Archive for November 26th, 2011|Daily archive page

Third-wheel Thanksgiving

I attended my third Thanksgiving dinner at the Alz center last Thursday, a week before the actual holiday. When I arrived, Mom was sort of hard to find. She and Mr. R were walking around in the program area. The place was crowded with extra tables and chairs and lots of extra family members. One resident had 12 guests for dinner. I was on my own this year because Patrick had a class.

It was a little early, so once I located Mom, all three of us took a walk to the lobby and back. A table had been set with two spaces for me and Mom, but since Mr. R was with us and had no family visiting for the dinner, we relocated to another table and sat together. Mr. R’s tray arrived first. I had neglected to pick up my menu card at the front desk so I had to run to the lobby to get it. I indicated what I wanted to eat on the card and then gave it, along with Mom’s regular meal ticket, to the activities director, who was serving our area for the event. Before we were even served, Mr. R had finished most of his meal. I have noticed that when he finishes eating, he wipes the entire plate and his utensils clean with a napkin. Just a little quirk. Mom is the exact opposite, almost always leaving a mess behind.

Two plates came back for Mom and me. Mine was missing gravy and stuffing. I wasn’t about to complain, however. The event is a bit chaotic and I could do without stuffing and gravy to avoid sending the activities director back to the food tables. Mom used her spoon to take really big bites of sweet potatoes – a food I never knew her to like. We didn’t have sweet potatoes at our family Thanksgiving meals, as far as I can recall. She also used her fork from time to time, but also used her hands to pick up pieces of turkey along with a blob of mashed potatoes. Last year, she was having a lot of trouble figuring out how to use her utensils. Her varying abilities associated with eating have been very interesting to me – compared to six months ago, she is much more focused now, can sit and eat and use her utensils. She is not so restless anymore, which I think has made the difference.

While we were eating, Mom turned to Mr. R and touched his hand and said, “I love you.” She then turned to me, touched my hand, and said, “I love you.” “I love you, too,” I replied. This was a sweet moment. I like to see her experience the pleasure of my company even if it is just a fleeting thing. I finished eating. Mom also seemed to be finished before she had cleaned her plate. She became a little confused about her drinks, but managed a few swallows of milk. And then suddenly, Mom stood up, and so did Mr. R. I encouraged her to sit back down to have some pie, but she couldn’t be convinced to come back to the table.

They started walking around the crowded room. I stubbornly sat alone at my table, waiting for the pie cart to come around. The social worker was delivering the pies in our area. She also tried to lure Mom back to the table for dessert, to no avail. She gave me a piece of cherry pie, and I sat and ate it, pretty quickly. I noticed Mom had walked over to chat briefly with one of the younger gentlemen at the center. He was sitting alone, having a second plate of food. Mr. R went to retrieve her, and I could tell he was a little grumpy. I was a little grumpy, too, about him interfering with my Thanksgiving dinner with Mom – a completely irrational emotion, but an emotion I can’t deny. I know his companionship is good for Mom. But sometimes I simply don’t want to deal with him. I think the feeling is mutual. Though when I finally got up to say goodbye to Mom for the evening, I kissed her and gave Mr. R a pat on the arm, and he smiled.

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