Illo -- Magnifying glass (copy)

Vision correction is a lifelong journey for one Gazette reporter. Photos by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette and iStock/Getty Images; Illustration by Stephanie Swearngin, Colorado Politics


These are the random, similarly shaped letters that will reveal to your eye doctor all the escapades your eyeballs have been up to over the past year.

“The small fox entered through the garden gate at midnight and bathed in the yellow tulips under the full moon.”

This is much like a sentence, written in teeny-tiny print, that you will be asked to read at arm’s length to determine the rate at which you’re hurtling into old age, where it’s seemingly a requirement to perch a pair of readers on the tip of your nose, tilt your head down and peer disdainfully at whomever deign ask you a ridiculous question.

Could this be, would this be me? Not quite yet, as it turns out. But give me a few years.

Here’s what happens when your eyeballs go rogue young.


Eight or 9 years old. Third grade classroom. A computer is rolled in on a cart. Ooo, ahhh. What is this newfangled contraption? The keyboard is on the lower level of the cart. The monitor is on top of the tall cart, so all of us itsy bitsies can see whatever magic our teacher creates on the screen.

Only I can’t make out anything on the screen. It’s one big fuzzy blank. I’m puzzled. What’s everybody looking at? What mysticism is Mrs. Schrieber, my beloved third grade teacher, conjuring? I say nothing. I pretend I can see it, too. Ah, the plight of a shy, little people pleaser.

I must have said something to my mother about the mysterious computer, because that’s how I landed my first eyeglass prescription for nearsightedness, the inability to see far-off things. (Wow, I just inadvertently psychoanalyzed my whole life in that one sentence.)

I don’t remember the eye appointment, but I vividly remember its aftermath. Me, more distraught than I’d possibly been in my short life, hiding in my mom’s sewing room, tucked into a tiny space between the dryer and the ironing board. Crying my little eyes out, which were now the bane of my existence.


Back to third grade. The ominous computer is once again rolled in. My new glasses are stashed in my desk. Nobody knows about them, and I must keep it that way. I can’t bear all the unsolicited feedback.

The machine fires up. Once again, my peers are enraptured. My curiosity is more than I can endure. I lift the desktop high enough to sneak my glasses out. I peek around. Nobody’s watching. I lift the glasses to my face. I don’t put them on, just look through the thick lenses. I can see the screen. Holy Grail.


My bedroom, circa junior high. I’m 12, possibly 13. Deep in the existential angst of puberty and paging through a Seventeen magazine. Big mistake. There’s an ad for contacts that, from what my primordial teenage brain can determine, help turn the drab old brown eyes you got stuck with (poor creature) into a startling, magnetic, life-changing blue or green. Or how about hazel? Anything but poopy brown. I sob inconsolably. Now brown eyes aren’t good enough either? Along with my spotty skin, doughy body and Coke bottle glasses? I’ll never be pretty and no boys will ever like me. Therefore, I must cry myself to sleep and wind up sticky and stuck to the pages of a passive aggressive magazine I shouldn’t have been reading in the first place.


The summer before 10th grade. High school. The pressure is immense. My eye doctor, a tidy, trim man whose calm demeanor soothed me, agrees maybe my eyes are done morphing into the blind liquidy orbs they were destined to be, and I can try contacts. The heavens open. I have zero qualms about sticking my fingers in my eyes, perhaps due to my fear the misogynistic cliche will hold true, and boys really don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.


Late ‘20s. I’ve found the silver lining. Pluck out the contacts, unhook the glasses and the world disappears. It’s like my cat Frank (RIP), who, when he intuited it was vet day, slunk under the couch, but only so far that the lower half of his body still remained visible. A fine example of if I can’t see them, they must not be able to see me. Me and my blurry eyesight — same. Also, you get to walk as a living ghost through the world, which is quite halcyon in its haziness. All those blurred edges. It’s like an Impressionist painting come to life.


Circa October of last year. Hey, who made the pill bottle text only big enough for a mouse to read? Wait. Could I be losing my close-up vision now? The topic comes up with my sister-in-law, who’s five years younger than me, and another friend, who’s 18 months younger. (Why does it feel like everybody’s younger than me?) We’re all experiencing the same thing at the same time. While we laugh (a little), we quietly freak out about the onslaught and mercilessness of age. We say words I’ve never uttered out loud: bifocals and readers. Two of us make appointments at our eye doctors. Also, the vision in my left eye seems much more Monet these days.


January. I give my sister-in-law a fancy magnifying glass for her birthday. It’s partly a joke, and partly something I hope to borrow in the future. A few days later, she texts me post-eye doctor: No bifocals yet. My visit doesn’t go quite as well. While one eye has gotten slightly better (way to be go, right eye!), the other has gotten slightly worse (good effort, ol’ leftie). My eye doctor says sometimes they don’t correct vision like this, because the weaker eye can help with close-up stuff. But since I’ve only had minimal trouble reading so far, she decides to go ahead and correct it and give me a new prescription. I decide to embrace and inhabit the not-as-far-off-as-I-thought curmudgeonly old lady who peers judiciously down her nose while wearing readers. Heck, maybe I’ll even add in an uplifted left eyebrow (that’s the only one I can move). I’ve earned it.

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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