Everyone faces some adversity in their life, but some people must overcome far more than the rest. A local man faced an obstacle so big, it became a secret. And that secret he kept from friends and family for 56 years.
Alby Lee Lewis is not that different from any other 76-year-old retiree. He loves his down time, his fast car and spending time with his family.
But underneath his close knit circle, was a secret that Alby carried his entire life.
“I knew things weren’t right with me but I wasn’t sure what the problem was,” he says.
Alby was dyslexic and never learned to read. In school, they put Alby in a separate area with other kids who were struggling.
“They just didn’t realize you have an issue. They just figured you’re dumb,” he says. “They just gave me stuff to do, dumb stuff. That’s what they did.”
Afraid of what people thought of him, Alby learned it was keep his problem a secret.
“I didn’t tell anybody.”
He didn’t tell his siblings, his friends or even his own daughter.
The only person he told was his wife, Bonnie.
When she was pregnant, Alby grew anxious his child would come out like him.
Together, they made it work. Bonnie did the bills, read her daughter books and helped with her homework and Alby learned a few tricks. He always ordered the special the waitress talked about, since he couldn’t read the menu. And if put on the spot at work, he claimed he forgot his reading glasses and asked for a little help.
And it worked – for 56 years.
That’s until one afternoon when their daughter Jaclyn came home from college.
“He asked me to read the directions on a microwave dinner and I was busy at the time and I said, ‘No, can you just read them,’” she says.
Alby told her he didn’t have his glasses.
“She says ‘Papa, your glasses are right there.’ And I said, ‘Jackie, I have an issue here.’”
Jaclyn was shocked but her mother was relieved to finally have the burden of lifetime secret lifted.
With the secret out, Jaclyn and Bonnie took Alby to a reading specialist who diagnosed him with dyslexia. Months later, Jaclyn pushed her dad to enroll at an adult literacy center.
It took Alby years at the College of Dupage, but for the first time in his life, the words on paper were becoming unscrambled. He practiced his sounds constantly.
“It took me eight years to learn to read basic 4th grade reading,” he says.
Simple things like passing his written driving tests were major accomplishments for Alby.
After a life with no words, Alby finally found the words to his own story and published a book this year. A testament to overcoming adversity. He hopes his story will encourage others to not live in silence.
“I think a lot of people can do it today, what I did. Go back to school,” he says. “It was a tremendous feeling to say I can read.”
He’s written a book entitled “Life with No Words.” In it, he talks about the power of perseverance and hope for anyone struggling with not just dyslexia but any kind of adversity.
More information at his website.