Not long after deciding to become a newspaperman back in the late 1950s, I realized that I needed to learn how to type and — hopefully — type well. I took “personal use typing” in high school, but I didn’t feel that comfortable after completing the class, so I took “secretarial typing” to sharpen my skills.
As a young reporter for The Roanoke Times from 1965-69, I typed comfortably at nearly 140 words a minute. City Editor Jim Echols told me “if you can write well half as fast as you type, we will keep you busy.”
And he did. I often took dictation over the phone from reporters out on assignment because I could clean up their prose as they dictated off the top of their heads from a phone booth. I also could turn out a story of my own as deadline approached.
As the cliché goes, that was then and this is now. Rapidly advancing arthritis and age are slowing me down at the keyboard. Typing a story now requires pauses and reconstruction of sentences more often than not.
Adding to the problem are memory lapses that stem from a brain injury nine years ago in the motorcycle-cow crash that has slowed me down more than I want to admit or accept. I used to bang out 1500-word stories in less than 15 minutes, often with no typos.
Now it takes 45 minutes and that includes real-time corrections by Spell-Check.
“Old age is mind over matter,” legencary pitcher Satchel Paige once said. “If I don’t mind, it don’t matter. “
Sorry Satch but I do mind, and it does matter.
The TBI (traumatic brain injury) suffered in the motorcycle accident in 2012, required regular MRI scans and tests by Carilion neuropsychologists to see if my cognitive skills has weakened.
I face a new set later this month. I dread the results.
A few years ago, a retired state trooper suggested publicly that Circuit Judge Marc Long consider revoking my concealed carry permit because a man with a damaged brain should not own or carry a gun.
“I see no reason to do so,” Judge Long told me. “The law on mental fitness to own a firearm deals with those who refuse admission to a mental facility or testing.”
As someone who had suffered a brain injury in a vehicular accident, I was cleared by the neuropsychologists who treated and tested me before discharge in 2012.
Even so, I asked then Bruce Turner, then chief deputy of the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department, who handled paperwork submitted to the judges for concealed carry permits, if I needed to have anything submitted after the accident. He checked and I was OK.
Still, those who suffer TBI can face early-onset dementia and the regular tests by Carilion checks to see if any symptoms arise. My mother suffered bouts with dementia before she died at age 89, so I worry that genetics may play a role. I’ve suffered a number of serious concussions over the years and studies of athletes who suffer blows to the head show advancing dementia as they get older.
Previous tests have shown that I’m reasonable sane — or as sane as someone like me can be, given a lifestyle that ignored safety too often.
In the overall scheme of things, I would gladly give up my right to own or possess firearms without hesitation if I could regain my typing speed. It’s more valuable for what I do.