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?