Memory Lane: Getting Glasses

I raised my hand.

“Yes, Dawn?”

“I can’t see the board, Sister.”

“Okay. Why don’t you move up a couple of seats?”

And so it began.


I was always tall, and as a tall child, I was placed in the back of the classroom.

In first grade, this didn’t seem to be a problem.

In second grade, it was.


By the second month of school, I was sitting all the way in the front row, leaning over my desk. And still the letters on the chalkboard were blurred or simply not there.

Sister Rita Marie (God rest her soul) touched my shoulder one day.

“Dawn, you have to tell your parents you can’t see the chalkboard.”

This hadn’t occurred to me.


My parents did not wear glasses when I was a child. They had 20/20 (or so) vision until they reached their 40s.

So when I went home and said, “I can’t see the blackboard,” they responded the way Sister had the first time I had told her.

“Just ask your teacher to move you up a couple of seats.”

I remember a pause here, a kind of confusion in my mind. Maybe related to the fact that I thought my parents, much like God, were all-knowing and all-seeing.

“I’m already sitting all the way in the front,” I finally informed them.

They took me to the eye doctor.


I couldn’t tell you if I am near-sighted or far-sighted. I know, starting in second grade, I started wearing glasses. By the time I was in eighth grade, I couldn’t see without them. Still can’t. Everything beyond the end of my nose is beyond blurry. Without corrective lenses, the world is big blobs of color without detail, without feature.

It’s been this way since elementary school. If I could wave a magic wand and change one aspect of my physical being, I would give myself 20/20 vision. I would like to wake up in the morning and be able to see my bedside clock without squinting at it.


In eighth grade, I asked my parents, and then my eye doctor, for contact lenses.

My eye doctor told me that soft contact lenses wouldn’t correct my vision enough.

“However…,” he trailed off. “I don’t want to put you in hard lenses. You’re too young — they really aren’t healthy for the eye. But there are these new contact lenses out now. They’re still hard, but they let oxygen get to the eye.”

Rigid gas permeable contact lenses in 1985 — the year I was in eighth grade — were still fairly new.

He was still hesitant. When my mother pressed him about his concerns, he was honest. “These lenses require a lot of care, and take some time getting used to. I’m not sure she (meaning me) is mature enough.”

My mother reassured him. “Dawn is very responsible for her age,” she said. “If she wants to try them, I think we should do it.”

I’m kind of proud that my mom was confident enough in me to let me make the decision to get RGP lenses.


I wore RGP lenses until I was 36 weeks pregnant with Michael. They had taken some getting used to — the first week or so it felt like I had a piece of glass in my eye. For all intents and purposes, I DID have a piece of glass in my eye (actually a disk made up of gas-permable polymers). Through the years, my prescription has changed very little, and I’ve had about four or five pairs of the lenses — they are remarkably durable, much moreso than soft contacts.

Then something changed, and my eyes haven’t recovered. Some combination of pregnancy and allergies (and possibly age) have made RGP lenses untenable. I went to soft lenses, but even those, lately, aren’t working.

I miss wearing contacts. They afford a certain amount of freedom, especially when it comes to outdoor activities and swimming. I miss sunglasses — a lot! I miss peripheral vision. It’s really not about appearance for me, not as much as convenience. I look pretty cute in glasses. And I could really do without perpetual itchy eyes; I forget to put in my eyedrops about as often as I remember.

I’ll take a pair of lenses to North Carolina, along with saline solution. Maybe my allergies will subside enough for me to wear them. If not, I guess I’ll be the woman in the orange dress wearing purple glasses in the wedding pictures.

If you could change something about your body unrelated to appearance, what would it be?