Biff America: A dyslexic love note
Special to the Daily
I sat in a cold car in the middle of a Boston winter, crying hysterically, plotting the death of my sister.
Thirty minutes before, I ran out of the house screaming, at my laughing brothers and sisters, “I hate you all!”
It didn’t dawn on me until I got to the end of the driveway that it was raining, cold and I had no place to go, so I sat in my father’s car parked out front of our house.
I hoped my family would be sick with worry about my running out of the house without a coat on a cold night. I fantasized my sister Martha going to my parents in tears saying, “Jeffrey is sitting out in Dad’s car without his jacket and now he is going to freeze to death and die.” (At that time I didn’t realize the “freeze to death and die” was redundant.)
I imagined my sister confessing that the reason I was so upset was because she found a love note that I had written to my sixth-grade girlfriend and read it to my siblings – spelling mistake included.
The note read, in part: “Yoar the pettiest gurl in our clast and I lick you moar thin all the rast of gurls.”
Love notes come difficult to the dyslexic.
Earlier in the evening, I walked into the kitchen to find my sister reading my note to a laughing sibling audience.
I was so mad and humiliated I could have exploded; I grabbed the note and ran out of the house.
My fantasy continued with my parents telling my sister what a rotten kid she was and that they have always loved me the most.
Had my sister really gone to my parents with that tale, I’m sure they would have said, “He’ll come in when he gets cold enough.”
What did happen was my older brother Mike was coming home from work and saw me in the cold car, opened the door and said, “What are you doing out here in the cold, little buddy?”
Between choking sobs, I told Mike the story. To this day I can honestly say my oldest brother is one of the kindest, gentlest people I have ever met. He listened without interrupting, put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said: “That wasn’t very nice of her, but it will be OK little buddy. You’ll get through this, come on inside.”
Michael was right despite months of kidding. After a while, I could eventually play along, saying to Martha, “I lick your new dress, it is real petty.”
Being born healthy, middle class, with parents who did the best they could, my upbringing was better than many in this country. But like all our lives, bad stuff happens – some tragic some imagined. There were embarrassments, failures, broken hearts and deaths. I can’t say my sorrow was always commensurate with the gravity of the catastrophe, but I can say I got through it.
Tragedy is part and parcel with perspective. I can’t imagine a well-fed, safe, Somaliland boy crying in a cold car over a misspelled love note. I’d imagine he’d be jazzed that his old man owned a vehicle and he wasn’t starving or in danger.
It often seems the more you have, the easier it is to be angry over little things.
That wasn’t always the case. During the 1960s, there was a near revolution over the disparity of the haves vs. have-nots – whites and blacks, rich and poor. But the anger came from those on the short end of that persecution and equity stick. Now I see anger from those who “have” but want more.
To them I say compare your plight with those with real problems.
About this time last summer, my good friend wrote me that she was trying to fit a trip to her beach house between her chemotherapy sessions for a sickness that would eventually take her life.
She wrote: “I used to worry about how I looked in a bathing suit; now I’m embarrassed about how much I cared.”
Here was an example of a real problem. There was nothing to say to that other than the same advice my brother Mike gave me, “It will be OK.” I certainly didn’t need to add, “Until it isn’t.” because she already knew that. Because, in truth, sometimes in life, it is not OK, and sometimes you don’t get through it. But the spiritualist in me has to remember that the same fate awaits us all. “So I guess that’s OK.”
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8 and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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