Rohloff: Starting Young with Poor Eyesight

Columns / Jan. 8, 2004 12:00am EST

Rohloff: Starting Young with Poor Eyesight

Although both Russ and I need a stick and a dog when we are without glasses, we were a little surprised when Hannah at the early age of four began repeatedly to stumble into things.

Because Hannah tended to spend a lot of time daydreaming we attributed it to mental lapses. I thought it was natural clumsiness inherited from some ancestor neither one of us could recall. The fact that my shins were regularly black and blue and my fingers jammed did cause Russ to suggest, "Perhaps Hannah comes by her clumsiness honestly, possibly her mother?"

She had endured stitches in the roof of her mouth at 33 months because of slipping on a pile of Golden Books and biting into a child’s rocker, but we hoped it was a fluke. Alas, her episodes only increased and she routinely would walk into walls and doorjambs

Even before we managed to get her to the eye doctor, two instances are etched upon my memory. The first was mildly embarrassing. We were strolling through the courtyard of the local mall trying to decide what to eat for lunch. Russ was ahead carrying Elisabeth with Peter following.

I had Hannah’s hand and was scanning various menus boards when I felt a huge jerk on my right arm as Hannah slammed into the metal pole barrier for the ordering line. The sound of her head against the metal reverberated in the mall. I am sure that to onlookers it seemed that I had deliberately led this little blonde girl into the pole.

"Hannah, why did you walk into the pole?" I asked as I anxiously scanned her eyes for dilation.

"I didn’t see it, Mama," she said as she rubbed her head.

A few days later we were shopping at the Kroger’s. Peter was scurrying ahead to scan the shelves for the items I needed, Elisabeth was safely seated in the cart, and Hannah was leisurely following the cart. Since she would often run up my heels or slam into my rear end, I was confident that she could not get into any trouble.

We were in the cereal aisle and Peter and I were trying to agree on a cereal.

"But why can’t we have the one with chocolate cookies in it?"

"Because that is not a breakfast food. It’s dessert, and we don’t eat dessert for breakfast," I countered.

Hannah had passed on by and was dreamily weaving down the cereal aisle. Directly ahead was a large woman bent over examining various boxes of granola bars. I watched horrified as Hannah languidly headed for the large expanse of black knit pants stretched in front of her. Turning her head to smile at the rest of us, Hannah plowed into the backside of the woman.

My last vivid picture was of her with her little arms spread wide grasping a hip in each hand. Peter gasped and emitted a stifled, "Uh, oh."

"Uh, oh, nothing," I said. Clasping Peter’s hand, I turned the cart with Elisabeth in it in the opposite direction and fled around the corner to the next aisle.

"Mom, you just left Hannah."

"I’ll pick her up after we circle around. Take your time. By then she won’t be holding onto the woman anymore and no one will know I’m her mother."

Shortly after, Hannah went to the eye doctor and received glasses. She was diagnosed with an astigmatism that caused her to lose the ability to see things on her right side.

The glasses were a big help and I realized just how much when my friend, Julie, came to visit. Julie and Hannah were talking about animals when they spied a stray cat out the window.

Animals were Hannah’s love, and she knew quite a lot about them and their habits even though she was only 4.

"Look at that cat out there," Julie mused, "I wonder if it’s a girl or a boy."

"It’s a boy." Hannah assured her.

"How do you know it’s a boy?"

Pointing to the back end of the cat Hannah said, "Can’t you SEE? He still has his seeds."

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