As the story was told to me, when I was six months old, my father was holding me on the shores of Fourth Lake in the Adirondack Mountains as the sun was setting. Instead of taking in the beauty of the setting sun on that perfect evening 34 years ago, my dad was looking down at the face of his first son, when he noticed something he had never seen before.
When the sunlight hit my eyes just right, he could see the lens of my eyes bouncing around like a wiggly Jell-o mold. After seeing a pediatric ophthalmologist, my parents learned that I was born with ectopic lentis, a rare condition in which the lens of the eye is not held securely in the correct position, causing legal blindness. There was no family history of any significant vision impairment, and we were told this would NOT be hereditary.
So the story goes, at the time of my diagnosis the doctors did not know much about this condition, but it was believed that a blunt force to the head would, ostensibly, cause me to go completely blind. The doctors advised me to stay away from playing any sports, jumping on the trampoline, and rough housing of any kind. Worse than that, my “condition” would result in inevitable blindness that would take place slowly as I became an adult.
However, the worst part was the glasses. I got my first pair of frames at the tender age of two years old, and had to cope with the thickest bottle cap glasses you could ever image for the next decade of my life, leading to some pretty ruthless nicknames. “Simon Birch” was a favorite among my classmates. At the age of 12, I got contact lenses, and swore I’d never wear glasses again. Despite a major eyeglass company’s best attempt at spin, I knew the slogan “Are you lucky enough to need glasses?” was a bunch of BS.
Around the time I turned 30, my vision had regressed to about 20/150 with corrective lenses. After double lens replacement surgery, I could see 20/30 without any contacts or glasses! Just months after my surgery was completed, my wife and I had our first son, Giorgio. When he was around six months old, I was holding him on lap on our back porch when I noticed his eyes were jiggling in that familiar gelatin-like manner that I had come to know by looking in the mirror. After seeing an Ophthalmologist, our suspicions were confirmed – Gio was diagnosed with the same condition that I have.
My initial feelings were disappointment, guilt, and a sense of empathy for him as he would face the same obstacles I faced. It wasn’t long before I realized that I lived a complete and full life with minimal effects from my vision impairment. I was reminded that God has blessed us with a wonderfully healthy kid that was made without mistakes, and that others had real challenges that made ours look trivial.
I even began to view this eye condition as something that bonded me with my son in a unique way.
When I was growing up, my dad would regularly say to me, “I wish I could see the world through your.” I’ll never have to wonder what it looks like to view the world through legally blind eyes, and it was a special thing to have in common with my son. My attitude toward the diagnosis had changed, but, unfortunately, the pediatric eyeglass industry remained unchanged with the same unaesthetic frame options that I was stuck with as a child. Despite the significant progress made by hipsters in making eyeglasses a fashion statement, the only glasses we found for young kids were rubber and had an elastic band.
That’s when a friend told my wife about this small, family run business in Michigan that specialized in fashionable kid’s eyewear. My wife and I checked out Jonas Paul Eyewear’s website and we were heartened as we saw the stylish frames that were finally made available for kids at an affordable price! We ordered a home try-on kit, and had so much fun trying on all the frames with our two year old. Not only have frames gotten much cooler, but new technology has allowed the upper echelon of lens strength to be made much thinner, reducing the ”bug eye” effect. Now, I can even be found wearing a pair of non-script hipster frames from time to time.
My son loved his new glasses! He thinks he has the best vision in the world (he most definitely does not), and he loves the compliments that come on a multiple-times-per-day basis. Around the time Gio got his JPE frames, I was looking at my six month old son, Decker, as the sunlight hit his eyes, and…you guessed it… Jell-o eyes! This time the feeling was much different. We knew exactly what to expect, and we knew we have a company that we love that would improve Decker’s eyesight in a fashionable way, just like his older brother.
Two years later, our baby girl, Pfeiffer, was born, and it wasn’t long before we could tell she will also be joining the club! She’s only 10 months now, and she hasn’t seen a specialist yet, but her tell-tale jiggly eyes reveal she will be in JPE frames in the not-to-distant future.
From a young age I remember disliking my glasses, feeling like they defined me as a geeky kid, akin to wearing headgear dental work. It’s plain to see that it is a completely different feeling for my kids. They have a deep love for these glasses that actually make them MORE confident, not less. In place of a sense of insecurity, they have a sense of invincibility with their glasses on. The constant compliments from strangers aren’t niceties or pleasantries, they are genuine and the kids know it. My boys even celebrated when they found out their little sister would be getting glasses someday too. It appears that as long as my wife and I keep having kids, we will be keeping Jonas Paul in business, and there is no other company we would rather support!