October Surprise: Giving the Gift of Color

 

Back in November 2018, as I wandered the trails of a local nature preserve on Long Island with my dog, I was enjoying the fading colors of fall when a bend in the trail led to a blaze of red peeking through the tall trees.

How beautiful, I thought, and how blessed I am that I am here on this magnificent fall day and able to see this. Not everyone in my family can, as red-green color blindness runs through the males on my mother’s side. I thought of my brother and how I wished he could see this. I mean actually see it if he were here because he often mistakes red and green for brown. That led me to remember a story I had read a few months back about glasses that could correct for red-green color blindness. The special lenses help the retinal cells to separate between these two wavelengths, compensating in part for defective genes that make it difficult to tell these colors apart. Wow, I thought. I have the perfect Christmas gift: I’ll give my brother the gift of color! What could be better than that?

I went online when I got home and did some research. Yes, these glasses exist and are available. I was led to many YouTube videos of people sobbing with joy when seeing the colors of the world for the first time. I did a little more reading, and it turned out that these glasses don’t work for everyone, so that was a worry, as they weren’t cheap. But then there was a moving story of a young boy who put them on and was very disappointed that he didn’t see anything different. Then his mother noticed that he had stopped to look at an orange toy. He said it was glowing. All of sudden, his world burst into color, and he was overwhelmed with joy. I thought it was worth taking a chance.

I bought a pair of sunglasses on Amazon, and I gave them to my brother on Christmas morning. He asked me what they were, and when I told him, he said, “Oh.” Then he put them down and went back to opening presents. After all the presents were opened, I asked him to try them. He didn’t seem very enthused; in fact, he seemed a little mad. He said he was perfectly happy with his vision and didn’t really need them. I asked if he wasn’t at all curious about what the world would look like with them on. He finally agreed to try them and went outside. Of course, it was a gray day in December, and there was no color to be seen anywhere. He tried wearing them when we took the dog for a walk but didn’t seem to think that they made much of a difference. I thought maybe they didn’t work for him or that maybe he needed to wear them for a bit longer. I told him that since they were expensive, I would return them, and he could pick out something else. He said he’d think about it.

That was that. No joyful tears. No gasps of wonder. I was very disappointed, but such is life. I was going for a big surprise, but upon reflection, I supposed it was a gift that impacted his sense of self, and I should have asked him before I bought them. I reflected that a hard-of-hearing person would be very insulted if I gave him a pair of hearing aids for Christmas, although this was really not quite the same.

But a few weeks later, I got a text from him saying that he had put the sunglasses on when he was driving, and for the first time, he could see green lights! And green highway signs! Always before they were a washed-out grayish white, but now they were a beautiful, vibrant green. He thanked me profusely for the gift. Not exactly the glories of nature, but, hey, I’ll take it.

He was actually disappointed a year later when he lost the glasses. The beautiful green lights and signs returned to their washed-out grayish white. I bought him another pair for Christmas. This time, he was a bit more grateful. But the new ones didn’t work the same. The green lights still looked grayish white, but this time the red lights looked psychedelic. I tried them on and saw the same thing. It gave me a glimpse of how he had seen green lights before. But fortunately, he found the originals, and now he has both pairs to emphasize the green or the red as he chooses.

So, if not exactly an October surprise, it was a well-meaning but perhaps ill-advised surprise inspired by the fall colors. I am interested to hear opinions on that. I still hope that one day my brother will bring the glasses with him for a fall hike. But then again, he gets to see beautiful green traffic lights every day.

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  1. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    This is interesting. I have a young cousin who is color-blind, though I’m not sure just which colors he can’t distinguish. Something to look into. Thanks!

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Gossamer Cat: So if not exactly an October surprise, it was a well meaning but perhaps ill-advised surprise inspired by the fall colors.  I am interested to hear opinions on that. I still hope that one day my brother will bring the glasses with him for a fall hike.  But then again, he gets to see beautiful green traffic lights every day.  

    I think it was a lovely gift, and I’m guessing that your analysis of his reaction is probably spot-on. I think he will always remember how you tried to give him this special gift of seeing, and that’s the most important part.

    • #2
  3. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    This is interesting. I have a young cousin who is color-blind, though I’m not sure just which colors he can’t distinguish. Something to look into. Thanks!

    Glad it was helpful.  They do have different types of lenses that correct for different types of color blindness. 

    • #3
  4. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat: So if not exactly an October surprise, it was a well meaning but perhaps ill-advised surprise inspired by the fall colors. I am interested to hear opinions on that. I still hope that one day my brother will bring the glasses with him for a fall hike. But then again, he gets to see beautiful green traffic lights every day.

    I think it was a lovely gift, and I’m guessing that your analysis of his reaction is probably spot-on. I think he will always remember how you tried to give him this special gift of seeing, and that’s the most important part.

    Thanks Susan.   It did end up working out in the end and fortunately, neither one of us are particularly sensitive.  

    • #4
  5. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Sign up to tell your own colorful story. This post is part of October’s group writing theme: October Surprise. Join in with your own expression of surprise, good or bad, mild or great.

    You are invited to play off of “surprise,” “October,” or both. Stop by today to reserve a day. Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #5
  6. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    That’s a beautiful story. We take a lot for granted, including being able to see colors!

    • #6
  7. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    What a generous and considerate soul you have.

    I am so glad your brother finally put the glasses on and his world was delightfully expanded.

    It is not every holiday season that someone can give a family member such a valuable and beautiful gift.

    • #7
  8. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    What a generous and considerate soul you have.

    I am so glad your brother finally put the glasses on and his world was delightfully expanded.

    It is not every holiday season that someone can give a family member such a valuable and beautiful gift.

    Thank you Carol.  I suspect this year it will be something more like socks :)

    • #8
  9. Acook Member
    Acook
    @Acook

    I have a small story about an experience with a color blind person (a woman, which is extremely rare). I worked my career in medical labs, where we worked every day with blood (red). One of our instruments had a cleaner that we ran through it every day that was green. One day we were having a new model of this instrument installed and before any blood had touched it, the cleaner was being run through it, and some splashes of the cleaner ended up on several surfaces of the instrument. “Oh look,” our color blind tech said, “somebody already spilled blood on it.” 
    Kind of brought me up short to realize she couldn’t tell the difference. 

    • #9