More About My Mom

Today’s post comes from Occasional Caroline.

My mother is intelligent, loving, and feisty. She also has some type of learning disability, probably some type of dyslexia; they didn’t recognize that kind of thing in the 1920’s. She says that she hated school until she got to college. She convinced her mother she was sick and couldn’t go to school more days of the week than not, all through high school. But she loved everything about Macalester College and doesn’t recall ever missing a single class. Smart as she is, she has never, ever been able to spell. Anything. At all. She clearly remembers the agony of multiple failed attempts to get her first library card because she couldn’t spell her 16-letter full name on the application form.

When she went to Macalester, she had a note on file from a psychologist, stating that she wasn’t stupid or uneducated, but she couldn’t spell, and her professors should cut her some slack in that regard. She graduated from Mac in 1947 with a double major in Sociology and Theater. Not too shabby for any women in that era, especially one who couldn’t spell.

She can’t look up a word in the dictionary. She can’t even get to the right page, let alone to the right word. If spell check had come along 30 years earlier, she would have been one of it’s greatest beneficiaries, but she was born to soon.

She’s an avid reader, which seems odd to me. She read aloud to us when we were kids and we didn’t notice until much later that she pronounced many words differently than most people do. We frequently had “samriches” for lunch, for example.

Throughout my childhood, she would ask me how to spell simple words. Every time one of us missed school and she had to write an excuse note, she’d ask me how to spell stumpers like “with” and the dreaded “sincerely.” She had a cheat sheet in her stationery box, but nearly always asked, because the words just didn’t look right to her.

She always writes individual notes in her Christmas cards, but it takes her forever, because she writes them out on scratch paper and has me correct the spelling before she copies it over to the card. It’s the bane of her existence. She would almost rather not get gifts because the mandatory thank you notes are so frustrating to compose. Her notes are always heartfelt, but brief.

Mom will be 93 in October. At somewhere around 75 she started taking to heart the information she was seeing about how crucial it is to keep your mind challenged as you age. She couldn’t do the Highlights for Children crossword puzzles, let alone the ones in the New York Times, as was frequently recommended. She couldn’t do word search puzzles, as many of her friends did, and don’t even mention playing Scrabble! So she came up with her own brand of brain training; she memorized all the insignia/logos on cars. For the last 20 years or so, riding in the car with her is a running monologue on the makes of the cars going by. “Oh, there’s a Toyota, that’s an Acura (a’ cura, in her pronunciation), that one’s a Mercedes, I think those are very expensive.” She’s only focused on the make, models are not her thing, except for one particular Hyundai (I think it’s a Hyundai, of course I can’t come with model right now) that every time she sees one, she points out what a remarkably good looking car it is.

What do you do to compensate for your weaknesses?

37 thoughts on “More About My Mom”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Caroline, I find this so admirable about your mom. What a trooper she has been to cope with this kind of brain scramble at a time when learning disability was not really recognized. And then to go through college as well. She sounds like she lives life with grace.

    Like VS, I use GPS a lot, given I have no sense of direction. It helps to have a compass in the car.

    The most significant deficit I have is that written visual detail turns into overwhelming gray mush to me. I find it difficult to complete forms with any competence or to proof read for accuracy. As a 13 year old I took the results of an Aptitude Test to a teacher. He looked at it and said ” This means you can do anything but be a secretary.”

    So of course, years later, because I was female, I was encouraged to be a—-wait for it—secretary because I was cute.🤔. 🙄

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I have dyslexia combined with a rather mild bi polar and a full out GAD…I just said I was a hermit…but it turns out I have a high rating of generalized anxiety disorder. I too hated school. Reading was difficult and my mind was ‘out the window’ most days. I once answered a Lit. question with ‘his uncle’…the story’s page was illustrated with a boy and a fish…and I glanced at the page and saw the word uncle. I had not read the story-6th grade. The correct answer was ‘a fish’. The teacher never corrected me…never chastised me.

