wings and things


on November 13, 2015

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?
Anthony: Yes.
Me: Okay, let me check; yes, you are in there.
Anthony: Good.
Me: So are you okay to eat it now?
Anthony: Yes.
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.

11 responses to “Sustenance

  1. Vicki says:

    I love these bizarre conversations. I mean to say……I’m smiling with you, not laughing at him.

    One can’t help but wonder exactly what Anthony sees (when these conversations occur).

    I think it might be just a new way of speaking. I suspect he is not saying he is IN the food per se, but he wants to get in to the task (of eating the food).

    Maybe like ESL (English as a second language) speakers?

  2. artfulanxiety says:

    Hahahaha, reminds me of my parents. My dad eats like crazy and never puts on weight and my mum is in awe of it. Of course my father has always been on the go, and lately rather sick like Ants. We have a lot of similarities you and I 🙂

  3. tersiaburger says:

    The love story of the century! Much love my dear friend

  4. susanpoozan says:

    Most interesting, what the brain can think up, you are so clever at answering Anthony’s questions.

  5. ksbeth says:

    i remember the staff at my mother’s assisted living house telling me that she would forget, over time, the most basic of skills, such as eating, etc. and they were very right. hard to watch it happen over time and like you said, hard to remember the way it used to be. i love your conversations with a and how you’ve learned to just roll with it.

  6. I believe he knows what he is saying, and though it may not sound quite right to us, when you respond so perfectly, he knows you understand something. You validate him every day Julie.

  7. I love how you combine both compassion and love in your story-telling and in your care of Anthony.

    Thank you for the warm heart hug this morning.

  8. Very interesting, I like how you ask him if he wants to be in there, before agreeing-good way to check if that thought will be agreeable or alarming.Oh, and the aching gut story…Christmas is coming, been there before.

  9. tootlepedal says:

    You do well to keep so calm in the face of such tricky questions. No wonder your post is tagged ‘love’. Very apposite.

  10. Yeah a strange conversation indeed, we have to feed nan as she no longer can feed herself

  11. Judith Post says:

    Hmm, at first, I thought maybe he was having trouble SEEING his food, but now I realize meals are philosophical in nature. You’re wonderful to your husband!

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