My earliest childhood memory was running into the post supporting the railing on the steps leading up to the kitchen door from our backyard in Roseville.
It made a bloody mess of my face.
I was a 4 year-old at the time. Apparently I had been running into things for a long time.
A neighbor Catherine Gates, who happened to be a teacher, mentioned to my parents I might have an eyesight issue.
That ended up being an understatement for the ages.
The first optometrist I saw referred my parents to an eye surgeon. I had two eyes that made Mr. Magoo’s eyesight 20-20 in comparison.
I hit the grand slam of eye issues — astigmatism, nearsightedness, farsightedness, and lazy eye.
This kind of surprised my parents as they thought I was just a klutz. By the time you get to your third kid you don’t sweat parenting as much as you’ve been there before. And given it was the early 1960 parents didn’t strap on knee pads, helmets, and such. You were free range kids before anyone coined such an absurd term.
You were expected to skin your knees, take spills from bicycles and bruise your ego. It was how you grew up to learn how to deal with adversity, challenges, setbacks, and understand that certain behavior can lead to bloody outcomes.
The eye surgeon was Dr. George Pace.
He told my parents I had one of the most challenging lazy eyes he’d ever seen. But before resorting to possible surgery he wanted to try and correct it with an eye patch to see if it would make the weaker eye that was the lazy eye step up its game.
I spent over a year with an eye patch on while also wearing my first pair of glasses that were bifocals right out of the gate.
It’s weird. Most other kids in kindergarten thought the eye patch even in concert with glasses was cool. But a year later in first grade I became “four eyes”. Some kids who obviously thought they were clever and insightful built on that taunt to make it “fatty four eyes” referencing my weight.
I really didn’t dwell too much on such snide remarks that came sometimes from people who believed simply being older than 30 made them adults.
The reason was simple. I was happy the world was no longer a perpetual blur.
I actually credit what transpired after I slammed into the stairway post running into the house as the reason I became a voracious reader by the time I was in the first grade.
Our neighbor, who insisted I call her Catherine despite that being a no-no back then for any child under 21 to address a neighborhood or non-relative without Mr., Mrs., or Miss in front of their last name, made it her mission to make sure I fully enjoyed being able to see.
She taught me to read before I turned 5. For two years I got daily lessons when she wasn’t traveling in the summer and after she’d get home from school.
The “books” she used were the front pages of the three newspapers she subscribed to — the Roseville Press-Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and Sacramento Union. It was never the sports section or the comics. It was always a front page. She would also drill me on what I had read once I comprehended what specific words meant.
Somewhere along the line I was able to master somewhat the art of speed reading.
As the years progressed my eye sight improved to the point in my mid-30s for several years I was in “regular” glasses which for me meant dropping the bifocals. I eventually went back to bifocals and then about 20 years ago graduated to trifocals.
Except for my first year or so as patient with Dr. Pace when I literally went for an eye appointment every month or so, I’ve made annual visits for eye exams.
Along the way a number of optometrists earned the trust I placed in them — Greg Miller, Fred Stellhorn, Michael Lavieri, and now Tram Ton-Tran.
I was a tad apprehensive about my exam with Ton-Tran. It had nothing to do with the fact I had never been examined by her. Ton-Tran purchased Lavieri’s practice when he retired that she has rechristened iCare Family Optometry.
It was the fact I had been misjudging things even with my eye glasses on.
I found myself doing what I did in group aerobic classes when I’d sweat as if I was serving as the headwaters of Niagara Falls requiring me to take off the glasses so they wouldn’t fly off my head. Even if I used a “sports band” to keep them in place the lenses would become streaked with sweat making seeing almost impossible.
What I did was concentrate as if I didn’t know how to move my limbs automatically.
Some of it comes from being a natural lefty who had that habit drilled out of by as a first grade tescher under the belief anybody who was in her accelerated reading group that didn’t pick up a pencil, crayon or pair of scissors with their right hand would somehow not live up to their learning potential. If she saw you commit such a transgression her metal ruler found its way to your wrist. And if you really angered her by repeating the perceived sin after the first whack she made sure you felt the next swing for the rest of the day.
But much of it was attributed to the fact things were literally a blur.
At any rate it was one of my longest eye exams ever. After detecting I again had a lazy eye issue and the fact patch therapy rarely works in an adult especially one who is heading north of age 65 she worked diligently to dial in a prescription that would force my lazy eye to stop slacking on the job.
After a week of wearing the new glasses it’s gotten better. While threading a needle is still a challenge — it never wasn’t with me — and any hope of starting a second career as a diamond cutter is off the table, I’ve noticed that my lazy eye is a little but less lazy.
That’s a good sign given how lazy eye can end up doing is prompt your brain to totally ignore it which I’m sure would make judging things in the eyes-hands coordination department as much fun as head butting a post.
Ask me what I think one if mankind’s greatest achievements are and I will tell you without hesitation it is the science disciplines that made modern health care, including optometry, possible.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at email@example.com