This was going to be a blog about how frustrating it can be living with a dyslexic partner – which, I still have to admit, it can be. In fact I already decided years ago that there was definitely a call for a book explaining a dyslexic’s habits and problems to prepare people who, by some quirk of fate, find themselves about to share their lives/homes with one. A book which explained that dyslexia is about so much more than poor spelling. The book I wish I’d had, in short.
However, my feelings of indignation vanished suddenly five minutes ago. You see, there I was, all ready to rant and rail on screen about how it nearly drives me to drink (luckily only hot chocolate in my case, being teetotal!) always having to be… the one who deals with every last piece of the dreary domestic paperwork… the one in the firing line when it comes to requests for help with homework and projects and filling in permission slips… the one who has to clear up yet another Inca-esque trail of coffee granules across every inch of every kitchen surface (even though I detest coffee and never drink the stuff)… the one who has to remember which offspring has to be where and when… and who regularly has to retrieve forgotten garden tools, footwear or clothing from every corner of the garden… and… and…(did I mention the coffee granules?).
Of course, I should have seen the writing on the wall (if you’ll excuse the pun) 20 years ago, when I first received letters – riddled with spelling errors – from HunterGatherer. However, love was blind – and love at first sight (of which more another time) even more so. Despite being someone who normally breaks into a sweat at the sight of a single errant apostrophe, I blissfully ignored even the most convoluted combinations of vowels and consonants, such was my eagerness to devour the sentiment behind them.
Once we were married, though, I did begin to wonder why someone who has the proud total of one O’Grade to his name (a C in technical drawing) and who once asked me how to spell the word “snow” when writing up the farm diary one evening, could beat me hands down time and time again at Trivial Pursuit, his boundless knowledge of geographical facts and historical events putting mine to shame. It simply didn’t add up. I’d heard of dyslexia and had a vague notion that it meant folk struggled to spell, but I suppose that – being fortunate to have sailed through school – I’d never really paid much attention to the concept before.
All the same, I booked HunterGatherer (then in his early 30s) in for an assessment at the Dyslexia Institute in Glasgow, and three hours or so later we emerged several hundred pounds poorer, clutching a definite diagnosis of dyslexia. It was a rather emotional moment for him, as suddenly all the miserable years of schooling that he’d endured, plus the memories of the many taunts – from teachers, classmates and some even from his own mother (who came from a generation that had no understanding of dyslexia), came flooding back. The sad fact was that he could have been helped, but that no one during his primary school or adolescent years did anything other than tell him he was stupid.
It is probably no surprise to learn that this unhelpful approach did absolutely nothing for the self-esteem of a young lad who was nonetheless determined to read his first ‘proper’ book – a feat which he achieved at the age of 17 after weeks of dogged perseverance.
The impact that the lack of a diagnosis or any support had on his teenage years was major and indeed continues to dominate his adult life daily, because it restricts him to working in roles where his short-term memory problems don’t lead him to forget to do things. It also consigns him to doing jobs which involve as little reading or writing as possible (in one removals job, when he had to write a list of household items, he resorted to ringing Yours Truly from his mobile phone inside a cupboard to ask about the spelling of ‘pagoda’).
Last but not least, being orthographically challenged has resulted in him often having to take up employment where a lot of physical graft is involved. Not that fitness is a problem for HunterGatherer – I suspect he could race a 100 m and give many chaps half his age a run for their money! – plus his good spacial awareness and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking (which often go hand-in-hand with dyslexia) are useful assets for practical tasks . But the frustrating fact, for him, is that he has never had any choice about what path his career should take, instead being obliged to take whatever work was “manageable” within the constraints of this hidden disability, and this has left a huge gaping void in his life.
Which is something that shamefully (even if it is because I’m frazzled from the daily stresses of the dizzying working mum merry-go-round) I tend to forget. Until moments like tonight, that is, when he saw me checking my Facebook page (and leaving messages under photos posted by friends) and said, in a small, sad voice: “I could never have a Facebook page. There’d be no point, as I couldn’t even write on it.” That’s when it hit me full on, like a very large truck, that living with a dyslexic person – frustrating as it might be – is so much less difficult than being that dyslexic person.