Code: a system of words, letters, figures, or symbols used to represent others, especially for the purposes of secrecy.
It is strange how codes have played a part throughout my life.
I think back to my childhood gang and I smile in remembrance.
T rest ugs!!! Bggt js yehrmdio!!!
(Translation: I have a news!!! Meet me urgently!!!)
I sent this secretly coded message to the rest of my eight year old gang. We would meet at our fort at four o’clock, once homework was finished. There were six of us in our gang. Simon, our gang leader, had devised the code. It was masterful and we used it all the time. This was our code. Only we knew how it worked. That knowledge made me want to hug myself in glee!
I had my fall and the world as I knew it, had to be put into a different order. I often felt that I had become a ‘code’! Strangers looked at me and saw one thing. I knew that this representation was totally misleading and false. In order to break the code, you had to really search beneath the brain damage, deafness and spasticity. Underneath all the outside paraphernalia beat the true Gaynor. The real Gaynor was waiting impatiently for people to break her code!
My Aunt has always been a scrabble fanatic. Before my fall, I used to love sitting and playing scrabble with her. Placing down words like zoology for a ‘triple word score’ put a grin on my face! My accident did away with that type of grinning. Words now ‘scrabbled’ around my brain, refusing to be decoded. My book My Plunge to Fame took an inordinate amount of time to write. I would know which word I wanted to use but it would refuse to venture out onto my keyboard. I would go for my afternoon rest, and in the evening that word would spill out of my brain and onto the keyboard with ease and joy.
After my fall, I was ashamed of my deafness. I was desperate to appear ‘normal’. Perish the thought, that I ever admitted to anyone that I couldn’t hear them. ‘Really!’ became my stock phrase.
“So, Gaynor, tell me have you ever read Pat Conroy’s book Prince of Tides?”
I smiled warmly: “Really?”
I mean, really???
One day I read an advertisement for a sign language class. I imagined the joy of being able to communicate without any ‘really’s. The elation of understanding once more! Before I could change my mind, I signed up to join the class. The sign language class was being taught by a deaf woman but the group would include both deaf and non-deaf students. I would fit in perfectly I thought to myself. I would learn a different coded language!
My problem in class lay in my spasticity and my eye sight. I couldn’t see both hands of the ‘speaker’ at once. Never mind having to sign with one hand that refused to cooperate and insisted on doing it’s own thing! And yet, those six months were a break through for me. Our teacher, Alison, was zany, intelligent and…completely deaf. And I really liked her. That class accomplished far more than merely attempting to teach me sign language. My fear of being deaf was done away with. I realised that deaf people were the same as everyone else. They just couldn’t hear. My shame at being deaf evaporated like an early morning mist. This particular code within myself had been broken.
I used to get a little annoyed with my parents in the early years of my recuperation. They devised a new code to speak between themselves. I was totally reliant on lip reading to understand what was going on. So, when they wished to discuss something privately and I was in the room, they would talk through their teeth without moving their lips. I was stymied. I knew they were talking about something, probably me, but this lip reading creature had no idea what they were saying. It wasn’t until I had my brilliant Cochlear Implants that I was able to crack their code!
As part of my brains healing process, my occupational therapist used to try and persuade me to do puzzles, particularly crossword puzzles. How I hated them! Recently however I found my two best friends poring over a newspaper.
“I think it’s pounced,” muttered B.
“ I’m just worried about cauliflower,” replied Jans.
“Mmmmmmmm,” they murmured in unison.
‘Oh, glory, they’re working on a crossword puzzle,’ I thought. I am totally useless at crossword puzzles. The three of us do things together. I would never cope with crossword puzzles!
“What are you up to?”
“We’re doing a Codeword puzzle,” B answered. “No, stop scowling! I’ll show you how it works.”
She pointed out a crossword puzzle type frame. In it three letters of the alphabet were strewn at odd places around the puzzle. These are the ‘clues’ to the rest of the puzzle!
“Down here you have the alphabet with the three letters crossed out. Now you have to fill in the rest to make up words.”
Hesitantly I made a suggestion.
“Yeah, Gaye, I think that could work,” said B with a smile. I joined in solving the puzzle and found to my delight that I could do it. To my relief, I discovered that over the years my brain had improved.
I am now able to do Codewords. It takes me a long time and, unlike B and Jans, I do the easy ones. But their feelings on completion, are nothing compared to mine. The satisfaction when I complete a puzzle is insurmountable. I look at all the painstakingly filled in words with utter delight and joy!
I now have a Codeword App on my iPad. I try and get this brain of mine to battle with a puzzle daily. It is good for my damaged brain. It is good for every brain! Medical gurus now tell us that puzzles stave off brain ‘old age’! I wish to have a vitally working brain in my eighty year old body!
With a smile, I think back to my childhood code, the sign language code, my parents code and I now look at the Codeword puzzle that tries to baffle me. It won’t though. I won’t let it.
I have always had a desire to crack life’s codes. There are those that I solve and those that I learn from.
That is the wonder of this code of life!