I come from a family of ferocious readers. Not sure what happened in the genetic line-up, but reading has always been a struggle for me.
There were at least two summer school prison sentences where I was exiled to the Class of Speed Reading. My parents never called it remedial reading, but that first class I looked to the right and the left of my desk and realized I wasn’t surrounded by the smart kids. The agony was compounded by an environment with no air conditioning. My opinion of a hot, smelley room at age 12 is the same as today at age 53: shoot me now. Nonetheless, the fifteen bucks my parents spent for those hellish sweltering days were redeemed by a marked improvement in my speed of reading.
The manner in which I read has never changed. I guess most people are sight readers, grasping groups of words at a clip. This is a completely foreign concept, imagining that most of the human race is able to read more than one word at a time. For me, a visual learner, I read word by word. Nothing really speedy about that.
The fact that I was admitted to such an outstanding college, Tulane University, was not based on my SAT score. (My admission to the Ivy League of the South was largely due to the fact that I lived as an exchange student in Mexico City and studied at Ibero-Americana.) My standardized test scores would have probably been higher if I could have read faster. I never fully completed the reading comprehension part: too many words in so little time. I remember saving that section for last, and when the final minutes were announced, I systematically went through and randomly pencilled in some ovals. I’m not a gambling kind of girl, but I felt maybe a couple of my guesses might have been correct.
There have been few books that have moved me to great joy. The top of the list is certainly Charlotte’s Web. Oh, the breathless anticipation as E. B. White left us dangling as to the fate of one amazing pig. Second in line of captivating favorites are Aesop’s Fables (thanks for reading those to me, Mom).
The older I get, the more I read. C.S. Lewis nailed it when he said, “We read to know we are not alone.” After my daughter’s death, cousin Libby gave me A Grief Observed. The book was a lifeline to her after the death of her precious brother (and my cousin) Dirk, and Mr. Lewis’ thoughts on loss were a help to my struggling soul. Maybe I didn’t really comprehend the power of books until I read Lament for a Son just a few weeks after my girl’s funeral. (Written by Nicholas Wolterstorff, a man who tragically lost his son Eric on June 11, 1983 in a mountain climbing accident) The book became a life manual as I grappled with basic life questions, including ‘how many children do you have?’ It must seem like an easy question to anyone that has not lost a child. However, my first social event after Megan’s death sent me into total panic over what I should say if asked about number of children. Do I say ‘two,’ with no details? Do I ruin everyone’s day by saying, “I just buried my daughter” or do I just account for my son? Mr. Wolterstorff’s book helped me find my way, and showed me I was not alone. Above all else, in my blinding grief Lament for a Son helped me see that God Almighty cried with me.
For one last moment, I must regress and say that the Battle of the Books really began back in Metarie, Louisiana during the summer reading program. Mom always signed us up. As I recall you could check out 10 books at a clip, and when you returned them you got a sticker on your blue folder for every book read.
Sweet Jesus - Will read for stickers.
Then the dark day came when I brought out my stack of 10 picture books. I can still see the Book Warden flipping through the pages and telling me, “not enough words…” I don’t really know what Mom’s word-to-picture ratio was, but I sulked back into the abyss of books and picked items that were sticker-worthy.
There is a happy ending to The Tale of Too Many Words. It was my mom who handed me the card from Cure Today Magazine for their Extraordinary Healer Award Essay Contest 2010 and told me, “You should enter this.” It is with great joy that I can announce that this week my winning essay was posted to the CureToday website:
and will be published in the summer’s edition of the magazine. It is also with complete wonder that I saw my blog post this week to Amazon Kindle.
Maybe I didn’t earn enough stickers that summer in The Big Easy. Ironically, I grew up to own a national sticker business. It’s taken me half a century, but I now love reading (still slow), and writing is my great joy. That’s the truth, and I’m sticking to it!
- Lament for a Son is an outstanding book that I especially recommend to clergy and professionals that deal with families that have lost a child. Be thoughtful and sensitive when giving books to friends. Read a book before you give it, carefully considering your friend’s situation.
- A Grief Observed, and all the books by C. S. Lewis, are worth the read. His grasp of life and loss relates to all humanity.
- When asked how many children I have, I answer, “Two. My son Ryan is 27 years old and lives in Overland Park Kansas, and my daughter Megan died of adrenal cancer on Easter Sunday, 2008.” I am now able to answer the question without crying. Though Megan is my oldest child, I made a decision that life should always proceed death, and I speak of my wonderful son first.
- CureToday is an outstanding magazine for anyone touched by cancer. The quarterly magazine beautifully address issues from personal, medical and spiritual standpoints. If you are a cancer patient, survivor, or caregiver, the subscription is free.
On a Lighter Note: