If You Can Read This
With a tube of white oil paint and my black graduation gown, I went to work. I couldn’t mess it up. I got on the computer and printed out letters in a few different sizes so it would fit. To do things right I had to work twice as hard. I began to paint across the shoulders of my graduation gown. I swigged my beer. With the last sip, the last letter was finished. I stepped back and looked at my final product. In crooked letters that according to spell-check were spelled right the black gown had been adorned with the word DISLEXIC.
I stopped telling people I was dyslexic at some point because they usually told me about how they might be dyslexic too. They saw b’s as d’s. They misspelled words. They even read slowly. I listened. Told them nothing. I didn’t explain that I had never seen letters forward so how could they be backward? I didn’t tell them I couldn’t spell my middle name, Thomas, until I was 14 and that sometimes I spell “of” as “o-v-e” and that I hate the words tomarrow and febuary. And reading slowly? Try being scared to finish the last page of the first “real” book you ever read because to spend another year, a few pages at a time, is so insurmountable that you want to cry so you leave that last page for months just because. Because it might not ever happen again.
My college graduation was the first time in years that I talked about dyslexia with strangers. Mostly they took photographs of my gown to show their loved ones with dyslexia. Two days later I started graduate school for my Masters in Education. I decided to do what a teacher had once done for me on the first day of third grade at my new school for “different kids.” I was left in a room with a giant man who leaned back in a metal chair. I studied him closely through the green glasses that they gave me because green glasses cured dyslexia. I saw his slightly greenish Paul Bunyan shirt, jeans and long hair. He said, “I’m Chad.” I didn’t say anything. I waved. Chad grinned and pointed at the chair next to him. As I approached I saw him pick up a book. Immediately I tried to escape. I slid under the table and spun into a roly-poly bug shape. Then Chad went down on one knee and I thought he was going to squash me. Instead he crawled under with the book still in hand. Chad’s shoulders didn’t fit and he shrugged, lifting the table up a few inches. Chad’s huge hand pushed the book in front of my face. “Cat, Bat, Mat,” he said while his finger followed the letters. I felt comfortable under the table with Chad snug next to me. We read.
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