did it. Driving by "Eyeland Optical", a small-town 1940s craftman-style house transformed into an optical shop, prompted me to think, "Maysen is starting 2nd grade, maybe I should have his eyes checked." An appointment was made for 3 weeks in the future and in the meantime, Maysen started hounding me about wanting glasses. Anticipating a long drive to pick up Griffin from grandma's in Myrtle Point, I caved in and let Maysen get a pair of blue reading glasses (with fancy old-lady fake diamonds on the side) from BiMart. They were the lowest magnification you could find, and he wore them with pride as he read during the long drive.

Then I started to notice he was wearing them around the house. Then he snuck them to school. In the trash those glasses went and in time for our eye appointment.

Dr Merritt was a bubbly, bright, tiny, curly-haired woman who was more than accommodating with Maysen's first-time curiosity. Initially I had explained to Dr Merritt about the weird squinting episodes and the recent fascination with having glasses; of course this came with concern of him fibbing on his exam, despite our talk of honesty beforehand.

"Maysen can you read the small line on the bottom of the chart?"


"Can you read the second to the last line?"


"What line can you read?"

"I can see the E. That is all." This, let me point out to all of you, is 20/200. Basically the bigger the second number, the worse your eyesight is. 20/200 is legally blind.

Skeptical with my arms folded I piped up "Maysen, remember you need to be very honest." She went on through the battery of "Is number 1 better, orrrrr number 2? Threee .... or ..... Four". This seemed to last forever. He was tested five different times in different eyes - front ways, backwards, sideways. She brought out the old school books and tested him for depth perception. She even built him a pair of glasses on a bulky, heavy, and awkward metal frame. She walked him around the office and to a picture window and had him look across the street. When she lifted the glasses, he squinted.

The outcome was this veteran of 25+yrs saying, "Your kiddo is 20/200 in one eye and 20/80 in the other. At this point I can't get him to perfect 20/20 even with glasses. We'll have to do exercises with his eyes and hopefully by next year we can."

*$(&$#&**(@ .... 'HUH?" I was still totally skeptical. I was reassured by her statements of "This isn't my first rodeo with kids who want glasses. I not only mapped his eyesight, but I was paying attention to what he was doing. There is no way he could have outsmarted this exam."

So, he picked out glasses like a kid in a candy store. The only disappointment was the realization that they were going to take "FOREVER" to come in ... 4 days.

Three days go by and every night we had the same talk. "They'll be in on Wednesday." And yet during these days, my mind was reeling. How was it he could read and be on track at school? How was it that he went up and down our stairs 4 times a day without falling? Gosh, he's able to tumble making Pre-Team in gymnastics and doing flips on the trampoline all with no depth perception? Something was not adding up.

"You know, Mase. The reason I took those reading glasses away from you is because if you wear glasses when you aren't supposed to, your eyes will go crossed and you could go blind."

"............................................................. really?"


"Does that go for all glasses?"

"If you aren't supposed to wear them, then yes. Is there something we need to talk about? I'm not going to be upset if you're honest with me."

Then it happened. It was as if I was watching the scene from The Goonies when Chunk is spilling his guts to the Fratellis with his hand in the blender. Maysen came into the kitchen blubbering away.

"....and .... and .... *sniffle* .... I juuuuuuuust wannnnnnted glassssssessssss......"

*blink* "What!?"

"I lied on my eye test! I could really see all the stuff!"

"The whole thing!?"

"You said you wouldn't get mad!"

And there it was. The confession. He had cheated on his eye exam to get glasses. Talk about wind getting ripped from your sail. I was upset, sick, deflated, disappointed, defeated. How could my little boy be so selfish and inconsiderate?

"There's no way. I'm 100% confident that he didn't cheat on that test, he couldn't have!" was Dr Merritt's response when I stopped by the office the next day to pick up Maysen's glasses. I think the wind left her sail, too. She'd spent just about an hour and a half trying to adequately assess his eyes, and she was sure it wasn't so. A piece of me hoped it wasn't so. That piece was saying, "Maybe you scared him with the whole cross eyed/blind thing that he wants nothing to do with glasses at all, despite needing them." Oye.

I took the glasses with me from the office and went to the school. As the class exited the room toward the library, Mase and I stayed back. I handed the glasses to him. He put them on and immediately took them off.

"Why'd you take them off?"

"Because I don't want my eyes to go crossed."

"Well, can you see? I need you to be very honest with me. Can you see what's written on the marker board?"

".....sort of. Not really. Actually, not at all."

That confirmed it. There was now no mistake, he didn't need glasses. What lesson is in order here? Humiliation to a degree is key here, but how far do you go? We've told everyone about this poor boy's eyesight: Family, friends, teachers, his new gymnastics coaches.

The following day, Maysen had to meet with Mrs. Medina. She, after all, had gone through the trouble of moving him to the front of the class and had given him hand-outs to follow along in class. He had to confess his lies to her and apologize making a solemn promise never to lie to her.

Then I met with Dr Merritt for my own contact lens fitting. I had to break it to her that Maysen had in fact cheated on his exam and he could not see at all out of his glasses. Her confidence withered away and the realization that she had been duped started to set in. Still a bit skeptical, she decided to re-test him the following week.

Over the weekend Maysen worked hard on an apology letter to Dr Merritt and even bought her a bag of almonds (her favorite) as a peace offering. Dr Merritt was very stoic, forgiving Mase for his lie. She told me she would refund everything - from the co-pay to the glasses because he had her fooled, she felt responsibility for not catching on. The last person on earth that is responsible for this is her! The re-test showed ... shocker ... that Maysen had 20/20 vision in both eyes.

However ....

There was evidence that his eyes were strained. She had asked him if his eyes every felt tired after school and when he said "Yes" he looked over the mondo eye tester with his own eyes wide as silver-dollars and proclaimed "THEY DO SOMETIMES, MOM!"

She then held up two little lenses and had him put them over his eyes. "Do you see better with these? Do your eyes feel better?"

"YES! Things are bigger but very clear ..... I SWEAR MOM! I'M NOT LYING".

As a kid, I suffered terrible headaches. I can remember coming home from 3rd grade and instead of going for that after school snack, I always went for aspirin. They sent me to an opthalmologist to see if there was any sort of tumor in my eye causing the headaches. It was then that they realized my eyes were severely strained causing the headaches (along with massively thick, long hair). As Maysen's reading, homework, etc get more intense, it's likely he could follow in the same direction as I did as a kid.

The end result was that he got a pair of glasses with a very slight prescription that will ease eye strain. They're perfect in the sense that his vision is perfect 20/20 whether he wears the glasses or not. But, if he wears them, his eyes will be more rested.

"You mean I can wear them all day and not go blind?"

The smile on his face was priceless; like a kid who was just told that cookies are now considered a breakfast food.

I have one happy kid who had to learn a hard and humiliating lesson. I hope it sticks and wards off any other wild ideas when he's 16 .... or I'm in trouble.