Last week, when I assaulted the eardrums of everyone in the vicinity of Children’s Hospital with my plastic tree’s metal stand dragging the roof of the parking garage, it turned out to be the highlight of that day. Our destination was the children’s eye doctor who has taken care of my family since Tommy was small. The appointment started out on time. I always sing a little happy song inside when this doctor is on time, because it means there are no eye emergencies at the hospital. Amy was less pleased, because the appointment started with eye drops that burned.
After an assortment of machines and tests, the doctor explained the results to me. He cheerily explained that Amy’s astigmatism and near-sightedness almost cancel each other out so that her vision is not that bad. Then he demonstrated that his real concern was her weak eye muscles. I verbalized lazy pirate therapy, but he said exercises wouldn’t help and surgery was not needed. The plan was to let her wear the glasses for schoolwork and check on the eyes again in a few months. I was too busy processing his casual attitude and her diagnosis to come up with any questions.
The next stop was the attached glasses shop. There were dozens of frames that Amy loved and the employee happily said that anything in the shop would work for Amy. It wasn’t until we were ready to place our order that we found out they didn’t accept Amy’s blah insurance. I left with a visibly disappointed Amy to find a shop that would work with us.
We found a place and they assured us they carried children’s frames. Amy dashed around the store looking at frames while I handed the clerk Amy’s script. “Oh, wow! This script is horrible!” My brain clicked to a different channel and I tried to sync the everything is groovy attitude at one place with the gloomy attitude at this place. Did the doctor who I love, sugar coat reality? Why didn’t he tell me a year ago that her muscles were weak? Why did he say she didn’t need her glasses all the time if they are so bad?
I was dragged back into the moment by the clerk who handed us three frames and said they were our only choices. Say what? Amy looked stunned. The choices were a dark blue metal frame, a plastic crayon purple frame and a teeny plastic peach frame that looked like they were sized for an infant. Amy just stared blankly at the three choices. I said the metal frame looked okay because it was the least awful pair. “You don’t want those. Children shouldn’t have metal frames.” I went back and forth with the clerk who unwaveringly insisted that we weren’t ordering the blue frames. I said fine and told her we’d take the purple pair. She started trying to convince me that we wanted the peach frames that were smaller than Amy’s eyes. I lowered my voice and looked at her through my bangs. “We’re getting the purple pair.” Measurements were taken and we were told to wait a week. Amy left there looking like her heart had been stomped. I had to go home and hide to cry.
Now, I know I shouldn’t complain about the style of glasses when there are children who do without any despite their needs. It’s just easier to complain about being forced to put u-g-l-y frames that look like they were a prize in a happy meal on my sweet child than it is to describe the fear and helplessness at the diagnosis. That and the clerk at a glasses store who took every single bit of fun out of a very difficult situation for a bubbly little girl. I’m sorry for Amy, but not enough to give her a puppy for Christmas.