Colorblind

Yesterday, as part of a physical exam, I was given a test to determine whether I had any issues in detecting different hues on the color spectrum — i.e., whether I was colorblind.  It’s odd, but even though I’m 58 years old, am badly nearsighted, and have worn glasses since kindergarten, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a test for colorblindness.

The test involved looking through one of those devices you use at the optometrist’s office, where you peer into a kind of binocular unit, pictures are projected on the other end, and you identify letters or describe pictures.  In this case, the pictures were of four circles filled with dots of different colors.  The color patterns established by the different dots were each supposed to form distinguishable numbers.

IMG_3030I saw the number 11 in the first circle, but the other three just looked like totally random aggregations of differently colored dots to me.  Try as I might, I couldn’t see any patterns or numbers — even to guess at — in the other three circles.  Even when the nurse administering the test helpfully told me that there was a 26 in the second circle, I couldn’t see it.  After the test was over, the nurse advised that my eyes were not correctly processing oranges and greens.

When I told Kish about these results, she nodded knowingly.  She’s often commented on my inability to recognize the true colors of the outfits she’s wearing — and not just in discerning the subtle differences between similar colors like periwinkle and lavender, either.  Sometimes I’ll call a color gray and she’ll say it’s brown, or vice versa.  The test just confirms what she’s always suspected is the case.

It’s weird to have belated evidence that I am partially colorblind.  It’s not going to affect my work — I’ll always be able to see black and white words on a page or computer screen — but it makes me wonder.  When I look at a pumpkin, like the pumpkins in this photo I took last year, I see what I’ve always understood to be orange.  If it’s not orange, what color am I seeing, really, and what does orange actually look like?  And when I look at trees or grass and see what I perceive to be lush greens, am I just seeing pale echoes of the true verdant colors?  I find myself wondering now:  what have I been missing?

Eyesight Fail

I’ve worn glasses for as long as I can remember.  I think I got my first pair when I was in first grade, and I’ve worn them ever since.

For years, my eyesight declined gradually, but inexorably.  When I was a kid our optometrist gave me a rubbery softball with letters on it; I was supposed to attach it to a string, hang it from the ceiling, and let it sway around as I tried to identify the letters moving past.  This was supposed to strengthen my eye muscles, or something.  It was incredibly boring to do, so I went outside and played with my friends instead and the ball went into a drawer to gather dust.

When I hit 40, my vision decline seemed to stop.  It didn’t get better, but it didn’t get any worse.  Every few years my glasses would get too scratched to see through clearly, and I’d go to a storefront optical shop for a check-up and a new pair.  My prescription stayed pretty much the same, and the main challenge was picking out a new pair of glasses.  As any eyeglasses wearer knows, optical stores are filled with photos of rugged looking guys and high-fashion women wearing dark, dramatic frames that would look ridiculous on most chubby American faces — including mine.  After a split-second of indecision, I’d just get a new pair that looked like my old pair.

Once I turned 55 earlier this year, however, my eyesight seemed to hit the wall.  With my glasses on, I simply could not focus on the words on a printed page.  When your job involves lots of reading, this can be a problem.  It got to the point where it was easier to remove my glasses and bring the text embarrassingly close to my face.  When I went to the optometrist, he confirmed that my ability to focus on nearby items has deteriorated significantly.  He says constant use of a computer terminal may be to blame, but it’s probably just the effect of age.  Ugh.

I’ve got my new prescription and new glasses, and I can read again — for now.  My most recent pair of glasses now join the pile of old glasses in my desk drawer.

If only I’d used that softball!