I visited my mom today. She has 93 years of life behind her, but the last 10 have been increasingly corrupted by Alzheimer’s and dementia.
She was a secretary at a high school when I was young, later becoming a business teacher at a local college and eventually earning her doctorate in business education. She used to type so much that whenever we had a quiet moment together (usually in front of the TV), she would hold my hand and I could feel her fingers pulsating with keyboard strokes.
In other words, she was subconsciously dictating her thoughts and experiences through phantom keyboards in real-time. At first, it annoyed me to no end; fingertips were tapping away on me while I had to endure "60 Minutes" (her choice, of course). She was strong, vivacious, quick-witted, edgy and ultra supportive in those days.
When I see her now, she doesn’t recognize me. Sometimes there is a slight glimmer in her eye, sometimes she babbles incoherently, and sometimes she uncontrollably bursts into tears.
Today we mostly sat in silence. I gave her updates on our family and fed her Coca-Cola through a straw every few minutes (which she still loves, even through her catatonic condition). But then I noticed her fingers twitching. I’m not sure for how long; maybe they’d been moving the whole time and I wasn’t paying attention.
As I watched, I was reminded of her habit of typing unconsciously throughout my life. And even though it may have only been her body (yet again) betraying her, it gave me comfort knowing that perhaps she is still in there somewhere typing away about her life, her experiences, her feelings and our current conversation.
Most of my visits end with a feeling of despair and impending finality, but today I left with a sense of hope.
About the Author: Tony Hawk is a professional skateboarder, actor and owner of skateboard company Birdhouse. He is widely considered to be one of the most successful and influential pioneers of modern vertical skateboarding.
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