Dear J—

I’ve been thinking about Brayden a lot lately. I first got glasses in the middle of third grade and suddenly the world made a lot more sense: the blackboard was sharp again and being sent to the back row didn’t mean having to settle for learning through listening and interpolation. It also meant that when we went out for recess, I’d set them down carefully on the table because they told me, hey kid, those glasses are expensive and they’re made of real glass, so don’t you go falling down and tripping with them at recess, not unless you want an eye full of glass shards or unless you buy this special strap, only 19.95 plus tax.

So back to fuzzy-edged reality when I went outside, which wasn’t really a handicap or at least not much of one when you’re playing so-called bumblebee soccer, featuring more than five on a side and a cluster of kids swarming around the ball. I was nearsighted, not blind, and the cluster was easy enough to distinguish that I could follow it. Baseball, on the other hand … nah. That and a decided lack of coordination, hand-eye or otherwise, spelled doom for my nascent sports career, at least without glasses. Now they offer all kinds of glasses designed for sports, goggles that make you feel like channeling your inner Kareem, so the options are more plentiful and feasible. In 1983, though, you might as well have been talking about moving the moon as convincing someone to risk the $150 glasses that were supposed to last for two years.

All this came to an end, though, in fourth grade, when I came back in a little late coming back (the soccer field was the furthest away from the door) and I couldn’t find my glasses. I could have sworn that I left them right there on top of my desk … and I suppose I did, but then I saw them on Brayden’s face, and he was trying to convince everyone that sure, these were his. Yeah, I got glasses. I needed them because I couldn’t see, that’s why I’ve been disruptive in class. The glasses will make me smart, he said. I was more confused than angry: maybe those were his glasses, I thought? But that soon was replaced by panic, and then the same sort of tattling anger that informs our savage natures: Hey I need those to see, man, I need those to do the work today, damnit.

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about Brayden lately. We had parent-teacher conferences last week and the teachers made it a point to talk about Calcifer: yeah, he’s a good kid, he knows how to do the work, it’s just … (you have to be gentle with him) (he doesn’t respond well to yelling) (we just let him sit during PE because the coach can’t make him run the whole distance) … stuff we’ve seen at home when we’re trying to get him to do his homework, but stuff we thought was staying at home because he was comfortable with us. And you know that feeling of silent judgment, right or wrong, that the kid’s behavior is directly traced back to what the parents are doing? He is a delight to have one-on-one; we’ve gone on bike rides and hikes the last few weekends and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that time. We need to make sure he has that available with us, on his schedule, not ours, and I think that would help us help him.

I take back all the thoughts I had about Brayden, by the way. It’s not my place to figure out what was going on, but it was 1983 and lots was going on that we didn’t know about.



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