A Special Tribute to my Dad on his birthday (June 4th):
My father has been on my mind. His birthday is here and soon it will be Father’s Day. He was born in 1942 and passed away at just 58 years old in 2000; his quiet voice has been silent and missing from my life for almost 14 years now. Of my two parents, my dad could be sterner and be more likely to say no when he felt that was best. Dad was also very loving and could erupt into a very hearty and jovial laugh; a laugh so contagious that others around broke into laughter with him. I also miss the sound of his infectious, bubbling laugh.
When I was an infant, Dad said I was so small that I could fit inside of his shoe box. He also said I could fit perfectly on a sofa pillow. I was born prematurely, was very small, difficult to feed, and had a serious visual impairment. I didn’t realize for years, how much this visual impairment greatly bothered my dad. I was born with a cataract in my left eye and was therefore blind in that eye. Mom and Dad took me to various doctors, including specialists at the faraway Marshfield Clinic. Doctors decided to not remove the cataract.
Just as I was beginning school, I also was found to be near-sighted in my right eye and needed glasses. I received my first pair of glasses when I was in kindergarten; I was the first kid in my class to wear glasses and I knew right away that made me different. My kindergarten picture shows the sadness I felt about this; no hint of a smile. I was also quite shy and received plenty of teasing over the years. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not pretty. I felt certain that my glasses were the cause of this.
As a teenager, I began seeing commercials about contact lens and deep inside my mind, a wonderful idea was born. Oh, contact lens, that a great solution because that means no more glasses! I began asking my parents if I could get contact lens. They said no immediately. My dad was especially stern on this matter and when Dad says no, he means no. But I was so convinced of that wearing contact lens was what I needed that I kept asking. I was very determined and was just not going to give up. My hopes were soaring high as I had visions of going to school looking like a completely different person; a person who was pretty and beautiful. How I held on to that dream! My parents finally made an appointment for me to see the eye doctor and I kept my hopes up for my first pair of contact lens.
On the day of the appointment, I found that it was my dad, not my mom, who would take me to the doctor. This was a much unexpected surprise because my mom went to all of our medical appointments and sometimes dad came too when he wasn’t working and when the appointment was for a serious illness or injury. But this time, it was just my dad and that worried me but I still was holding on to my dream of being a different person who looked beautiful because I was no longer wearing glasses. We went to the doctor where my eyes were examined. My father was quiet and waited patiently. Then much to my surprise and crushing dismay, the doctor would not recommend contact lens for me. I couldn’t believe it; I was so sure that the doctor would agree I could have them. We left the office and climbed back into the truck. I looked at the floor and wouldn’t even lift my head. I felt so defeated as my hopeful dream dissipated to nothing.
Dad took a deep breath and said in a most gentle voice, “I knew the doctor would say that.”
I burst into tears, “I don’t like my glasses, I want to be pretty!”
Dad sighed again and wiped a tear from my cheek, “You are pretty and you have a beautiful smile.” I wasn’t so sure and continued to sob. Dad was especially gentle that day as he let me cry for a while. When my tears started to subside he spoke again, “You need to keep wearing your glasses not just to see but to also protect your good eye.”
He then told me a story about his dad, my grandfather. One day long ago when my dad was young, my grandfather was chopping wood. He did not wear glasses, goggles, or any sort of eye protection. He brought down the ax splitting a chunk of wood. A wood chip flew up and sailed into my grandfather’s eye splitting his lens. My grandfather became blind in that eye. Dad had never forgotten that and apparently always worried that something could happen to me; an unexpected mishap could cause me to lose vision in my only good eye. He did not like it when I would come home from school, take my glasses off and refuse to wear them again until the next day. He also did not like it when I would sit in the car without my glasses and have the window rolled down. He always worried that something was going to happen to my only good eye.
So after listening to my dad’s story and hearing the worry in his soft voice that day, I reluctantly and dutifully gave up my dream of wearing contact lens and to this day I never have worn them. However I still did not wear my glasses all the time either. I never thought I would meet up with an accident which would endanger my only good eye. Little did I know that over 20 years later my dad’s words would return to haunt me.
I grew up, went to college, found a job, and started living on my own. Mom and dad were only a phone call away and dad still found ways to help me. He helped me to purchase my first car, and came up with a plan for me to be safe on the road. He intensely worried when I did so much traveling alone and didn’t like the idea of me becoming stranded far from any source of help. So he came up with plan for me to be able to summon help on the road if I needed it. I still have that plan in place today and, yes, I have used it when I’ve had emergencies while traveling.
One summer day while living on my own, a few years after my father had passed away, I was mowing my lawn. I was not wearing my glasses at the time nor was I wearing any other type of eye protection. As I mowed around a tree in the front yard, I gasped as I spotted a wood chip flying in the air towards me. My dad’s words instantly came to my mind as I thought of the wood chip that struck my grandfather. As quickly as I could, I tried to turn my face away from the tiny, flying missile propelled by the swift blade of the lawn mower. No matter how fast I tried to turn, I wasn’t fast enough. At the last possible second my eyes blinked shut. The wood chip barreled and impaled itself in the inner corner of my right eye; my good eye. I was unable to reopen my eyes and fell to the ground with my hands clutching my face in pain. I hovered on the ground in tears and in total darkness. Unbelievably, it seemed that my father’s worst fear for me would come true.
Being single and completely on my own, no one was there to come to my aid. I sat hunched over in agony not knowing what to do. Those moments in utter and complete darkness were the some of the most frightening moments I’ve ever had as I remained curled on the ground. However I needed to quiet my tears and regain my calmness as I needed to help myself. Taking several deep breaths, I gently felt my face letting my fingers slowly travel across my skin until I found the invading speck of wood firmly lodged in the inner corner of my right eye socket. I hesitated and then not knowing what else to do, I gripped it firmly and pulled it out. I felt for signs of bleeding but didn’t find any so I slowly opened my eyes. I was so immensely relieved that I could see. Daylight had never looked more precious. But now my eye still hurt and everything around me was blurry.
I went to Urgent Care as soon as I could see clearly enough. The doctor was very alarmed when he realized that I had injured my only good eye. He examined me and conducted deep eye scans to ensure there was no hidden damage from the accident. Although my eye was painfully sore and red, he didn’t find any signs of deep or permanent injury. It seemed that the involuntary blinking of my eyes is what saved me from serious harm. The very concerned doctor reiterated what my dad had said all those years ago; I needed to do whatever I can to protect my eye which meant I needed to wear my glasses! I was incredibly thankful for this good fortune and was sure that God in heaven had kept me safe that day.
Since that time, I have become more cautious in life to protect myself from danger and most certainly, any danger that threatened my eyes. I wear my glasses almost all the time now with the exception of taking some photographs of myself. I have learned to like and appreciate my glasses more than I used to. I now have a good understanding of how enduring years of teasing can affect someone and I have seen bullying, teasing and disparaging, hurtful remarks extend into the adult world; it is not confined to the school halls and playgrounds. I’ve especially witnessed it in various forms in the social media.
Therefore, I try to encourage others because I had been so discouraged in my own life especially through my school years. And God in his own loving way continues to be good to me by blessing me in special ways. He has led to me to a career where I help, instruct, and encourage others. I also know now that dad was trying in his own quiet way to encourage me even when he had to say no. Furthermore, I also better understand that when my stern father said no to those contact lens so many years ago, it wasn’t just to protect my eye from sudden danger and save me from blindness. But when dad said no, it was because he loved me so.