I’m sitting at my new 1935 Underwood portable typewriter. My wife, Sylvia, traveled over an hour to buy it from a collector and she was delighted at my reaction when I opened the box. It’s a depression era antique that works beautifully and is still shiny. She enjoyed listening to the sound of the keys striking the paper as I began my first article on it. I had intended on writing of Christmas memories starting with the most recent and going back to childhood. However, I stalled at the first memory.
Last year on Christmas day, we traveled to Texas to attend my mom’s funeral.
The sound of the typewriter reminded me of her. I grew up listening to my mom type ninety words a minute on the old manual. I heard her pound out my dad’s sermons, as well her newspaper columns and a couple of books.
Mom was a true writer who wrote every day, mostly in handwritten journals. At some point her thoughts would evolve onto typewritten pages. Of course, later when she got a computer, Mom made the keyboard whir but it was the typewriter of earlier years that I remember vividly. I could feel as well as hear the striking of the keys, which made a special music that allowed her thoughts to become tangible to the world.
Mom loved the written word. Just inside the door of my parents house was her chair with a table beside it stacked high with books and notepads. For years, this was where she sat, read and wrote during the early morning hours. I was an early riser, too, and I often sat next to her to have our best conversations.
Several years ago, Mom suffered a massive heart attack and stayed in a coma for weeks. We prepared for her passing at that time, but she wasn’t ready to go then. Her recovery was slow and it took a long time to return to writing. I remember that her first editorial after the heart attack was short, and I could feel the frailty in her words. But she pressed on daily to fully reclaim her writing ability. In fact, not only did she continue to write her editorials for the city newspaper, but she went on to write three books of poetry, and was also published in the city magazine.
Mom was nearly eighty-five when she died. A stroke had savagely afflicted her body for her last two years. Yet she managed to return to her computer if only to write short emails. Each note took a long time because she insisted on being precise, even though the process was now slow and laborious. She may have been frail and sick the last several years of her life but my mom was the toughest person I’ve ever known.
As I continue my own writing on my new/old typewriter, I feel her presence in the rhythm of the keys which resonates deep into my chest.