Eight years ago, I came home from a meeting that had been like a lightning bolt to the heart and said to R, oh, so carefully, “Are M and W the same to you?”
Eagerly and with no hesitation, he said, “Yes! And 3 and E — why are they all alike?”
I didn’t cry. I wanted to. I’d just spent an hour listening to an academic psychologist tell me of the results of two days of intensive testing. My boy — my brilliant, delightful, wonderful, charming boy — tested as severely learning disabled. His ability to decode letters was below the 1% mark.
The psychologist — with every kind intention, I believe — told me that I should be prepared for him to never learn to read. But that it was okay, really. No better time to have a profound learning disability. Dictation software, audio books, a society that understood (more or less) that dyslexia had been proven via functional magnetic resonance imaging to be a brain-based difference, not a stubborn refusal to learn or stupidity — it would be okay that he was dyslexic.
It wasn’t okay with me. Or rather, it was okay that he was dyslexic, but it wasn’t okay with me that he wouldn’t read. Reading had always been my greatest joy. Escaping into other worlds saved my life. Books were what made life bearable. The idea that R could never share that? Totally not okay.
Yesterday was his last day of 11th grade. He’s going to Seattle for his senior year. He wants to try a public school. He wants to experience big classes and lots of people and school buses. (He’s out of luck on the last, but maybe there’ll be a field trip or something.) He only needs one math class to graduate from his current school and they’re going to accept his Seattle adventure, so however it goes overall, he’ll probably come back here to graduate next year. But mostly, my participation in his education is done.
He got a 98 on his final paper for AP English. He got a 34 (out of 36) on the reading portion of the ACT. He read the Game of Thrones series for fun.
I am so proud of what he’s accomplished that I could explode with it. But I’m also filled with something that feels like — I don’t know what. We moved to Florida so that he could go to a school that specialized in learning disabilities. We moved to our current house so that he could go to his current school. We live where we live because I thought he’d have the best chance of getting an education that would fit him perfectly here. And now… I’m done. I did it. He did it.
It’s like letting go of a balloon and watching it rise into the sky. You’re half delighted to see the balloon go — WOW! Look how high it can fly — and you’re half broken-hearted at the loss.
My boy is flying. I’m so proud of him.