I have an eight-year-old son. He is smart, he is freckly, and he is the most clever kid I’ve ever known. He is my third boy (I call them Handsome 1, 2, and 3) and as scrappy as they come. He’s always up to something, the silent but deadly type. My baby boy keeps me on my toes. (He also refuses to wear pants.) Even so, I was not prepared for our annual well visit at the pediatrician last summer.
It started out as a normal visit: height, weight, blood pressure and pulse, the usual. The kids looked great and were hanging at the 50th percentile in everything, just like they’d been since birth. Next, we moved out to the hallway for vision checks. This part makes me nervous. My husband has terrible eyes and we always worry the kids will follow suit. Thus far, Handsome #2 was the only one sporting specs. I waited with bated breath as they all made their way through the chart. Handsome #1 and my daughter were perfect. But when it came to Handsome #3, he struggled. Shit! I thought. Here we go again. Poor guy is headed down the lousy vision tunnel. My heart hurt a bit for him. We were referred to the eye doctor for a follow up.
When we got home, I thought I’d lessen the blow by letting him look for new glasses online. You know, just to get an idea of what he liked. He was thrilled! He made a favorites list. There were big frames, small frames, bright colors, and solid black. He asked if he could have more than one pair. God love him! He was really taking it in stride and I was proud of him. I shouldn’t have been surprised; he loved trying on other people’s glasses. Even his goggles looked like glasses. The next day we headed to the eye doctor for his very first appointment.
Handsome #2 was nervous when he entered the eye doctor’s office for the first time. There was big equipment and funny chairs. But Handsome #3 had no fear at all. He couldn’t wait to get started. I filled out a few forms and the tech started asking him questions
“Do you have trouble seeing things up close?”
“How about far away?”
“Does bright light bother you?”
“Uh huh. All the time.”
“How well do you do in the dark?”
“I can’t really see anything?”
“Fuck,” I said to myself. How had I missed this? My poor baby was struggling and he never mentioned it. He is my sweetest little soul. He once walked around in shoes that were two sizes too small because he didn’t want to inconvenience me! I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t want to bother me, so he kept his sweet little mouth quiet.
The eye exam began with the tech showing him a book with small letters printed in it. Right eye first. Top line, he did fine, only missed a couple of letters. Line two, not so hot. By the third line, it was a total disaster. He got nearly every letter wrong. I was in total shock! Left eye next. It was nearly identical to the right. I thought it was a tad unusual to have exactly the same vision in both eyes since one tends to be stronger, but I shrugged it off. She said it was time to move on to the bigger letters. Surely his distance vision was better than up close.
The lights were dimmed and he covered his right eye. He looked so innocent with that little spoon resting on his face. I just knew this was going to be better. She put the giant E on the screen. You know, the one that is so big you could see it from the parking lot? He looked at it, squinted for a minute and said, “P?” There was hesitation in his voice.
“Sweet baby Jesus!” I whispered to myself. Everyone can see the E! Even my husband can see the E, and he can’t see a goddamn thing! Ugh, this was so much worse than I thought.
She switched screens and he failed. One after the other. He was at maybe a 10% on each line. It was both eyes! He officially was going to need glasses. Fuck! He probably needed trifocals.
She thanked him for his patience, gave me a wink, and said the doctor would be right in. What a sweet girl. She knew how bad it was and just wanted to cheer me up.
The doctor came in and said, “I heard you’re having some trouble seeing. Let’s take a look.” He started by shining a light in each eye and assured me that looked good. Thank God! He then said, “Now I’m going to show you a few different lenses and I want you to tell me one or two. OK?”
“Sounds great,” said Handsome #3.
He was pretty cheery for someone without a glimmer of hope left. The doctor put the large E back on the screen and asked him which was better: one or two? He said he couldn’t see out of either. OK, I thought. He’s starting things slowly to see how strong his prescription really is.
“How about this? One or two?”
“Hmmmm … one”
“Let’s try again, one or two?”
“I can’t see anything.”
He changed the screen and gave him a few more lines to read. Again, it was one failure after another. It was becoming dire.
Then, he fucked up. Just like a criminal leaves a clue at the crime scene, he made a careless mistake. He had forgotten what he was doing and suddenly was reading the line perfectly. Every damn letter!
Oh.My.God. He was faking the whole thing. Here I am ready to get out the rosary beads and this little shit is lying!
“One more time, one or two?”
“Two. Definitely two!”
“Excellent. Your vision is perfect. 20/20. I can see you back in a year, sir,” the doc said cheerfully and gave him a fist bump.
The look on Handsome #3’s face was one of utter devastation. You would have thought I’d told him our dog had died. He couldn’t believe that the doctor saw through his foolproof plan. That pesky little eye exam had done him in. How could that doctor have known? He played it off so well. What a disappointment.
I walked to the desk, paid the most painful copay I’d ever handed over, and headed to the car. He was silent as he moped through the parking lot.
“Handsome #3, why did you say you couldn’t see if you really could?”
“Mom! I can’t see! That doctor doesn’t know what he’s doing!”
I gave him the look. You know, the one that says, “I know you’re full of shit, kid!”
He broke down. “Fine! I don’t need glasses. I want them, OK? They’re cool. I’ll just wear Handsome #2’s old ones!”
“It doesn’t work that way, buddy.”
“Oh yeah? Well, then I’ll wear dad’s. I’m getting glasses someday. I promise I am.”
I had been told by a spicy little fella with perfect vision. There would be glasses in his future, no matter if he had to lie, cheat, and steal, they’d be his.
Next week his brother is going for his braces fitting at the orthodontist. I wonder if Handsome #3 has figured out how to make his teeth look crooked?