Friday, April 27, 2012

He signed his name with an "X"

He signed his name with an "X".

This was my great, great, great grandfather, and I was reading a stack of affadavits years ago, statements submitted to the government to prove that he was injured while in active service during the Civil War. With these papers, he was fighting for his pension.

There were statements about his life before the war, of the years during his service and also about his quality of life once his service was complete. A variety of people had submitted their written voice to his cause, some scribed by legal counsel, others by those who issued the statements themselves. All were signed and dated at the bottom.

On the signature line at the bottom of my great, great, great grandfather's statements sat a solitary "X".

Reading these papers years ago before I became a wife and mother, I poured over the story that told of my forefather--a cobbler, a husband, a parent and a soldier. This person and the life that he led all came down to a simple "X" on the signature line at the bottom of each page.

There were so many things that this person could do, but he could not write. That "X" on the signature line, representative of the name, but not representative of the person.

I thought of that "X" last week when my husband and I were in our kitchen.

"I wonder what he's thinking when he writes like that," my husband said to me, referring to our ten-year-old's signature which I proudly displayed on our refrigerator. Some letters were huge. Some were not. Some letters were capitalized. Some were not.

That signature, simlar to that "X" of our long-ago relative, looked like the work of a preschooler.

"I think it is a means to an end," I answered him. As it is for a lot of kids with autism, the fine motor control it takes to effectively put pen or pencil to paper is a monumental task.

Some look at the letters our son produces and automatically assume that he isn't capable of much thinking. I've even watched people working with our son decrease their level of interaction with him due to the jeuvenile appearance of his writing. They've even broken into alphabet songs while they work.

Please, people. This is not an IQ test. It's only handwriting.

Perhpas my ancestor would have liked to have been able to sign his name. I don't know. I'm pretty sure that our son would prefer to use an "X". Either way, for some people, writing is not indicative of who they are. It's just not their thing.

This entry was written in response to the letter prompt "X" in the blogging A to Z Challenge April 2012.


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  1. Hanna Jensen FinlandApril 27, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    I love how you end this post. Some writers say they couldn't be together/marry non-writers, people who don't write well. Well, my husband is not a writer. That doesn't mean he's not a thinker or speaker. Most of the time he answers my text messages "ok". Three words at the most. So, if I judged him by his writing, I'd miss all the great thoughts, the humor, the warmth. Writing is just not his thing. Thank you, Amy.

    1. Hanna, my husband is somewhat similar. My gracious, he has a lot going on in his mind, but those words do NOT naturally flow from his fingers the way they would from a writer's. It is simply one mode of communication. Just one. It doesn't reflect who he is or what he has to offer.

  2. What a unique (and great) way to see a visible conenctin between your great, great, great grandfather and your son. And I love the analogy of the signature and what it does and doesn't represent.

  3. I remember staring at those "Xs" for a while. They were so anonymous. They said nothing about the person who wrote them. At the same time, I guess they also said a lot.

  4. my husband takes an hour to write a card--it's not that he can't write, he just thinks too much, about what he is going to say--maybe i don't think enough---great post!

  5. This was terrific, and I read Hanna's comment above and can pretty much say, "Ditto!"

  6. As usual, great post. Say, can you just start at "A" again so I can read you everyday? *runs and hides*. My son only writes the letters, J, A, U, in that order. He can write his name and other words, but only if he traces them. Isn't that true for life too, that we judge a book, or signature, before we look at the person who wrote it? If it's any help, I think writing, or at least penmanship will be obsolete very soon. My first grader already uses an Ipad at school all day. Soon, I think 'writing' will be a thing of the past. We will all be typing and texting!

  7. Great post Amy, we all have talents, not all of them align.

  8. It's amazing how long we've come with the number of people who now know how to write as compared to the past. Would someone like your son ever have been taught how to sign his name back in your ancestors time? I think not.

    Catch My Words

  9. There is so much beneath the words in this post. Judging people based on anything other than WHO THEY ARE is always an injustice to the person. Your body shape tells me nothing about your soul. Your handwriting tell me nothing about your thoughts. Your words and your actions tell me everything I need to know about WHO YOU ARE.
    I really like the thought in your writing, the idea of the 'x' saying nothing except someone signed this.

  10. I absolutely loved this post and the way you tied in the past with the present. Just awesome!!