A Dyslexia Story: Even Though I Don't Have It...

Let me start this post by saying that I love to read and write. As a kid, I would sit at my mom's old electric typewriter for hours and write up stories just for the fun of it. And I read so much that I think it annoyed my mom because how do you punish a child for reading too much? Seriously. Most folks wish their kids would pick up and read something--a picture book, a comic book, a box of cereal, anything!--but not my mom. Not where I was concerned. I would and still do read everything. It’s just part of who I am.

Then I met and married my husband, and I was introduced to someone from the total opposite end of the spectrum. Someone who reads nothing. No books. No morning paper. No, not even cereal boxes. Sometimes even traffic signs escape him (not like stop signs, but street names and freeway exit signs. You know, the ones you actually have to read. His GPS is his new best friend!). It’s not that he can’t read, or even that he doesn't want to read. It’s just really difficult for him.

My husband has dyslexia.

And going through the school system during the 80s and 90s when teachers didn't really know how to help those with learning differences was not very helpful where his dyslexia was concerned. In fact, I think it did a lot more damage than good. I think teachers embarrassed and humiliated him so much (calling him stupid and telling him to go to the special ed class down the hall) that a part of him believes that he simply can't read. So it’s hard to find the motivation to try.

I, of course, know that he’s very intelligent, and judging by conversations I've had with him, I know he could write a literature analysis to match any well-performing college student...if he could just get the words on the paper.

But this isn't his story, as fascinating as it is. This is my story. And even though my challenges with his dyslexia are obviously nothing compared to his, I still have had to make some adjustments as I've learned to live with him and his reading struggles.

I learned early on in our marriage that I couldn't rely on notes left on the dry-erase board as a way to communicate with him. Like I said, he doesn't voluntarily read anything. It’s like his eyes just pass over anything in print. 
I once left a note on the board with directions to put a casserole I had made in the oven for dinner. I came home, dinner wasn't ready, and I wasn't too pleased. When I asked about my note, “What note?” was his response. Now if I leave notes, I take care to put it on a piece of paper and place it where he will definitely see it, like on his wallet or lunch tupperware. If it’s something out of the ordinary, then he’ll notice it. Otherwise he will just pass it by.

I've also learned to not write in cursive for him. That may be my writing method of choice, but talk about a dyslexia nightmare! The letters merge together in his brain bad enough as it is, so let’s connect them, shall we? Yeah-no. Not good. 

I wrote him a really long letter in my prettiest cursive while we were engaged, and I don't think he has ever read it all the way through. Still has it though! He’s good about keeping sentimental things like that. But now I make sure to print my notes, make big spaces between each word, and keep it as short as possible. 

Sometimes I just text him instead. Printed text on paper or a screen are the easiest for him to read, so if I need him to do something for me before he leaves for work, I'll just send him a text. I know he’ll see it on his phone when he wakes up, and I can trust that it’ll be done when I wake up a few hours later (he gets up at 3:00 AM for work, in case you were wondering).

When I agreed to marry a man with dyslexia, I also unwittingly agreed to handle all of our bookkeeping and really anything that involves writing. A lot of women probably handle these jobs for their households in this day and age, but I feel like I kinda have to since he has such a hard time with spelling. 

I don't mind it at all except for one little thing--job applications. One of my least favorite things to fill out! But potential employers aren't going to be very impressed if you can't spell simple words, right? So I’ve written them all for the both of us over the last 7 years, and I have done a lot of them (I feel it’s important to mention his spelling has improved greatly since we first met, but he still lacks confidence with it when comes to important things like that).

At one point during our second year of marriage, we were both out of work and were quite desperate for jobs. After filling out a dozen applications for each of us and still no job to be had, I found what I thought would be the perfect position for him. But after filling out the online application which included a super long survey, we got an email saying that they had gone with someone else. But they were still advertising the position online, so I knew they hadn't filled it! They just decided that he wasn't suitable for it without even talking to him.

Well, I decided that we weren't going to give in  without a fight. So I wrote an email to the manager telling him about all of the applicable work experience my husband had, then printed my husband’s name at the bottom. The manager was so impressed that, I kid you not, it wasn't 20 minutes later that he called to schedule an interview! And of course, my husband being as brilliant as he is, he landed the job. His boss was a little confused later when customers complained that they couldn't read the memos he left for them because of the poor spelling, but at least our teamwork got him the job that we so desperately needed at the time.

But these things so far have been pretty trivial. My biggest lamentation is in leaving a legacy for our children. He doesn't like to read to them, and I believe that it’s very important for a child to see his father read. Not just the mother, but the father specifically. And he gets embarrassed even with them because they know the stories and know when he messes up. I wish he didn't have to deal with that.

I also worry that our children will never receive a handwritten note or letter or anything from their dad. I’m a pretty avid journaler, so our kids will get lots of information about me and my life (probably way too much!), but he doesn't do those things. I could write his story down for him, but there’s something about it going straight from his thoughts and out of his fingertips either by pen or keyboard, that is so personal and, I think, very important. If he told his stories to me to write down, I would filter them and write them how I think it sounds best, so they wouldn't be his words exactly. But I suppose something is better than nothing.

But then again, that’ll be my legacy. I'm the one who likes to write, so that’s what I’ll leave for our kids. As with everyone, what he lacks in one area, he makes up for in another. He may not like to read to the kids, but he loves to play with them and is very good at just sitting and talking with them. He may not keep a journal, but he loves taking pictures of our family (something I often forget to do). Those could be his legacies. 

I need to remember that even though he doesn't do what I like to do (again, not because he doesn't want to, but because it’s really difficult for him), it doesn't take away from the things he does do. That's why we make such a good couple--we balance each other out. And our kids will get a well-balanced legacy from the both of us.

Today's guest poster wishes to remain anonymous. However, if you would like to connect with her, you can contact me and I will get you in touch! 

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