Tony Hawk is getting candid about the realities of having a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
The 50-year-old professional skateboarder shared a photo of himself holding his mother Nancy Hawk’s hand on Instagram, opening up about his visit with her on Thursday.
“I visited my mom today,” Hawk wrote. “She has 93 years of life behind her, but the last ten have been increasingly corrupted by Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that affects memory. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s as well as other dementias. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., the Alzheimer’s Association said.
Hawk went on to explain that his mother once worked as a high school secretary, before later teaching business at a local college and ultimately earning a 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,” said Hawk. “In other words, she was subconsciously dictating her thoughts and experiences through phantom keyboards in real-time.”
The athlete admitted that the “phantom” typing “annoyed” him at first, describing how “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,” Hawk said of his mother. “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.”
He continued, “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.”
Hawk said as he watched his mother’s fingers, he 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,” he said. “Most of my visits end with a feeling of despair and impending finality, but today I left with a sense of hope. I like to think of my mom air-typing ‘f— Alzheimer’s’ as I walked away. #endalz.”