Eyeglasses, broken bones come too late in life

Published 7:40 pm Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eyeglasses and a broken arm were the two things that my little childhood heart wanted most. The day that a classmate came into Mrs. Beverly’s classroom wearing a pair of orange and pink-rimmed eyeglasses was the day that I learned the real meaning of covet. She was the first little person I had seen with eyeglasses on and everybody was carrying on over her and Mrs. Beverly, too.

“Now you can see the blackboard and everything else so plain and clear,” Mrs. Beverly said and patted her on the head. Those eyeglasses gave her X-ray power just like Superman. I had always wanted X-ray power and I wanted me some eyeglasses.

I started in on needing eyeglasses that very day. I squinted one eye at the blackboard. Then two eyes but Mrs. Beverly didn’t notice. When I got home, I told Mama that my eyes hurt. Now, I was taking a real chance on that because Mama’s remedy for any ailment from a scraped knee to a ruptured appendix was an enema. But I would do just about anything for eyeglasses. No, I didn’t get anything in my eyes, I told Mama. They just hurt and my head did, too. They started hurting when I was trying to see the blackboard – my eyes and my head.

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Mama told me to lie down and she put a wet bath rag over my eyes. For the next two days, we went through the same thing. I kind of liked lying there with a wet bath rag over my eyes. In my mind’s eye, I could picture myself with my new orange-pink rimmed eyeglasses on. Mama finally decided I might need eyeglasses so she took me to see Dr. Killingsworth, just a regular doctor. Eye doctors had not yet been made up. He looked in my eyes with a tiny little light and had me to look this way and that way and up and down. Then he told me to cover one eye with a piece of cardboard and read the letters on the chart. The first one was the biggest “E” I had ever seen. I thought if I couldn’t see that I was sure to get eyeglasses. If I’d been smart, I would have said the big E was an F or a B but, no …. I said “S.” “Try again.” It wasn’t an M either.

Dr. Killingsworth and Mama got over in the corner and whispered. He was telling Mama I needed eyeglasses. I was sure of that. He came back and rubbed some stuff on my eyelids.

“Now, if this ointment doesn’t help, bring her back on Monday and I’ll give her a shot that should clear her eyes up,” that mean ol’ doctor said.

Well, it would be a month of Sundays before I went back to him. I wasn’t about to get a shot when what I needed was eyeglasses. On the way home, Mama told me about this same bad little girl she had told me about lots of times but never told me her name. This bad little girl pretended that her eyes hurt all the time but they really didn’t. She was just pretending so she could get eyeglasses. Then one day, she went as blind as a bat and could never see again.

I gave a lot of thought to that and decided that maybe I didn’t want eyeglasses after all. But I soon found something else to covet – a broken arm. A boy in our class broke his arm and he had a big, white hard cast on it. We all got to write our names and things like “get well soon” on the cast that he carried around in a sling. A broken arm was better than eyeglasses. He didn’t even have to do his homework because he couldn’t write with his left hand. I couldn’t either. Getting a broken arm wasn’t as easy as getting a headache. I jumped out of trees, fell on my roller skates, rode my bicycle with no hands and walked the rafters in the barn. I got scratches and scrapes but no broken arm. But one day, my cousin Jimmy and I were jousting — like King Arthur and his Knights — trying to knock each other off a log with hoe handles. Jimmy didn’t play fair and swung his hoe handle at me with one hand and hit my arm so hard I started to cry, “You broke my arm! You did!” Then I stopped crying because a thought bubble formed in my mind – a broken arm? I really had a broken arm!

Mama said my arm wasn’t broken even though I couldn’t move it. I had to hold it up close to my heart so it wouldn’t hunt so bad. Every time I tried to take it down, I would start to holler. So Mama made me a sling out of a dishcloth and pinned in together with a safety pin. I’d never been so proud of myself. It took a long time for my “broken arm” to heal. And, if my Aunt Jeanette were telling this story, she would probably say that I wore my arm in that dishcloth sling until I started to date. And she wouldn’t be too far from wrong. Now, a few decades later, I’ve got a pair of eyeglasses – several in fact – from Dr. Wal-Mart and last summer I broke my foot catching a baseball with it.

And, it’s funny but a real broken bone hurts a lot more than one you tote around in a dishcloth and I just don’t look as cute in my eyeglasses as I thought I would.