Let’s be honest. I’ve never been the fastest kid on the block, except for reading when I was a kid. Now I read slowly to savor every word.
When I was young my father used to tell me to stop playing with my food. I wasn’t. Most of the time I was so engrossed in the grown-up conversation that I forgot to eat. Except – when Mom cooked liver and onions, an adult favorite, which meant she served it way too often. I would cut my piece of liver into teeny-tiny pieces and try to hide it amidst a huge fork-full of mashed potatoes and sautéed onions. I chewed contentedly until I reached the liver nugget in the middle and all progress stopped. I tried to swallow the liver bit whole but my mouth and throat went into full resistance.
The rule at our house was that I sat at the table until my plate was clean. Then my tactic was to try to make the food last until my dad forgot what day we’d been served the disgusting liver. That didn’t work either. After a while Dad would return to make sure I ingested it all. Darn! Why couldn’t Dad have a faulty memory and think we’d had the liver last Tuesday?
In high school typing class was a challenge. All the other students were tip-tapping away and I was pecking, not hunting because I’d actually learned where the keys were located. I practiced and practiced and made little progress. Electric typewriters were new then and I longed to try one. However, the teacher had a rule that we couldn’t graduate to an electric model until we could type 60 words per minute on a manual. Day by day I sat there looking longingly at the electric typewriters and wishing upon a star that someday I would be allowed to try one. My wish came true. On the last day of school the teacher came to me and said, “Well, I don’t think you’ll ever reach 60 words, but you’ve been working hard. You can spend the last five minutes of class on an electric typewriter.” The other students were dismissed five minutes early and I felt like a real typist pecking away on the modern equipment.
Several years later as a newly single mother, I attended Opportunity Industrialization Center, a school for low-income people to learn job skills. Most were trained for factory work but a few were trained in office skills. After weeks of seeing me struggle with the typewriter my instructor stood over me as I typed. Suddenly, she announced, “You aren’t clumsy, you have a fine motor skill disability.” Those words saved my shredded typing ego. I knew I was smart and could do almost anything I wanted that didn’t involve speed.
When I reached my 30s I began to add a few pounds, mostly from sitting in an office all day. My doctor told me to start exercising. I didn’t think I’d stick to that, so he suggested I try a team sport. As luck would have it the spring women’s softball league was about to start. During tryouts I missed nearly every ball thrown my way. By the time I figured out the trajectory of the ball and moved into position with my glove in the air, the ball had sailed over my head and bounced across the turf. You guessed it. I was that season’s right fielder. I must brag, though. One evening the third base player was ill and the coach had no one else to substitute. Our team was down by one run and the opposing batter was headed my way. The shortstop threw to me and – I caught the ball and saved the game. That moment of personal victory is still clear in my mind.
Now I fondly recall something my dad used to say, “Grandma is slow, but she’s old. What’s your excuse?” I say “fondly” because I am, as my son used to say, “Vertically challenged, horizontally enhanced and chronologically gifted.” Finally, I have an excuse for being just a bit slower than everyone else. Who said being old is a problem? It’s a gift.
© by Sharon D. Dillon, August 7, 2015
Chesapeake Bay Writers, Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, Southern Humorists, National Society of Newspaper Columnists
Author of “Twins! Oh no!,” one of 14 stories in The Book of Mom: Reflections of Motherhood with Love, Hope and Faith, published by booksyoucantrust.com. Available in print and e-format at Amazon.com