My Grandpa was given a challenge and an opportunity. I was diagnosed with dyslexia at age seven. He never had actual experience dealing with a child that had dyslexia. He wanted to impact my life in some way that did not involve reading, but was just as effective. He realized that if I would not be able to read then I should experience life instead. After talking with my mom, they came up with a plan for the summer. During my first trip to France, I was given the rare opportunity to see something new. He took me on the canals and showed me the county in a way that was not found in books.
It was an experience that I would never forget. At age seven, I did not do the same amount of work on the boat as everyone else. What I remember doing was coiling and collecting the lines (rope) and making them into perfect flat circles. When doing this, I was getting the lines ready for the next lock. At first the locks were scary. The tall cement walls were covered in green algae. I could hear the water spilling out at a rapped pace. The locks were filling with water, making the boat rise higher than we once were. When we finally reached the height of the water on the other side of the way out, the door opened and we started up again on to the next lock.
When we were on the boat in the canals, my Grandpa taught me how to live on a boat, work as a team, and to have patience. He always said to my mom and me, “you always need to find time to play, no matter how old you are.” That was what the summer was for. He always thought that you are never too old to have fun and act like a kid, now and then.
Working the canals on the boat was something that I picked up almost naturally. It felt like I already knew what I was doing and how it had to be done. I was working with my hands and keeping my mind off of school and the challenges I had there. Doing this gave me confidence and allowed me an opportunity to be successful.
School is much like the rough waters in the canal. Summer for me was a break from the formal education that I was failing at. In school, I had been falling behind and not getting the education that I needed. For instance, my reading level would get lower every year and teachers did not know what to do with me. So Grandpa tried to work around my dyslexia in a way that only I would get. This is something that no one else attempted. It felt amazing that I was doing something without realizing that I was learning too.
He also knew that I was interested in drawing. So along with the canal trips he took me to art museums to see paintings firsthand. While I walked through the galleries of the magnificent paintings, Grandpa would take his time reading every little blurb about every painting. Even though I could not read well enough to understand, I never understood why someone would read instead of looking at the paintings and letting them tell a story. In my mind, he was a walking encyclopedia, absorbing every scrap of information that he could. To me, he knew everything and he was willing to share it with me at every possible moment.
For the seventh summer together, he wanted to go on the Themes in England in order to see Windsor castle. I was thirteen, he was eighty-two, and this was the most memorable trip I ever had. With the excitement of a new adventure ahead we left port and it began. We went from working the locks and mooring the boat, watching movies on the boat that took place where we spent the night, and concocting new recipes with whatever we had on hand.
Two weeks after the trip we had together, Grandpa felt ill and sadly passed away. He died of leukemia. On his dying bed he completed every last minute detail before he died. Above all, he did not want his death to affect his grandchildren while they were at camp and school. He did not want them to know until after they were through, because he didn’t want them sad while they were supposed to be having fun. My mom honored that wish.
Two weeks after he died, my mom, Dad, and my little brother picked me up at the end of summer school. I was not expecting all of them to pick me up. When everything was set we left, but my mom did something out of the ordinary. She hopped in the back seat of the car. She did not look happy when she told me that Grandpa had died. I was shocked. I did not understand how it was possible. With all the mixed emotions, I cried on my mom’s lap the entire ride back home.
Now as I am growing closer to college and having my own life, I still think fondly of my grandpa and what he did. I still can’t believe that it had been more than five years ago since he passed away. Deep down, I know that if he was still alive today he would be so proud of me and the accomplishments that I made despite my dyslexia.
Short essay about my life and my grandpa