the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Matters of the eyes, continued

Last fall when I belly-flopped into the world of pediatric ophthalmology, I learned that if Marlo’s eyes had not improved by a certain margin in three months that she might need to begin patching therapy. For those of you who are as unfamiliar with the terminology around the health of eyes as I am, this means that for a few hours a day she’d need to wear a patch over one eye to strengthen the vision of the other. Like a pirate, yes.

Why couldn’t the Mormon pirate see American Sniper? Because it was rated ARRRRRRRRRGHH!

No worries at all, I just groaned on your behalf, and it was primeval. Promise not to do that again.

A couple of weeks ago I drove her out to the clinic and we sat in one of the examination rooms for a bit before the doctor could see her. While waiting we spotted a book on the counter called Jacob’s Eye Patch about a boy who has to wear, quite obviously, an eye patch. It’s a very cute story that celebrates the differences among strangers, and we read the whole thing. Okay, correction. I read the whole thing to her. BUT. You want to know what that kid did on Sunday? She wrote her name 19 times on 19 different Valentine cards without once trying to convince me that letters are an enemy of the state.

I cannot express what an enormous victory that was. The night before I was on the phone with my mom telling her that Leta had a huge oral report due on Monday, and I didn’t know how I was going to manage both that and Marlo’s Valentine cards.

“How many times does she have to write her name?” my mom asked.

“19 times,” I answered.

I could hear my mother sending up an earnest prayer on the other end of the line. “THAT IS 19 TIMES MORE THAN SHE WILL AGREE TO DO SO!” My mom is somewhat familiar with my younger child.

“RIGHT?!” I said, so thrilled that she understood. “The essence of my life has been filtered down into, ‘The Numerous Ways In Which I Have to Peel My Younger Child Off of the Floor Because of the Alphabet.’”

When we finished that story in the examination room, Marlo reached her hand up and cupped my right cheek.

“Am I going to have to wear a patch? Because I really don’t want to,” she said. That sounds kind of heartbreaking, and at its core it kind of is. But she said it just like that to disguise what she was really saying: “If the doctor says that I have to wear a patch you will feel so sorry for me because I’m manipulating you. And you will tell him no.”

I didn’t bite and answered, “We don’t know yet. We’re here to find out.”

After a technician cleaned off the ocean of smudges that had collected on her glasses since that morning—tangent here: Leta will tell you that when I die she’s going to have inscribed on my headstone, “HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU SEE THROUGH THESE THINGS!” Because it’s one of the most frequent things to come out of my mouth on a daily basis. While the kids brush their teeth in the morning I’ll clean off both pairs of glasses, and she’s now reached a point where she will beat me to it, yank the toothbrush out of her mouth and say in the most dry and monotone way, “How on earth can I see through those things.”

So help me god when she starts a blog about her life. Won’t she know that she will be compromising my adulthood?

The doctor came into the room with clean glasses and began conducting a few eye exams, and from what I learned and observed last fall I could tell immediately that things didn’t look good. In her right eye specifically, she couldn’t even see 20/60 with her glasses on. Which is just, well, not okay in any way whatsoever. And yes, before you ask, she wears her glasses religiously now. She wants to wear them because they’ve obviously improved her condition. I haven’t ever had to cajole or bribe or threaten or surgically attach them to her face myself with purposefully dirty equipment.

So… patching therapy. Because the vision in her right eye is so poor Marlo has to wear a patch on her left eye for two hours a day for at least the next three months (possibly for many months after that). I asked if we’d need to increase the amount of time, and he said research indicated that kids who wore a patch just two hours a day showed as much improvement as kids who wore them for eight hours. We left there with a box full of adhesive, colorfully patterned patches. And the entire drive home I tried to come up with an equation that would calculate the amount of chaos this would add to the packed schedule that is already our evenings after school.

a2 + b2 = EXPONENTIAL AMOUNT

I had not even mentioned the word “pirate” that day, but when I applied that first patch to her eye that night she clinched her fist and swung her arm while chanting, “AHOY, MATEY!” She was exited at the novelty of it. Giddy, even.

Why does it take pirates so long to learn the alphabet? Because they can spend years at C!

Okay, I know I promised I wouldn’t do that again, but COME ON. How appropriate is that one?

30 minutes into the two-hour required time period, however, she started to loose her mind. She was screaming and moaning and writhing. I texted my mom in frustration and said that I’d tried bribing her with ice cream and even promised to steal a panda bear and let her keep it in her room. But she was having none of it. It was like the alphabet had come alive and was eating her face off.

“Set a timer,” my mom texted back.

So that’s what I did. I calculated just how much time she had left, set an alarm on my phone and told her that when she heard the bells she could take it off. She complained every ten minutes for the next hour and a half, but when that alarm went off she ran over to me and we exchanged so many high fives that I may have bruised my hand. We danced and celebrated and hollered and shouted all sort of things like BARRRRGE! and LARRRRGE! and CARRRRR!

I set the alarm on my phone every day and she hasn’t complained since. Something about the audio signification that she has accomplished what she had to accomplish thrills her. On the night of Leta’s birthday I asked her if she wanted to wear her patch before the party so that she wouldn’t have to have it on during the festivities, and she perched her hands on her hips in utter disappointment. It was a physical manifestation of DUH.

patch

I kid you not, she answered, “Of course not! I am Patch Girl. How sad would it be if everyone missed out on that?”

So sad. So harrrrrrd to imagine.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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