    My husband said I made it through the elementary & HS because the community/teachers knew and respected my parents. Small college town where my dad was a professor & the chaplain. He also filled in at area country churches.

    Lomg story shortened I did make it through college….married as a drop out mid junior year….went back to school determined & focused…graduated in two years with A’s & a BA.

    My compensation at that time was having a study partner with the book classes. And I was in my element of Art so the applied classes were a challenge I loved.

    I have always needed proofreading…and now love having spellcheck! I ‘compensate’ with a great sense of humor…of and for myself.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. i just gravitate the other direction
    if i am not good at dotting the i’s, i look for stuff where broad brush strokes are rewarded instead
    i i dotting needs to be done but hopefully i can find a spot where i can do a little to show the team how to get there and move on to what i am good at

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have tended to work in fields and avocations that require a fair amount of organization: keeping track of schedules and budgets and the like. This is not how my brain works. It is nigh on impossible for me to think about finishing A Big Long Project without breaking it down into much smaller, movable parts. This makes it difficult to sometimes track the budgeting side of the equation (especially if it means tracking how other people are spending time that I need to track at an hourly rate)…but it means I can plan just enough to get to the next hurdle. I can see the big picture of what I want to create/make/guide a group towards – but quickly go from that to seeing this thing as a series of “well, we can follow this route, it goes in the right direction and should get us to the next stop we need” without any sense of direction beyond “we need to keep moving northwest” vs “we are taking this route and then turn left and follow that to point C and that takes us to a Y intersection where we…” um. What’s on the next block?

    (As an aside to OC: as a Macalester alum from a few years after your mom, I am delighted to know that their spirit of engaging students in ways that make sense has run deep for so long.)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m not particularly speedy at anything I do. Never have been, never aspired to be. Consequently, I’ve gravitated toward projects and activities that require a long attention span.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. i find surrounding myself with people who compliment me is the only answer to survival.
    i have a special gift in my area and special deficiencies in so many others that i would starve to death left to my own devices. i have become an active participant in social interaction out of survival instinct.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I am able to keep looking forward. The times in my life when difficult things presented themselves, I’ve been somehow able to accept them and look forward. I take no credit for this – it’s something I was born with, I guess.

    I also love making order out of chaos, if it is a kind of chaos I understand, i.e. household and bookstore chaos. This has helped me in several jobs and situations.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. OC, your mom sounds like a wonderful person. Thanks for posting this.

    I can think of two compensations:

    1. Autofocus on my camera. I can pinpoint where the autofocus is. For example, when I “shot” Jacque, I put the autofocus on her eyes. This is useful if your eyesight is not perfect, if you wear bifocals, if you’re shooting in low light. In other words, if I didn’t have autofocus, I couldn’t be a photographer.

    2. My photo editing software can fix all sorts of imperfections. For example, if I was shooting in sunlight but had the camera setting on tungsten light, the color would be weird (this is, of course, hypothetical; I would never actually make a mistake like that haha). It’s a few seconds work to fix that on the first photo and then sync the rest of the photos to the correct setting. That’s just one example; there are countless other ways that I can use the software to make my photos look better than they do right out of the camera.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. how nice that you found your passion ljb.
    i joined a photography meetup group but have not attended any of the meetings yet there was one at the fair today but i ended up switching my today visit for tomorrow.
    i am thinking you might enjoy the group. they have fun meetup premises. filming smoke in a outdoor environment. the most recent was one that dealt exclusively with composition aof the shot. never mind the subject it will be whatever it is but lets focus on the composition.
    i once heard that every ever y every shot of andy of mayberry was perfect compositionally and i started noticing…. they are correct

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My weakness is that I don’t have a lot of energy. In a world that prizes busyness and enterprise, I’ve had to apologize a lot for not being a high achiever.

    I compensate by being a really good speller.

    Liked by 2 people

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