Sometimes in court cases, handwriting expert are called to testify. These professionals can determine whether or not a signature is real or a forgery. What’s more, they can tell much about the writer’s personality, including quirks. I don’t believe anyone could tell much about my handwritten words; he’d never be able to read them.

Handwriting is something I always wanted to master; instead, I butchered it. No matter how much effort I poured into the task, my letters never reached the top lines and the loops always peaked just a little flat or a hair shy of the middle line. Mrs. Longmire, my first grade teacher, was patient with me but never placed an “E” on my report card.

Second grade was a disaster. Mrs. Garrett ruled with an iron fist. Her students never wrote well because their hands shook with fear. As a left handed person, the instructions about writing never made sense. I’d slant my paper the way she instructed, but in no time she squawked at me for doing it wrong. “How,” I wondered, but no answer came. With the paper still incorrectly slanted, I tried to write the letters. But as most folks have seen, doing so leaves lefties curling their wrists clockwise like a coiling snake and trying to produce. My attempt was short-lived as “old grumpy” slapped my hand with her ruler. Frustration set in, and I prayed for the session to be over. Writing lessons improved only after Mrs. Garrett stepped in a hole during a fire drill and broke her ankle. She was out of school for several weeks, and the sub encouraged more than frightened students.

Some teacher eventually demonstrated the correct way to slant the paper, but by then it was too late. Yes, I slanted the paper, and I stopped curling my wrist when writing. However, too much practice time was lost. My handwriting was a mine field of mistakes and showed no signs of improvement.

A week or so before each school year began, I placed a stack of notebook paper on the table and worked on perfecting my letters. Dozens of sets of the abc’s filled the sheets, as did a hundred signatures. To my dismay, no two appeared close to the same.

Years later, college term papers were completed in handwriting, and luckily, no professor ever refused one because they were illegible. I know typing them would have helped, but I’d managed to earn an F in the high school class for a variety of reasons. Of course, taking notes in classes in no way aided the development of my penmanship. Most days after class, I returned to my room and tried to decipher the marks on the paper. Remembering the things an instructor said helped to read the mess in the spiral notebooks.

The computer has been my salvation. I finally conquered the “qwerty” keyboard enough to get recognizable words on the screen. In fact, my penmanship is limited to giving my signature on slips of paper after purchasing items, jotting down information from interviews, and scribbling a personal note at my desk.

It’s just as well that technology is coming to the rescue. In the last couple of years, my fingers have stiffened and now ache after extended periods of work. Gripping a pen is an uncomfortable, almost impossible task. The hieroglyphics on the page make no sense, and I don’t have my memory to rely on to recall what was said at the time I inked the scratches before me.

I admire people like my wife who can make art with a pen or pencil. She holds the instrument as if it were a baton and then conducts a full sheet a beautifully written words. It looks so easy. For me, it’s a struggle to mark anything on paper that resembles any letters or words. My arthritic hands make the chore that much more difficult. My last hope is that my toes will be able to do what my fingers have failed to do. If not, I might be putting words on the screen by pecking away at keys with my nose.

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