Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Grandpa

I love genealogy and the NBC Friday night show called Who Do You Think You Are. Tonight actor Rob Lowe discovers an ancestor who battled against George Washington during the American Revolution.

I joined last year after watching the season.

That’s where I first saw draft cards, registration and enlistment papers belonging to some of my ancestors--and what their signatures looked like. Sometimes the signature is an X.

When I first saw that X signifying a relative’s name, I felt incredibly sad to know that he couldn’t read the Bible or the newspaper, that he couldn’t write his name.  If I couldn’t read, I’d feel helpless, at the mercy of others.
My grandfather couldn’t read. I remember mom saying he was too mean to learn how. She was the oldest of 10 kids; the first born usually gets all the discipline. I don’t know that I ever witnessed any helplessness in Grandpa but he sure was at the mercy of others when it came to reading. He made his kids read the Bible to him, scripture after scripture, over and over again, and he listened to preachers on the radio. He was born in 1900 and when he was five years old, his father was murdered.

I have two cousins (twins) who can barely read. Their mom was pregnant with them when their father had emergency surgery and died. Who knows what they experienced inside the womb when she was told her husband was dead?  She never re-married. Being close to these two guys, I see how being unable to read or read well has affected their lives. They don’t use X for their signatures, but they struggle.
I wonder if growing up without dads played some part in my cousins and my grandfather's ability to learn. I know their lives would have been different--so much better.

X marks the signature of many people--even today. I find that sad.


Adam said...

It's shame that many members of the older generations coudln't read. It's thankful that the modern literacy rate is about 99.9%. I actually don't recall learning how to read, it came pretty naturally in kindergarten and first grade.

I'm also learning how to read in Japanese. It's a bit harder than A-Z since not only do they use the latin alphabet (called romaji) but symbolic characters (called Kanji) and letters than represent sounds of speech, one for Japanese words (hiragana) and foreign words (Katakana). So technically a Japanese child has to learn 4 reading systems in school.

Rhonda Parrish said...

Illiteracy really is a sad thing. It was kind of understanding back when people didn't really need to read to survive but it's a real shame that it still exists in modern society, and in such high numbers.

~ Rhonda Parrish

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah it is a shame that so many people today can't read, not sure that says much about our education system either.

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

So true. Illiteracy is a terrible problem all over the world, surprisingly even in the so-called 'advanced' countries like Canada and the US. Hopefully that WILL be remedied at some time in the future.

Lynn said...

How interesting. I think back then they were more about surviving than being educated.