My Big Brother Loves Me — The Cataract Chronicles Continued

Her big brother took this picture when Barbara Falconer Newhall was a college student. She's wearing glasses and has a bouffant hairdo. Barbara Newhall photo

Big Brother took this photo of me in our suburban Detroit front yard the summer before my senior year in college, long before cataracts could develop. I’m liking that mid-century red lipstick. The Jackie O bouffant, not so much. Barbara Newhall photo

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

My big brother loves me. I’ve always known that, of course. But recently he said it out loud, in so many words.

The second of my cataract surgeries was recently behind me, and I could see pretty well out of both eyes.  My brother and I were sitting across the table from each other at a neighborhood restaurant, and I was managing to read the menu and see my brother both at the same time — without the help of the glasses I’d worn since fifth grade.

I liked my new look. No glasses. A face with a mouth, a nose, and actual, visible eyes.

Her Big Brother is not so keen on how Barbara Falconer Newhall looks without glasses, post cataract surgery. Photo by Jon Newhall

Here I am today, bare-faced, cataracts removed, sans glasses. I’m going to need some eye make-up. Photo by Jon Newhall

But not Big Brother. He liked the old Barb, the one he’d known since grade school. The one with glasses.

“Barb, you should wear your glasses,” he said. “You’ve always worn them. That’s what you’re known for.”

I took that to mean that my brother loves me. I know that’s not what he said. But the subtext, as far as I’m concerned, was that I, his little sister, was an important fixture in his life and, no changes, please. I like you, I want you, exactly as I’ve always known you.

If that isn’t love, what is?

Of all the people walking around on earth right now, my Big Brother is the one who’s known me the longest. He somehow found me interesting enough to play with when he was a big, competent 4-year-old and I a toddler. In elementary school, he stuck up for me when the girls up the street tried to bully me.

Barbara Falconer Newhall, post-cataract surgery wearing the glasses I need to drive and that her big brother likes. Photo by Jon Newhall

Me again, post-cataract surgery wearing the glasses I need to drive. (The prescription is new and doesn’t shrink my eyes.) Frames same harlequin shape as those of my college years. What gives? Photo by Jon Newhall

A Big Brother Who Took Me Seriously

When I was a freshman in college and taking my studies quite seriously, he suggested that I have a little fun. And when I, drunk on Great Books and Psych 101, replied, “What good is fun?” he didn’t laugh.

Yes, I got through high school, college and my twenties just fine wearing glasses. Despite our mother’s admonition that “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,” I was the object of a pass or two in my day.

I had a few brief and unsuccessful flirtations with contact lenses. But ultimately, I gave up on them. For decades I chose the most comfortable, child-proof frames and lenses on my optometrists’ shelves.

My Naked, Post-Cataract Eyes

But now, with one eye perfectly adjusted for looking into the mirror and spotting every wrinkle, sun spot and hair on my chinny-chin-chin, and the other pretty good at reading a “60% off” sign from across the aisle at Macy’s, now I actually had the option of going naked-faced, baring my nicely dark brown eyes and minimalist eyelashes for all the world to see. It was an odd feeling, a little akin to those dreams you have of showing up for class with no clothes on, except pleasurable.

Maybe that’s what was bothering my brother actually — not the unexpected change, but the sight of so much of his sister exposed to the world for all to see.

That could be. But I choose to think otherwise. I’m going with — my big brother loves me.

More fashion stories at “For China’s Young Fashionistas, the Cultural Revolution Is So Over.” More Cataract Chronicles at “The Cataract Chronicles — I’ll Be Seeing Me.”




  1. Will Philipp says:

    Liking the new look! Katherine did the cataract thing a couple years ago—I call her ‘shiny’ eyes!
    BTW—everything goes round–comes around>>>try the Jackie O bouffant again! 🙂
    Are you traveling anywhere foreign in 2016-17?

    • Will, I don’t think I’m ready for another Jackie O bouffant. As I recall it involved going to bed with my hair in prickly rollers the size of toilet paper rolls. Hand-held hair dryers were not a thing yet. As for travel. Our daughter’s wedding is scheduled for next May, and our son has a new baby girl, so travel is going to be to US cities for a while.

  2. Elaine Wells says:

    Love the story. You look great with or without glasses.

  3. ginger rothe says:

    funny and touching!

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