Happy Father’s Day – Overcoming Obstacles
When I think of my father, I remember a man who made everyone laugh; a man with a kind and generous heart; a man who was loved by all. I was a daddy’s girl, and would do anything to spend time with him. My first words were, “Daddy, suppertime”. I even spent my summers picking eggs in our chicken barn – 12,000 chickens laying 12,000 eggs – smelly poop-covered eggs in a hot and stinky chicken barn swarming with flies – all so I could be with him.
My father was generous with himself, and giving in many ways…he bought me my first bike and taught me how to ride. I remember him pushing me on my first two-wheeler, holding me up so I wouldn’t fall. I also remember waking up on my 16th birthday and seeing a little yellow Honda Civic with a black racing stripe sitting in the drive way – a second hand car, a bit tacky looking, but I didn’t care; I had ‘freedom wheels’, which allowed me to escape the farm and hang out in town with my friends.
The best gifts always are the intangible gifts; the wisdom, the guidance, and the unconditional love that a father gives his daughter – not always appreciated in youth, but treasured in maturity. Probably the best gift my father ever gave me was the strength to believe that I could do whatever I put my mind to, regardless of any obstacles that were stuck in my way.
You see, as the story goes, I was verbal at a very young age; ‘Daddy Suppertime’ spewed out of my mouth at a year. My parents, thinking they had a child prodigy on their hands, sent me to school at 4 years old. So at 17, I graduated high school, and on that day I accepted two academic awards plus received a scholarship for my first year’s tuition at our local University.
At the end of the ceremony, I went back to where my parents were sitting excited that high school was ending and ready to start the next chapter of my life, only to find my parents with tears in their eyes. They told me how proud they were of me and they knew how hard I had worked, hugging me, tears streaming down their cheeks. I really couldn’t understand why they were so emotional. Then my father told me, “Janell you’re Dyslexic. We were told when you were 8 years old that you would never graduate high school. They told us you would never do anything with your life…..and look, look what you have done. We are so proud of you.”
WAIT A MINUTE….SAY WHAT??? DYSLEXIC?? Ohhhh….this is all making sense now……FLASH BACK MEMORIES……
When I was in third grade, I remember going to a tiny little room in my school, with an older woman who was a complete stranger to me, and having to do a series of puzzles and tests with her. I remember her fat flabby arms swinging every time she moved; her perfume was so strong I felt nauseous as I tried to do the tasks required. It was an all-around traumatic event for an 8 year old.
This resulted in my parents getting called into the school to get the news that little Janell had a serious learning disability. The ‘fat flabby-armed lady’ told my parents then that I was Dyslexic and from her testing, she was pretty sure I would never graduate high school. She informed them that I would never achieve much in life, but they should at least have some comfort because I had a great personality and she thought that might help me out in some capacity. (Boy, today, ‘fat flabby-armed lady’ would have been fired and sued!!). My parents asked if there was anything they could do to help, and she said that maybe if they worked with me it might help, and she suggested getting a piano and having me take music lessons. I think ‘fat flabby-armed lady’ was confusing Autism Savant Syndrome and Dyslexia – it was a small town, good help was hard to find – but whatever. A piano was bought and every night after school my parents took turns helping me with my homework.
Let’s just say home was my sanctuary. School, on the other hand, was often hell. I was younger than all of the kids in my class. Kids can be mean, and boy, did they pick up on the fact that I didn’t learn like everyone else – and boy, did some of them make my young life hell. I was called names, and cried each and every time of course, which made it worse as it increased the names kids could torment me with – dumb, stupid, crybaby, you name it. But through all of this I persevered and tried, and kept passing year after year, my parents spending hours with me after school each and every night. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I started to really feel I was in a happy environment as my tiny elementary and junior high schools merged with several other schools to make a much larger high school and I more or less found my way.
Ahhhhhhhhh…SELF-REALIZATION IS A GOOD THING………….
Okay, so graduated and suddenly ‘labelled’ but with a new found realization of why things had been so hard for me – why Math was beyond me, why Chemistry only made me wish I could find a molecule to make myself invisible in class, why I had to spend more time at night studying with my parents when my sister and brother were goofing off, – all the whys started to make sense. All except the ….why the hell didn’t you tell me whys?
So with my two awards in one hand and scholarship in the other, I stood still, looking at my parents mulling over the news I had just heard, and said…..“Dyslexic?? I am Dyslexic , wow, that explains why some things are so hard for me, but why didn’t you guys tell me?” And my father said…. “We didn’t want to give you a reason to fail. We believed in you and we knew that you were bright, you just learn things in a different way.” And then my dad said, “And the real kicker is, apparently you got this from me.”
At the end of the day, my parents had not given me an excuse not to learn, an excuse not to try. Rather they gave me a gift, a gift to believe in myself and the strength to try to overcome obstacles and tackle them without fear.
And on this Father’s Day, when I am missing my Dad, I give thanks, as….. I realize that I wouldn’t be anywhere in this world had I not had a father like him.
P.S….If you are reading this then…
- You might be having that ‘ahhhh haaaa’ moment now knowing why sometimes things I write might seem backward to you – it’s likely because they are lol!
- If you give me your number, I will likely repeat it back to you or have you enter it into my phone, because otherwise – trust me, I will never be able to reach you.
- Okay…when in Vegas…yes I am the girl counting on her fingers…”Let’s see I have an 8 and a 7 that is”….and before I can inconspicuously move my fingers along the velvet to add it up some one at the table will blurt out…15 you have 15!
- Truth serum time….Thank God for spell check, because my Dyslexic brain kept spelling Dyslexic – ‘ Dsylexic’….
- Ironically having to go through life with a Dyslexic-challenged brain in many ways, has made me tolerant, accepting, and open to all sorts of people as I know how it feels to be the underdog. So…Remember on this Father’s Day, the best gifts are: love, friendship, kindness, understanding, acceptance and forgiveness.
P.S……Next Week’s Story Is Called…….SUGAR DADDY….Another True L.A. Story…..STAY TUNED! See You Then! Janell…WheatFieldsToWonderland!