Anthony used to be a big eater. I remember one Christmas lunch at his brother’s house across the road where, as a bit of a joke, Anthony’s plate was piled impossibly high with food.
We all watched in awe as he consumed the lot. Afterwards, I had to take him back home to lie down and I remember being astonished at the size of his tummy; he looked like a pregnant woman. I also remember being a bit alarmed by his groans but unable to suppress my fits of laughter as I mopped his brow.
I don’t know if other members of his brother’s family remember this because it was probably about 30 years ago, but it is one of my funniest memories. Sometimes, now, when I am helping him with his lunch, I remind him and sometimes he remembers too.
Except for that day, Ants was never fat; robust and well-built, he was rather vain about his weight. He still is! Over the many years since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer he has lost over 20 kilos and I am rather jealous of his flat tummy. When I admit this, he proudly pats his, and then prods mine in a way that can only be construed as critical.
Anyway, he still loves his food. The main meal of the day at the nursing home is always wonderful; roasts feature regularly and Ants gobbles these up. The only trouble now is that he often needs help, which is why I try to be there by noon, or else get my mother to be there for me.
Dina (my decluttering friend) was there the other day and noticed that Anthony tended to poke at his meal, spilling some of it onto the tray. On another day, my mother told me that he didn’t touch the fish because it was white, the sauce was white, and the plate was white, so he just didn’t see it. On both occasions, he was helped of course.
As for me, I usually resort to feeding him. Yes, I get it about independence and all that but Anthony seems to have forgotten how to use cutlery and often doesn’t remember how to drink from a cup or glass, and the feeder cups seem to mystify him. Obviously, if none of us are there, staff will come to the rescue so that is very reassuring. His food is always cut up for him which is good but the fact that he seems to have forgotten how to negotiate fork-to-food-to-mouth is a bit alarming.
Our conversation the other day may, or may not, shed light on this newish problem. It was noon and a carer brought his lunch in and placed it on his tray.
Once I had unwrapped the meal from its foil and put the bib on Ants, I began to use a spoon to gather the first mouthful. As always, Ants asked me to eat some too; he wanted to share it. And then, looking at the plate of food, he began a rather bizarre conversation:
Anthony: Am I in there?
Me: Are you in where?
Anthony: In there [pointing to the meal]
Me: Do you want to be in there?
Me: Okay, let me check; yes, you are in there.
Me: So are you okay to eat it now?
Me: So I am putting you back into you?
Anthony: Whatever you say.
It’s times like these that I remember the Anthony whose appetite for life enthralled me.