End of the Line?

Limits. I’ve always said, to myself and others, that I place no limits on Nate, that we’ll know them when they come. It’ll all become clear, I thought, so why put up artificial barriers. In my heart, I knew, and dreaded, that Nate’s progress was bound to slow down, maybe even stop, in some areas. But I also thought that just maybe, he would get through all the biggest challenges and be left with his quirks. That would be manageable: open vistas and eccentricities.

This semester was bound to be a tough one. We all knew that. Not one Graphic Design course, no computer-based class that he could ace, or at least get a B. Mass Media, Humanities, American Government, English Composition II: these are reading and fact heavy courses with a greater than usual amount of writing. Trouble loomed.

Facts are usually Nate’s strong suit. Memorize them, spit them out and forget ; he’s passed many tests with that strategy, but this semester there seems to be just too much for him to retain. Reading comprehension is always a battle, and writing, well, writing he can do mostly on his own but he needs support and prompting. That’s a fine line for me and his aides to walk. There’s no point in telling him what to write. It does him no good and we’re not being the ones graded, but we all are acutely aware that there’s more in the Nate mind than he’s willing to initially give. How to extract his knowledge without doing the work for him is a delicate art.

He’s been failing repeatedly. His last two exams, one in Government, one in Mass Media, have not gone well. The boy works hard, of that there’s no doubt. We spent all weekend reading packet after packet of Mass Media presentations, but Elise said she didn’t think he passed.

So, have we arrived at the dreaded point where this is as good as it gets? I don’t know; I can’t accept that emotionally even though intellectually I’ve always known it was bound to happen. The fear is, of course, that once one limit is reached more will become apparent and then, like dominoes, Nate’s options will fall rapidly, leaving us in a barren field with our hopes toppled. It makes me sick to think that.

On one hand, I don’t mind, when I think about the school work in particular. These are not his core classes. If Nate is going to succeed in the world, and get some kind of productive job, it’s going to be in some graphics/computer related field and he does well in those courses.

On the other hand, I’m distraught over the mere thought that, in some areas, Nate is as good as he’s going to get. Those limits, the ones that I half-thought were a mirage, may be turning out to be as solid as a brick wall. Crashing into that wall hurts.


About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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4 Responses to End of the Line?

  1. asdmommy says:

    I’ve often wondered about that wall myself. Obviously your son is much older than mine (mine is in 4th grade), but I’ve been reminding his teachers all along that generally hyperlexic kids tend to top out in reading and writing at some point. We’re kind of there in 4th grade. Ugh. I dread high school, and I have a feeling I’ll be homeschooling him or sending him to a school that specializes in Aspie kids.

    It’s funny (not hah hah funny, but interesting) that my son (and perhaps yours too) LOVED books when he was little. I was SO excited the first time I caught him up after lights out with a flashlight, reading. But sure enough, his interest and ability in reading have now become limited to computer manuals, Pokemon books, and the like. We’ve backed off to 2nd grade fiction, which he is getting, but I just don’t see him getting much further in that arena.

    It’s tough, but I keep reminding myself he can figure out computer stuff in seconds, and he can calculate math problems in his head that I have to get a calculator for. But I’m used to myself – well rounded, good at many things but not great at anything. Perhaps our boys will be great at something and will excel in ways we can’t even imagine…

  2. Reading has always been double edged: Nate’s been great at decoding, not so great on understanding. At 20, he reads comics and our local newspaper’s weekly TV schedule. We still read together for school: textbooks, study guides. Last summer he took an online English class and we read short stories, with me taking notes for him to look at later on. He gets some stuff, little things that you think he’s not retaining but emerge later in conversation. These kids do live in a great world, where social deficiencies coupled with great computer skills, can lead to a successful life. Nate’s no Mark Zuckerberg, but in the right situation I believe he’ll do well. Thanks for reading Mission of Complex.

  3. Kathy Clancy says:

    Nate may hit the wall in some subjects but there is always going to be a new area where he all of a sudden soars.

  4. Kathy, there are many stories where Nate doesn’t get something and then, click, he does. Maybe this is one of them and I’m not seeing it yet.

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