Turning points in life rarely come at regularly scheduled intervals as they do in our writing. One of the most significant turning points for me came when I was in second grade,, my teacher called my Mom in for a meeting. There were some concerns about my reading abilities.
I remember sitting next to Mom worried that I was in trouble for something but I couldn’t think of anything I had done to warrant a parent being called into school.
The teacher smiled at me and then announced that I had been struggling with reading. She, or whoever decides these things, had decided that I had a learning disability, and that I would never learn to read at a normal level. She would pass me on to the third grade but I would have to attend special education classes.
I don’t remember much of what was said after that point. The phrase “special education” had knocked all conscious thought from my mind. Images swam through my head, magnified and slow, like viewing them from the outside of a fish tank. It wasn’t until we were in the car on the way home that I finally spoke.
“Am I stupid?” I asked my Mom with the bluntness only an eight-year-old can manage with any success.
“Do you want to be?” Was her response.
With teary eyes, I whispered, “No.”
She looked me in the eye and said with equal bluntness, “Then you won’t be.”
She spent the entire summer working with me on my reading. The next year my was tested again. This time I wasn’t below normal, or even normal, my reading had advanced two grade levels. My Mother, an avid reader, had passed her love of reading to me.
I’ve loved to read ever since.
In writing we talk about an ideal reader, the person we write for. My Mother has always been my ideal reader. Without her belief in me, I would have been shunted into special education classes and I would have never had the confidence to be a writer.
A few years ago, my mother was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a disorder of the eye that will leave her blind. Though the disease is progressive, hers accelerated faster than expected.
Her diagnoses left me as numb as that day in second grade. I questioned the existence of God. I questioned the wisdom of her doctors. Most of all, I cried. None of it helped.
Though my ideal reader can no longer read my work — I can. Thanks to my Mom, I can read and I can read to her, because without her I would not write at all.
Thank you Mom for the greatest gift anyone has ever given me.
I love you.
(Author’s note: I had written this for my Mom some time ago but with the release of my first book A Grand Murder this past week it seemed valid to post it here as a thank you to my Mom again for giving the greatest gift. I hope you pause to thank a champion in your life.)