Monday, January 9, 2012

The Sad Pirate

By the time I was 5, I was almost completely blind in my left eye.

When I look back through family photographs, I would be challenged to find one where I don't look odd. Sweater vests, sailor suits and bowl cuts abound. However the ones that strike me as the most odd are those where I am posing with my just newborn sister. I was a very agreeable child and had not yet reached the age where I felt the need to exercise my god-given right to squirm relentlessly, nor had I realized that sweater vests made me look like a lumpy pumpkin. There I was, the very picture of smiling acquiescence gazing up at the camera (which I had been fooled into thinking was some sort of duck there to assume me) my right eye sparking with childlike wonder while my left eye seemed oddly preoccupied with what was going on on the other side of my face.

It seemed that my right eye was like a pair of miss-matched siblings. One was studious and focused (who we will call Clark) and the other's attention was prone to wandering (we will call this eye Morton). While Clark watched television, Morton would get suddenly bored and decide it was time to nap. Going dormant, Morton would roll around in the bed that was my socket whenever startled by bright lights of cameras that were masquerading as ducks.

As I got older my parents thought there must be something wrong. Eyes are supposed to be a package deal and it seems at least one of them didn't get the memo. The trip to eye doctor was a curious experience for my now 5 year old self. I remember the large heavyset man shifting some sort of a machine that could only have come off the set of "Star Trek" over my tiny head (beam me up Scotty!) and asked me to look at the screen.

Scotty: Do you know your letters?

Me: Uh huh

Scotty: Ok read the third line.

I concentrated…

Me: "D F N" (Hell yes. And WHY can't spelling tests be this easy?)

Scotty: Ok now. With just your right eye, read the fourth line.

I concentrated some more.

Me: (with growing confidence) P T X Z (WOOT! Me and Scotty were an unstoppable team. Together we would conquer the galaxy and have incredible adventures.)

Scotty: Ok, now just your left eye. Read the third line again.

The hell is that?

Me: Uh. Q….. a backwards Q… and... I think that's a triangle...
Scotty: Oh. Ok, try the second line instead.

WTF? Is that a spider?!

Me: (deeply confused) H… P… or possibly a seven. I can't be sure.
Scotty: Ooo. Ok one more, try the top line.

I want my mommy.

Me: (desperately trying to remember the letter at the top of the chart) I… don't know what it is.

Scotty: Ok I think that's enough.

The traitor Scotty informed my mother that I had failed the test and was kicked out of the spaceship club. I had failed the eye test so badly in fact, fatty-fatty-fat-pants said there wasn't even an eye test designed that I was capable of passing. As it turns out, my right eye was Superman and my left eye just got tired of trying to live up to his older brothers expectations. As such, left eye decided to quit it's job, take up online gambling and possibly try meth.

So how do we make lazy eye feel like a winner? Easy.

We chain down Superman eye with Kryptonite patch.

I remember when my mom first brought me the patch. She explained that I had to wear it everyday until my lazy worthless left eye could get off drugs and rejoin society. At first I was easy to convince. Mom handed me the eye patch and I put it on.

You mean I get to walk around and look like this (plus an eyepatch)
every day? Avast ye Scuurvy dog!

Awesome! I was a bonafide pirate. I immediately took of at full steam and after six or seven minutes of me running about the room chasing the dog with a discarded paper-towel roll. My mom caught me and sat me down.

She looked upset. Had my impersonation of Blackbeard not been spot on? Our dog was being punished for not swabbing the decks fast enough. Perhaps I had been too stern a disciplinarian? My mother looked directly at me and a never before seen compassion swelling in her eyes and said, very softly, "No, son. The patch goes on your other eye." I paused and gingerly slid the patch over my nose imprisoning Superman in darkness and dragging his meth- addled lazy brother Morton, screaming into the light.

And Morton couldn't. See. Shit.

I literally could not see anything more than 3-5 inches in front of me. I spent most of these agonizing days watching television, simply because it prevented me from moving around too much. When I was forced to move (either due to the call of nature or because my legs had gone numb), it was a precarious affair.

Ever get up in the middle of the night in total blackness and walk around with your arms stretched out so you don't kill yourself? That was my life. All day every day, all the time. In order to truly communicate my ability to see things, I have composed a sophisticated diagram.

A picture takes a thousand words to describe to a

kid wearing an eyepatch.

It took me three years before I was able to wear glasses sans pirate patch. My prescription for Superman was no stronger than that of a sheet of cellophane. Morton on the other hand, got coke-bottle level lenses which made my face look something like this.

I'm an artist. Did you know that?

It would be nearly ten years before I was able to stop wearing glasses as my vision slowly corrected itself. Morton changed his name to M-Dawg and now runs a successful chain of auto-body repair shops.

Good for him.

In closing, t the start of the new year I occasionally find it helpful to remember how I arrived at where I am, even that means remembering the day I got to be the saddest damn pirate on the seven seas. However, not everybody can say they "Got over being blind". And if nothing else at least I can say I don't look like these guys:

I had to wear a patch. These guys chose to.

I have big things planned for 2012. Big things.

Keep your eye(s) peeled…



  1. I'm sort of sad you lost the patch :(

  2. I'm so inspired by this I'm going to document my struggle in coming to terms with my peg-leg.

  3. Ah. This is what was wrong with my childhood. Why didn't I get an eye patch?? I had 3 surgeries in which the doctors sliced up my eye muscles instead. Going to have to speak to my parents about this....
    The part about your mom was very touching :) My parents were like, "Get the Knife out darling, we need to do something about this eye".