All my life, I’ve been told I had my father’s eyes. Family lore has it that a complete stranger came up to my mother at a county park when I was a baby, pointed to my rosy cheeks and impossibly pale blue eyes and announced that she had no idea who my mother was, but that I clearly was a member of my father’s family. Even other family members have confused my photos with pictures of my Dad’s sisters. (That’s OK with me – I think they’re all lovely.) The point is – the force runs strong in my father’s family.
Genetics are a funny and random mixed bag. My sister and I have inherited some of the same traits, but also many different things from each of our parents. My sister’s face is a clear reflection of our mother’s mother, and she got many more of Mum’s freckles than I did. She got Daddy’s natural athletic ability, and I got our mother’s preference to be alone with a book over almost anything else. We both inherited a great love of movies and music from Mum, and we both wear those bright, pale blue eyes from Dad.
I don’t remember my father ever complaining about his eyes until he was in his late 70’s and diabetes began to take its toll. My mother, on the other hand, had incredibly beautiful eyes, but was very nearsighted (myopic) and often had to hide them behind glasses. An injury to one of her eyes made contact lenses off limits. Taking her specs off meant she had to open her eyes wider to see, which had the effect of making her look inquisitive and even more attractive. The truth is, her eyes were gorgeous, but they were a trial to her.
Mum was a writer and, for a time, editor of a local magazine. Each month she wrote some article for the magazine, like a profile of a local business or personality, or a humor piece about life as a resident of our county. One of those pieces was called “Myopia Is My Way of Life.” In it she described her love-hate relationship with her glasses, and to this day it makes me laugh.
But as she aged, her eyes gave her additional problems – ones that could cause blindness if left untreated. In her sixties she developed cataracts (lens clouding) and the clear vision she relied on became fractured and unclear. An eye doctor told me that most of us get some progressive cataract distortion as we age, but the very nearsighted are often affected earlier. Mum had surgery to correct her cataracts and improve her myopia, and then did a little metaphorical tap dance because, as she said, her vision was better than it had been in her thirties. She bought some new books to celebrate.
Then, she developed glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve, usually caused by pressure). It was caught early, and for the balance of her life she put two kinds of drops in her eyes daily, to prevent further damage. Being a Scot, she was keenly aware of the financial cost of those drops, but she was even more aware of the consequences of failing to use them. Her vision was clear and her eyes were bright and beautiful until the day she died.
So, today I had a follow-up visit with the ophthalmologist. Follow-up, because my annual checkup with my optician (who provides my glasses for myopia) showed some suspicious things. First, I have cataracts starting. These will be monitored, and at some point in the not-too-distant future, I’ll have to have surgery. They don’t advocate the surgery when they first start, because, well it’s surgery after all, and so they’re cautious. But when I notice progression, it will be my turn to have the surgery, do a tap dance, and order some new books.
The other suspicion was that I may have the beginnings of glaucoma. Some more tests were done today, and I have yet another follow-up visit in a few months to see if I need to start the regimen of daily eye drops. You can get crowns on your teeth, and they can build you new knees and hips, but we really only get one pair of eyes each – they need a little TLC.
As I was describing my doctor visit to my beloved tonight, I had a funny thought. It suddenly occurred to me that all my life, everyone has been wrong. In some very important ways, I have my mother’s eyes, and not my father’s after all.