From my earliest days as a child I remember making A’s in school. Anything less was a disaster. At least that was the case through the fourth grade. I had my issues during that time. Time. That was one of them. I couldn’t tell you the time. It wasn’t till the fourth grade that I finally caught on. I remember Mrs. Beatrice Bonner standing in front of the clock on the wall behind her desk over the blackboard. She faced it with her head turned to us with her right arm in the air. With her right arm she swept downward to her hip while saying everything in the area is “after” the hour. With the left arm she swept from hip to straight up and said this side is “before” the hour. It was like a light went on in my head. Oh yeah! I had it.
The problems started in the fifth grade. It was like I’d lost my ability to think. I couldn’t concentrate. C’s and D’s where my best grades. I couldn’t understand what happened. Had I chewed the lead paint off of something? Seems paint had damaged some kid’s brain. Yeah, maybe that’s it. One thing I do know. My vision was failing. I didn’t realize the problem. I just knew when I would read I’d have a pounding headache after about fifteen or twenty minutes and I would put down what I was reading. I gradually lost interest.
That was not me. By this age I’d read all of the Hardy Boys mystery books and started in on Nancy Drew mysteries. My most favorite book, though, was Sabre Jet Ace. It was about a pilot who flew a Sabre jet during the Korean war. I loved that book so much I took it home and hid it away. So much for a young boy.
The sixth grade was no better, but I heard Mrs. Dorothy Bonner, my fifth grade teacher, had told my parents I needed an eye exam. Apparently she’d noticed I would squint to see the board. I would be sitting in the middle to back of the room. So, in the sixth grade I sat on the front seat middle row where I could better see the board. It was an uneventful year. The only big thing that year I remember was when Dana Hollowell was hanging upside down on the hand bars and fell off onto his head. He must have really hurt himself, because when we came in from recess we all settle into our seats when I heard a commotion and Dana, who was sitting two seats behind me, ran by all the while throwing up. Oh, and one day when Mrs. Sadler was writing on the board she said for us to read what she was writing on it and someone muttered “Can’t see through muddy water”. She heard it. Evil does have a look.
The summer between the sixth and seventh grade was a life-changing time. Not only had puberty hit and run, but my parents finally got me to an Optometrist, who found that I was extremely farsighted. No wonder I couldn’t read. My mom and I had also finally talked my dad into letting my hair grow out, but I don’t think that made me smarter. It may have helped my self-esteem a good bit, but the glasses had given me my ability to read again. By this time though I had adapted to a “not doing my homework” lifestyle and my grades still suffered.
I’d just lost interest in studying or reading by the eighth grade. I was barely making the grades I needed to continue on, although my teachers and my mom especially constantly told me I could do anything I put my mind to, but that was just it. I was. . . to not do anything. I’d lost the will to face challenges. I was content by this time to float through life with a catch as catch can philosophy.
High School was a challenge. To cut this short, I flunked Algebra my Freshman year and Geometry my Sophomore year. This held me back a year while everyone else went on as Juniors. There’s a lot to say about my classmates here. They still kept me going. I was asked to the Junior/Senior prom by one of my classmates that year. She was a darling for doing that. But what would have been my Junior year I flunked U.S. History and English. Why? I’m glad you asked. I had this deathly fear of public speaking and I knew most of the assignments in U.S. History was oral reports, so I wouldn’t do them. That was an automatic zero, but don’t stop there. The written part of the oral report was graded for content and then passed along to the English teacher where it was graded for composition. Ah! Another zero. It looked as though I was lost to a fifth year in high school.
At the end of the year I found out there was going to be summer school. Never heard of it before, but I was willing to endeavor through this and pick up U.S. History and English during this. It would boost me to the Senior class the following year and I would graduate with my classmates that I’d spent eleven years with. I wasn’t alone. There were others, but I remember Debbie Willis was in class with me and Mrs. Peele taught. I passed with A’s in both classes and made it to the Senior class.
About this same time I’d given my heart to the Lord and there was change in me, although I was also hormonally challenged as most male teens were. There was such a battle inside me, yet I’d be in church, but down at the pavilion at Minnesott Beach on the previous evening with a girl. The battle between hearing God say I’d be a minister and the wiles of a girl formed a real battleground for my soul. School on the other hand wasn’t hurting me. I was making A’s and B’s my last year in high school and I graduated on time.
The work-a-day world was a real eye-opener. I remember standing on the rim of a waste water treatment pond under construction that following September thinking about all my younger friends going back to school and here I was standing here with a hard hat and tool belt still working in the hot sun.
Flash forward when I went into the Army, but not by choice. After trying to get into a particular school in the Army I was caught in the draft during Vietnam. Going to Ft Polk was not my idea of a party. It was the hottest most detestable place I’d ever found on earth at that time. The thing I remember though is the all day testing at the Reception Center. All of us piled into one huge classroom. After each test the instructors would call names and ask them to leave. This went on for hours and I was still there. In the afternoon the instructor announced that there was one final test and it was qualification for OCS. I knew what that was. I’d taken it in high school and passed it, but I wasn’t really interested, so I threw the test. That day I realized was for finding out who was most capable. I didn’t know until later that that was what got me into missile school at Ft Sill, OK. It kept me out of Vietnam.
So after school was done, all of my class and I headed for Germany. We spent a year and a half there. The world, I found, was a much bigger place than the east coast of North Carolina. My mind was being exercised with new boundaries.
I could go on but I’ll skip to now. If you want to know about the in between, let me just say it was a long road of learning and unlearning, too.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is I have a very open-minded way of thinking and it’s not conventional at all. I don’t think like other people. How do I know? I am the one that sees that dumbfounded look on their faces when I speak about some things like I’m an alien or something. I think like everyone else, only my path to getting there is much, much different.
I know self-diagnosis is a dangerously slippery slope, but I contend that I am CDO. That’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder only I have to put the letters in order. I figure I also have a learning disability, probably due to my habits I formed early in my youth. Maybe that’s even the reason I had no learning habits. I don’t know.
I’m not trying to make excuses. It’s just an observation on my part. I do know I have hearing loss and if someone asks me a question and I answer I may likely have thought you said something else, which will also get me a crazy look.
I don’t like being called on quickly to explain something I know the answer to, but I have to analyze it in my head sometimes and a quick answer from me becomes an impossibility. I was asked once what God was speaking to me and I’m thinking to myself that isn’t something I answer immediately. I hear stuff all the time and it isn’t necessarily anything pointed. So which do I go with? I don’t know and I’ll blurt out a response that rambles about. I eventually leave the conversation and find myself feeling a bit self-conscious and feeling like people wonder where I’m coming from. It bothers me. Perhaps I’ll dig into this some more. But for now, I think I’ll stop here. There’s so much swirling in my head right now I don’t know what direction to take this and I’ll just ramble on.