You'd think, given what Ataxians have to cope with, handwriting wouldn't be such a big deal. But, like speech, it's often one of the more obvious signs of a SCA (spinocerebellar ataxia). Even as a southpaw encountering a 3rd grade teacher who thought everyone should be right-handed (my mother hit the ceiling), I used to have beautiful penmanship. I even took a calligraphy class in college. Although, lettering vertically to maintain the correct angle, did look pretty strange. With my newly gained calligraphy skills, I hand lettered my wedding invitations (all 12 of them). Hey, it was the counter culture 70's and the wedding was in my parents' backyard.
|X marks the spot
Now chicken scratch and illegible overwriting is the norm even when I slow down and try hard. The proverbial X (in lieu of a signature) requires more fine motor coordination than I have. Another issue is the interminal slowness of writing. No one believes me when I warn them, until they watch. Something as simple as writing down a number from a phone message is a challenge. I'll forget the number at least twice (age-related memory deficit), drop the pen twice (ataxic hand/eye coordination), and then be unable to read what I wrote down (illegible handwriting). I often find myself gazing longingly at someone's ability to write effortlessly. That's a little bizarre, but it keeps my wicked witch side at bay most of the time.
I go out of my way to avoid writing if possible and have come up with several creative (some say desperate) alternatives. To avoid those lengthy medical forms, I made copies of my demographic and medical information to print out and take to appointments. Two problems with this. First of all, it drives my security–conscious son, crazy. Secondly, usually the check-in person wants the information on their form. Hoping to avoid it, that's when I have to play the disability card. If they want the information on their form, they can do it. So much for the electronic medical record.
To complete some forms and address envelopes, I have automatic envelope addressing on my computer and bought a used typewriter. If I can talk a medical office in to sending me forms in advance of an appointment or have downloadable forms on the web, I can use the typewriter to complete them. I have to confess once to showing my wicked witch side, when the office manager only knew how to use the postal service.
OM: "I can mail them. What do you mean, download?", she asked sweetly.
Tammy: "That would be fine", I said just as sweetly. I thought, "And she is actually using a computer, in an office, in 2012!"
To fill out checks, I don't. If Earl's not around to do it, I ask the check recipient to write out the check (I can just see my son cringing as he reads this) and I sign an abbreviated, but illegible signature. Restaurant bills? Please... I even had to submit a new signature to the election board. They only had an old readable one on record. I didn't think they ever checked. It took awhile for my self-esteem to recover from that one.
My six year old grand daughter often asks me to write or color with her on our play dates, which strikes fear in my heart.
"It's OK Tam", I sigh, "Zoe's more skilled than you and it doesn't really matter that she's six". But, she doesn't seem to mind that my letters are a bit strange and my coloring doesn't stay in the lines. At this point, I still do color and draw better than the three-year-old.
So, what does this have to do with Skeeter? Not much, except she becomes my go-to reprieve from the things I don't have to worry about. On a scoot, I'm too busy to speak to strangers, write, or fall.
The lesson: People are happy to help. Bite the bullet and ask.
Julie in Colorado said:
Yes. My handwriting use to be perfect. Now I can't finish one word without switching from cursive to printing. I can't even read my own writing sometimes. Yes with the number eight as well. I'm 56 and my whole life I wrote 8 with one stroke. As of 2008, two circles. Weird. and how I write the letter "r". Nothing like I wrote it before Ataxia. What an odd thing.