Last weekend we went to visit my husband’s youngest brother and his wife. Clif is the baby in the Antypowich family, but seven years ago he began a slowly losing battle with a neurological disease that is similar to Parkinsons, but different and there is no medication that will ward off the devastation that it causes.

Four years ago Clif became pretty much unable to do anything for himself, and two years ago he required more care than his wife could give him at home. It has been–it still is –very difficult to imagine dealing with his lot in life.

Clif still is a brilliant man. He is a very successful businessman, was an avid hunter and outdoors man, he ran marathons and was a champion Crokinole player who organised tournaments and even played until he could no longer do it. His mind is as sharp as ever, but it is trapped in a body that can no longer carry out its commands. He can no longer speak, has difficulty swallowing so eats no solid foods, and is totally immobile except for limited use of his hands and fingers that allows him to still operate his motorised wheelchair, slide a DVD or CD into his player and with a wonderful app on his ipad is able to communicate with others.

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I am fascinated by this thing, and while it is excruciatingly slow, he is able to communicate and share his thoughts–even make a joke once in a while. He taps the letters to form a word and gradually a sentence, and then he taps SPEAK and the ipad says what he has written. It has many communication short cuts that he can use, but he is also able to create a sentence or make note of a thought, save it and then play it later.  For example, when we came back to the home on Monday morning to visit briefly before we left town, he played a message that he had writen to my husband, Lloyd.  Clif clicked the speak button and the ipad said that he loved Lloyd and he hoped that the doctors could find the answer to his still unresolved health issues. Later he got a twinkle in his eye when he played another message that said something to the effect that if anyone thinks their life is bad, he’ll trade places with them.

It isn’t like talking to each other, but it certainly is better than the alternative that he lived with before.