We’ve always loved food in our family. Our portion sizes are legendary. I can out-eat Hubby no problems at all and my kids are showing the signs of taking after me. I am secretly very proud!
Mabel is a pasta fiend. She would happily eat a whole pack of Tortellini to herself – a pack that is designed to feed two adults. In fact, when she has to share she is most put out (and don’t we all know about it.)
Archie can devour steak like no one I have ever seen. His favourite place to hang out is the butcher’s – weird, perhaps, but he just loves the smell of meat.
Martha, well, she’s a sausage girl. She can leave the chips, or the beans and will try her best to leave the veg, but will always come back for more sausage. (That is not a euphemism, by the way.)
Thankfully, we have fast metabolisms. And we’re all very active, and in the main, the meals we eat are home-cooked and nutritious.
I was delighted last week to get a free dinner for two from our local Cook Kitchen – frozen meals, made like you would at home.
It was because I had been an attendee at a Harrogate Blogger Breakfast the week before organised by @HarrogateTribe. A lovely freebie given in exchange for a few social media comments or recommendations. I popped in. I showed my letter and tried not to feel embarrassed about claiming my freebie.
“So, you’re a blogger, are you?” the very nice lady asked me, as she showed me around the store.
“Yes, I suppose I am.” I felt like a fraud.
“Have you been doing it for long?”
“Well,” I replied. “The Girl About Harrogate thing is fairly recent, but I’ve been blogging about my mum’s dementia for around 3 years.”
And, that was it. We bonded there and then. Her mum died just a few weeks earlier after battling dementia for a number around ten years. She had been in her 80’s and Lovely Lady was almost apologetic about the fact her mum had had a good innings. We shared stories. She explained her mum had coped well at home for many years before going into a home. She told me the last week of her mum’s life was agony, as they effectively withdrew food and water and watched her fade away over several days.
She told me she’d begged the nurses to help, to end her mother’s suffering. But, they could do nothing but try and keep her mum comfortable. They kept her mother’s mouth wet. That was it.
Can you believe it?
I worked at a vets when I was a teenager. It was my Saturday job. I loved it. I was in the consulting room with the vet and would help hold the animal, get the inoculations ready and tidy up after each appointment ready for the next one.
The one client I remember, the one that affected me the most, was a massive, leather-clad biker who came in carrying a small box. Inside was his hamster. The vet informed him – after a thorough examination – that there was nothing that could be done and the kindest thing would be to have the little creature put to sleep.
Actually, that’s not right.
He sobbed. He sobbed his heart out over the loss of his little hamster. He stayed with his little friend as the end came and crumbled with emotion as it quietly and calmly fell into its forever sleep. His deep sadness has stayed with me for over 25 years.
It is my “vet” story. My first job story. The go-to story I tell about how unexpected life can be. The story I recount about not judging a book by its cover. About the beauty of life.
As the lovely lady from Cook was describing the hell her family went through and how she can not yet look at pictures of her mother, my mind flashed back to that man and his hamster and how bloody wrong the whole thing is.
That man’s hamster was treated with more dignity than the Cook lady’s mother was. More dignity that my mum will endure as the end draws near. More dignity than most of us can expect as illness takes hold and we endure pain and suffering while the people who love us the most in all the world watch, helpless.
It’s not right.
How can that be right?
Change is desperately needed.
I was up visiting last week with the kids. The first day we went to the home, Mum was out of bed and in the lounge. She had her eyes open and was actually smiling at us. She didn’t know us. She made no sense. But, she saw us. It was a good visit.
“She’s eaten well today,” one of the nurses told us.
The second day, was not a good visit. Mum was being tended to in her bedroom and when they had cleaned her up, she was wheeled out to see us. She was hunched over in her chair, her eyes shut tight and nothing we said (or sang) to her could entice her to open them.
The third day was different again. We walked into her room and she was having her hair dried. She giggled at us. She stared at us and then she laughed. Then she laughed some more. It was odd. It was surreal. But, at least it wasn’t as bad as the day before. It was just different.
I chatted to her. I sang to her. I asked her if she wanted to dance.
“Okay, then!” she responded. I was shocked. Was it a coincidence or had she understood me? I will never know.
As I leaned in to give her a kiss and a hug, she opened her mouth as if to try and nibble me. The kids laughed.
“She’s trying to eat you, Mummy!”
“Oi, Mother!” I joked. “There’s no need for cannibalism, is there? We only popped into say hello and have a sing song with you.”
She smiled and then opened her mouth again, her tongue searching for a spoon that was not there. The kids laughed again. Mum laughed and chatted nonsensical words as we smiled and laughed with her.
“She eats well,” the nurse who was near us commented. “Even when she’s having a bad day and we struggle to get her to wake up, she will always open her mouth for some food.”
“Damn right, Mother!” I thought. Her brain might be almost complete mush, but she still loves her food.
Perhaps it is just a reflex. An automatic reaction so when something is near her face her mouth opens and her tongue starts its exploration, ready for whatever treats are coming her way. My looming face must have triggered her eating reflex.
I must have looked tasty!
The kids found it hilarious. Even now, over a week later and they’re still reminding me of when Granny tried to eat me.
I cannot think too hard about the future and what that looks like. When the time comes and her body cannot swallow or she is unable to take a drink from a cup. That time will come, but at the moment we have to simply be thankful that her love of food is helping to sustain her.
I miss you, Mum, you bloody crazy, wonderful woman.