TedGibbonsThey had been taught by their mothers (Alma 56:47)

The year was 1994, and Mom had come to live with us for a few years.

She turned 88 that year.  Her blindness was worsening.  She had only a tiny area of peripheral vision in one of her eyes and was entitled to a carefree, relaxing ride into the eternal worlds, but “carefree” and “relaxing” were not in her vocabulary.

Lola married at the beginning of the Great Depression and she spent many of the early years of her marriage teaching school in tiny towns in Arizona and Utah. My youngest daughter, Tiffany Lola, turned four the year Mom turned 88.  After my baby’s birthday, Mom decided it was time for her to learn to read.

“She’s only four,” I told her.

“What’s your point?” she asked cheerfully.  We helped her cut poster board into twenty-six pieces, she wrote the alphabet in huge letters on the squares (the size of the letters was for her), and put Tiffany on her lap.  Her love and enthusiasm helped hold the girl’s attention and they spent hours each week at the kitchen table, reviewing and reciting.  When Tiffany knew all her letters, Mom got new flash cards and wrote words.  She had an early reader used years before in teaching and she now taught her granddaughter the words that were in that book.

When the prerequisites were completed and Tiffy could identify and pronounce the words, Grandma got out the book and my four-year-old read it, slowly, raggedly, completely.

I still treasure the images of my mother sitting at the dining room table with my daughter in her lap, teaching her the alphabet.  I still remember the sounds as Tiffy pronounced her first words, and I still cherish the memory of hearing this little girl, sitting on her grandmother’s lap, reading her first book.

I took pictures and called the local paper with an idea for a great human interest story.  They liked the concept, took my photos, and never followed up.  But that did not matter.   She was teaching so that my daughter could learn to read.

That daughter is now a married college student.  Without looking, I know that in her backpack are school supplies, a laptop, and whatever book she is currently reading.

I don’t know what the statistics are for blind 88-year-olds teaching four-year-olds to read, but Mother never cared about statistics.  There was a task she could complete in spite of her handicaps. – by Ted Gibbons