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The Story Behind the Eye Patch
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Julia stumbled up Second Avenue without looking back. The ten-year-old’s hair had come loose from its half ponytail and blew all over the place. It was a cool, sunny day in San Francisco in 1967.

I hate them all, she thought. They’re mean. Even my own brother and sister laughed at me because I couldn’t catch that stupid baseball. They wouldn’t understand why she had a hard time catching things or even seeing this properly, but she wasn’t going to make a big deal out of why she had to wear that stupid patch over her eye sometimes. She couldn’t see a thing out of her right eye, never could. Mom and Dad didn’t find out about her eye until she was five. All Julia knew was that she thought the shadow of her nose got in the way of seeing things. As far as she knew, everyone saw the same way she did.

After Mom and Dad found out, they decided to do everything they could to “fix” her blind eye, but nothing ever worked. So she became a guinea pig at the eye doctor office for having what they called a rare condition. She hated sitting in a dark room while a doctor, or sometimes two or three peered into her eye using bright lights and machines. One doctor said, “It looks like a perfect snowflake over the eye.”

Also, Mom wouldn’t get her a bike or a skateboard because she was afraid Julia would hurt herself because she was “blind in one eye.” So Julia took it upon herself to ride everyone else’s bikes in the neighborhood. The Solis boys up the street had those stingray bikes with the high handlebars and banana-shaped seats. They were the coolest bikes to ride, and she’d let the boys play board games out on the front porch while she rode the bike up and down hills. She’d make skid marks on the sidewalk when she pedals backwards for the brakes. Then there was her brother’s skateboard. He got one for Christmas, but had no interest in it, so Julia took the skateboard over too, rode it all over the neighborhood down steep hills. Yes, she was a daredevil, but she couldn’t catch a ball or hit a ball.

At school, Julia had a hard time learning to read and couldn’t play kick ball like the other kids. Her little brother Michael learned to read before her, and she became defensive of kids that would sometimes tease her. She also became an advocate for all the other kids who got teased for being different.

When Julia got to the front porch of the Victorian flat where she lived with Mom, Dad and her brother and sister, and whatever various abandoned animals became theirs, she heard a loud engine putter up the street. It was her dad in his bright green Volkswagen van.

He waved at Julia and hollered out the window, “Hey, how’s it going? Where are your friends?”

“I don’t have friends! Everyone hates me.” Usually Julia was thrilled to see her long-haired Dad in that cool van. it meant he was going to music gig, and often he took her with him. Dad played guitar and sang with this band, and Julia loved the music. It was her favorite outside of the Beatles music which she secretly loved the best.

“Hey, brighten up, buttercup!” Dad said. “Get in!”

Julia walked over and pulled the passenger side door to the Volkswagen bus. The door was often stuck and hard to open. Dad reached over to help and she was finally in.

“It’s all because I’m a freak!” Julia said.

“Honey, no. You’re the coolest chick around. They’ll come ’round, especially your brother and sister.”

“No! They hate me too. They all do.”

A small wind chine in the van jingled as he lurched to the end of Second Avenue and made a right on Irving Street and the beads hanging behind the colorful front seats rattled together. Usually Julia loved being with Dad in this crazy old van, and it was rare she got to sit in it without her brother and sister tagging along.

When Dad stopped at an intersection, he pulled off his special peace necklace, reached over and put it on Julia.

“I dub thee the grooviest chick in the world,” he said.

Julia grabbed the pendant around her neck and whispered, “But Dad, this is your special necklace.”

“I know. I can’t think of anyone better to wear it,” he said as the van puttered down Irving Street again. “Now let’s go see about Stubs.”

Suddenly Julia felt warmed and loved — Stubs was a three-legged guinea pig at the local pet store whom she wanted badly. She visited him daily. He was different like her. If she could have Stubs, all would be well.


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