Here’s Charlie the day he got his new Warby Parker glasses earlier this month. I thought it would be a nightmare to get him to keep them on but he hasn’t complained once. Leah got glasses at exactly the same age. Kendall started wearing glasses at 13 but I’ve never had them…until now. I finally had to deal with the fact that I was squinting more than ever sitting in front of my computer all day and Charlie’s opthamologist wrote me a prescription. Why is it easy for me to accept that my three-year-old children need glasses but I'm in denial about my 53-year-old self? Is it vanity? Refusal to accept the aging process?
Charlie’s current eye doctor is the same woman who first saw him in the NICU when he was a few months old. He was born so early that his eyelids were still fused shut—one of the things that freaked me out more than anything. When I first realized that was the case I imagined some ghoulish procedure where they'd have to go at his face with a razor blade but no, that's not how it works. His eyes miraculously opened at about the time they would have if he'd still been in the womb, it was incredible.
Not that we’d get a good look at his eyes for quite some time after that—he had to wear a mask for a while to shield his under-developed retinas. We were dealing with so many possible terrors back then that I barely remember having the energy to panic about his eyes but I do recall that I was scared shitless the first time this opthamologist was called in. Especially since the nurses put the fear of God into us about how horrific the screening process was, saying that we should leave the NICU when she came because it was just too horrible to watch. They told us she had to pry his eyes open with some hideous spider-like device in his eye sockets and if we knew what was good for us we'd make ourselves scarce. Eh. We didn’t leave and after everything we’d already seen, it wasn’t so bad at all. I don't even remember Charlie minding it so much.
Premature babies are at serious risk for something called ROP—Retinopathy of Prematurity. Babies born at less than three pounds and less than 31 weeks are at the greatest risk. Charlie was born at 1 pound at 24 weeks. There are five stages of ROP, with the most severe ones usually meaning loss of vision or total blindness. When Charlie was finally big enough to be screened, we still couldn’t really tell if he could see us. I believed that he could, but that didn’t stop me from doing jarring “tests” every time I got the chance like Helen Keller’s panicked mother did at the beginning of “The Miracle Worker”—clapping and snapping my fingers in his face. Oh wait, Mrs. Keller was probably testing her baby's hearing with those movements. Oops. Except at that point we didn't know if Charlie could hear either. Ah, the memories! So when Charlie’s doctor put the spider-device into his eyes, we had no idea what to expect. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, Charlie’s eyes were just fine, despite all the odds against him. Which is to say, let’s not be too concerned about the light prescription he’s wearing now—who gives a fuck? Besides, if I thought Charlie was a chick magnet before, just try walking around Farmers Market with him wearing his new glasses! (Just kidding, Kendall—is it MY fault that every woman within a six-mile radius falls in love with him on sight?)
I also vow to stop stupidly bemoaning my own need for reading glasses. My father, thanks to a particularly bad case of macular degeneration, has been blind for the past 12 years and that is no fun at all. I so admire his ability to cope and still lead a relatively normal life in his condition, he’s really amazing. He even joined the Board of Directors of the Chicago Lighthouse, a fantastic organization that helps the blind and visually impaired and was written up in the Chicago Tribune.
So let’s hear it for Charlie’s new glasses…and my own! Here we are, reading one of Charlie’s favorite books, “Harry the Dirty Dog” by Gene Zion, for the first time with better sight: