All posts by Dona

My Franklin Language Master

I have never been a good speller which is why I thought I was not a good writer for many years. It wasn’t until automatic spellcheck that I realized I was a halfway decent writer.

Before automatic spellcheck was a thing, I wrote, but I also misspelled many more words than I misspell today. I was always mortified when someone would call me out on it, like the time I wrote a heartfelt letter to my third-grade teacher telling it was because of her I’d become a teacher myself and gave it to a colleague to read. She said I should not send it because there were too many misspellings. Then there was the time I misspelled negative (I wrote negitive) on a memo to other upper grade teachers and one teacher sent it back, circled in red. They were not wrong in pointing out the misspellings, but I wish they’d been a little kinder, like the time our principal (the one who asked if my second pregnancy was planned — so she wasn’t all bad) said that my note to parents asking for feedback on something we were doing was very will written, but she was pretty sure input was spelled with an N instead of an M. I spelled it like I said it, imput).

In or around 1990, Dean gave me (probably at my request) an electronic dictionary called a Language Master. You’d start typing a word and it would give you suggestions. I could always figure out the right word when I saw it in print, but I could not always see it in my head, then put it on paper correctly. The device also had games, including hangman.

This device came in very handy when I was applying for a teaching position for a public school system. I was given a specific amount of time to write an essay to a prompt and asked if I could use the electronic dictionary. They said I could, and was able to write a compelling enough essay to get me hired, that contained no spelling mistakes.

One of my retirement goals is to go through the mountains of crap in my attic closet which houses several old electronics and dispose of them.

Franklin no longer works. The only thing it displays are vertical lines, that look like a UPC code. I think I know what they mean though:

Display reads "I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dona. Dona, my mind is going.

So the time has come to dispose of my first electronic device. Thank you, Franklin, you served me well.

My name

Someone in our blogging group suggested we write about our name. Note this was months ago — I am very much behind.

I was supposed to be Steve. Steven (Stephen? — probably not) Patrick. My parents were so sure I was going to be a boy that they didn’t pick out a girl’s name. When I was born I could not be named Stephanie because one of my mom’s best friends named her daughter Stephanie a couple of years earlier.

Rewind to my Mom’s pregnancy with me. Apparently my Uncle Don (my dad’s sister’s husband) was very excited about my upcoming birth. He and my dad were best friends and apparently he was looking forward to meeting me. He and my Aunt Leila had no children — I don’t know if it was by choice or not — and I think he was hoping we’d be close.

The story goes that when my Aunt and Uncle came to visit my mom in the hospital after I was born my Uncle suggested they name me Dona Lee — after him (Donald LeRoy). I guess they liked the idea (one “n” and all) so I became Dona Lee. (to be pronounced like Donna).

He had to wait about 23 days to hold me though because I was only 3 pounds and 9 ounces at birth. The hospital kept me for about 3 weeks.

My Uncle and I were very close. He called me Miss America and told me I was beautiful. He’d hold me in his arms and we’d “dance” around his living room while Paul Anka crooned “Put Your Head on my Shoulder” from the HiFi.

I know my parents loved me and they showed me that in many ways throughout my life, but my relationship with my uncle and namesake was more than special and tragically short because he died of heart failure when I was not yet seven years old. I still carry that grief — my first grief — with me today.

My Uncle Don in a set-up photo waiting for me to come home for the first time
My Uncle Don (the short one on the left) next to a tall man, also named Don.