I’m on vacation in Connecticut. The leaves are amazing. It’s the perfect time to visit an apple orchard or a graveyard.
I love graveyards. If books hold the collected history of important people, graveyard hold the history of just about everyone else.
Wethersfield Connecticut has one of my favorite cemeteries. It’s very old, and filled with carvings of winged angel heads that resemble skulls. It’s a cemetery set-designed for an old school horror film, filled with tall tombstones inscribed: “Here lyeth the interred body of…”
But I have a special reason for loving this graveyard. In the back part of the old yard, near an obelisk marked “Stillman” are several headstone from the mid 18th century that have mistakes. Misspelled words. Spacing errors. Forgotten letters inserted later.
I believe the 18th century stone carver who made these tombstones was dyslexic. Maybe he was also ADHD and rushed his work. Carving a headstone before you've figured out the letter spacing strikes me as pretty impulsive act. Dyslexia and ADHD often go together.
I don’t know if the man who carved Martha Stillman's head stone was dyslexic or ADHD. We can never know for sure because the diagnoses of dyslexia hasn’t been around that long. Neurologists are still trying to figure out ADHD. While I’m grateful to be alive during the first time in history when neurodifference is acknowledged, it’s also a lonely feeling. It’s as though neurodifferent people didn’t exist before 1950.
But of course, we did. We have a hidden history.
Maybe someday advances in neuroscience and genetics will allow us to trace the history of entire families that have passed down dyslexia and ADHD through the centuries.
Until then, I will continue to visit the graveyard in Wethersfield and imagine several generations of stone masons passing artistic skill and an inability to spell from father to son (or daughter) in an unbroken line. These misspelled and misaligned grave stones are beautiful to me. They are a slender thread that connects me to a history I will never fully know.