Thank You … at 70 Words Per Minute
Thank you — two words, only eight letters. "Thanks" could cut it to a single word. Heck, sometimes words aren't even necessary — a warm embrace, held hand or gentle forehead kiss are effective nonverbal ways to show appreciation. Of course, it's even more special when "Thanks" is followed by "I love you."
Last July, I drove 15 hours to Pennsylvania for my mother's serious operation. It hasn't seemed that long since Mom combed my hair to get me ready for school. Luckily, since she drove the school bus (for 42 years), my chances of missing it were miniscule. I realized that somehow those school days had long passed and now my tough, energetic mother was frail.
The words "stressed, fatigued and worried" summed up my emotional week. I pondered the role reversal from my younger years as I brushed Mom's hair and fed her ice chips, broth and Jell-O. It seemed like Mom had just peeled and cut bananas for my morning cereal. Now it was my turn to excite her about the tray of clear liquids delivered to her hospital room. All those times she held a tissue to my nose and said, "Blow," came to mind when I became the holder of the tissue and issued the command.
The "Fall Risk" sign posted outside her hospital room took me back to my daughter's toddler days when I held my outstretched arms to prevent Jessie from falling. Now my ailing mom needed the assistance. How did the years go by so fast?
One day, after Mom had finished her unappetizing lunch, I headed to the hospital cafeteria. As I walked down the hallway, I saw an elderly man with a cane who looked familiar. I stopped and hesitantly asked, "Mr. Furhman?"
"I thought that was you. You haven't changed a bit. Patrick Hempfing, class of 1978. I had you for typing in high school."
After I exchanged pleasantries with the teacher I hadn't seen for 36 years, I asked, "Guess what I do for a living?" Before he could answer I blurted out, "I'm a writer. I can still type 70 words a minute." To be honest, this may have been a slight overstatement, though I truly am proficient with the keyboard.
He smiled when I told him that, a few weeks earlier, I thought about him when I instructed Jessie to "place her fingers on the home row keys." (I've been trying to teach her to type instead of peck.) As our meeting concluded, I thanked him for making a difference in my life. I'm not sure which of us enjoyed our chance meeting in the hospital more, but I know we both cherished the moment.
Months have passed since that weeklong visit to the hospital, and I am thankful that Mom is doing better. She turned 80 in November and is as feisty as ever. After her hospital stint, she spent three weeks in rehab. Much to her dismay, she had to retake her driver's test before she could drive again. She set a goal, took the test and passed. Thank you, Mom, for the great lesson on perseverance.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I'm grateful you've been here for 80 years. Thank you for the lessons you taught me, and drive safely. Maybe one day, you'll bump into your road test examiner (not with your car, I hope), and have a chance to thank her for putting you at ease as you took your first driving test in decades.
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of a monthly column titled "moMENts." Follow Hempfing at facebook.com/patricklhempfing and twitter.com/patrickhempfing.