A Day in My Life: Tom Keel
Back on the track with Tom Keel
Tom Keel is one of those thrill seekers who chased speed and excitement in life and love. As a young man in Oklahoma, he learned to race cars, and, in his 40’s married Rue McClanahan, his first high school sweetheart who, by that point, was already a Hollywood star. This charmed life gave him access to travel and adventure. Before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s more than two years ago, he was still doing things we can only dream of. Recently, the memory of the last time Tom was able to get behind the wheel of a race car has started to fade more and more.
Thanks to Harris Hill Raceway, Tom was able to return to what he loved for so many years. Along with an entourage of fellow Silverado residents and associates, Tom climbed into several exotic cars. Along with an instructor, Steve, got on the race track and started feeling his way back. Usually withdrawn, the race track triggered a number of stories:
Tom recalls a race from 2000, where Roger Warren drove from Fort Stockton to Dallas, trying to beat 200 miles under 200 hours. “If you don’t turn right, you have a sheer cliff staring in front of you. You’re moving… and all of a sudden, when your track runs out… you’re in trouble."
Sharing this experience with Tom was special, especially for our Enrichment residents. Even with less mobility and additional challenges, they felt the exhilaration of the cars speeding by, engines revving, and seeing the spectacle unfold in front of them.
Steve, the instructor, had shared with us his firsthand experience of his mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and was paying close attention to Tom's reactions:
"I saw something click when he slid his foot on the throttle. His body language changed. Something happened there. It came back on. Pretty soon Tom was driving a pretty darn good racing line, checking mirrors like a racer."
It was moving for our Silverado team to see Steve describe what we see every day, those moments when we see our residents access those memories and ease back into who they were before they were diagnosed.
Texas-sized appreciation to Varun, Steve, Kayla, and the team at The Longhorn Racing Academy, as well as Jay Wallis from KVUE, for their time and support.
Watch Tom's driving in action below: