Friday, December 28, 2007


away from us

The Squeeze was stuck working Sunday, so I took a solo drive to Hooterville to visit the kids for the afternoon. It was to be the first of a few daily trips there for different functions. Monday, Christmas Eve, is usually spent at an open house held by my friend Paul's parents. It's a chance to see some old friends I see about once a year. Even though Paul wouldn't be making the trip from Vancouver this year, his brother, who I'm also friends with, would be there. Tuesday, Christmas Day, we would do our own thing here at home, then go to Weezies to share Christmas with her and the kids. Wednesday, Boxing Day, is usually spent at my parents' house. My mother usually goes all out and cooks for about 25 or 30 of us.

After visiting the kids on Sunday night, I decided to pop in for a quick visit with my parents and confirm the Boxing Day plans. My mother seemed tired. She told me that she had gotten up to go to the bathroom one night and passed out. I really wish they would move from their big house into a bungalow before she falls down the stairs. I mentioned to my mother that I had been doing a lot of baking for Christmas. She told me that she hadn't done any this year. My father told me that she had put some cookies in the oven and forgot about them and they burned. That is not like my mother at all. I asked if everyone was going to come over on Boxing Day. "Is that tomorrow?" she asked.

That question startled me. For it to be Boxing Day tomorrow, it would be Christmas today. And that was still two days off. My father gave me a concerned look. "Have you talked to Margaret?" he asked me, referring to my sister-in-law. My mother answered, thinking that he was talking to her. He informed me that over the past week or two, my mother has been forgetting things and doing strange stuff. She has a doctor's appointment on January 4th to get an assessment.

My father told me that she wouldn't be able to cook Christmas dinner this year for everyone, but invited us all over for a visit. I told them we'd bring the girls over on Boxing Day. Again, my mother asked, "Is that tomorrow?"
"It's on Wednesday," my father told her.
"Are we going to be here?" she asked.
"Where do you think we're going to be?" he asked.
"Well, I have my doctor's appointment," she replied.
"That's almost two weeks away," he said.

My father informed me that my mother wasn't even able to write the Christmas cards this year, so my father did them all.

I told my parents that I needed to get back on the road so I could get home before the grocery store closed, and I managed to keep my composure until I got into the car in the driveway. I had a meltdown. I sobbed for the entire hour back home. I just felt like I was losing my mother. She didn't seem the same. I feel so terrible for the person I'm losing, and I feel terrible for the love and companion that my father has been with for over 50 years that isn't the same person.

The Squeeze lost his father to Alzheimer's Disease, and I know what a horrible disease it is. I am so afraid of what's yet to come.

The Squeeze called my cell when I was just a few blocks from home, and I told him briefly what had happened because if I got into it much further, I wouldn't be able to see the road. He was waiting for me at the front door with open arms and I was finally able to unload all the sorrow that was inside me.

I called my brother to see what he knew. I wondered if maybe she might have had a mild stroke or maybe it was early signs of dementia. He thought it was likely the latter. He told me that my father had told him that they went for groceries, and upon their return, my mother walked into the living room, sat on the couch with her coat still on, and turned on the TV. My father asked her if she wanted to put the groceries away with him. She normally puts them away right away. She forgot all about them. I told him about the confusion over Boxing Day, and he sounded a bit more concerned. Our sister thinks that it might be a problem with medications, and I'm praying that she's right. I guess we'll find out next week.

By the time Boxing Day rolled around, my siblings had decided to do a small potluck at my parents' house. Buns, meat, salad...stuff like that. My mother even managed to make a roast. She said she was feeling a bit better, but she still looked awfully tired. After everyone headed home, The Squeeze and I washed the few dishes that were left, and tidied up a bit. I asked my father if he wanted a hand putting away the banquet table in the sunroom. He told me he would do it in the morning since it's not very heavy. My mother added, "it's dried out now so it's not too heavy." Her statement made no sense. My father and I gave each other a knowing glance, and our hearts sank just a bit more.

Friday, December 21, 2007


The Buffet

The Squeeze and I popped in to a local Chinese buffet for dinner early this week. I'm really starting to re-think this whole self-serve buffet idea. When it comes right down to it, it's kind of gross. On any given night, that scoop in the Egg Foo Young that you're using has been handled by a couple hundred other people. And they don't call them 'The Great Unwashed' for no reason. The transfer of bacteria must be astronomical. At least in a regular restaurant you're only subjected to the poor hygiene of a cook and a waiter.

We were seated, placed our drink and soup order, and proceeded up for our first load. As we took in the selection and began scooping up our choices, The Squeeze spied a little girl of about 7 or 8 years old, looking somewhat dirty, picking up chicken balls with her hands and putting them on her plate.

"You shouldn't use your hands to handle the food. You should use the serving spoon."
"I can't handle it. They keep falling off."
"Well then you should have someone help you."

We went back to our table and enjoyed our soup and plate of food while suffering through the volume of a nearby family. While the young son was using his outdoor voice and carrying on, Dad was on his cell phone, using the same voice as he chatted with someone about buying a car for scrap. Ya, it really wasn't an upscale crowd that night. I also noticed that the little girl who was handling the chicken balls was seated about two tables away from us with her family. There were two women, one man and two other little girls with her. I'm not sure what the family dynamic was. Perhaps it was kids, mother and grandparents, but it was hard to tell.

After waiting a while, we decided to go back for another round. As I came around one of the buffet stations, what did I see, but that same little girl at the chicken balls again. Only this time she was not using her hands to put chicken balls on her plate. She was using them to put chicken balls from her plate back into the serving tray.

"Hey! What are you doing?!" I said to her.
"I'm sorry!" she said with a start. I guess I surprised her.
"You do NOT handle food with your hands and you certainly don't put food you've touched back so other people eat it."
"I'm sorry," she said again.
I walked back to my table in disgust and looked at the table where her family sat.

I walked over to their table, looked at the plate belonging to whom I believed to be the girl's mother, and picked up her egg roll with my hand. I looked at it and put it back down. All three adults at the table looked at me in horror. The mother said "What are you doing?!"
"Oh, is there a problem? Do you not like people touching your food with their hands?" I asked.
"No! I do not!" she shouted back.
"Well what makes you think that everyone else in this restaurant wants to eat the food that your daughter has been taking off her plate with her hands and putting back in the serving trays?"
Throughout the restaurant I could hear gasps and the sound of silverware dropping. I walked back to my table and called for my cheque.

OK, that entire last paragraph was merely fantasy, but I thought of it after I left the place. In a way, I really wish I had thought of it while I was there and actually done it. What do some parents think? Little kids can be walking petrie dishes at the best of times, let alone in the thick of cold & flu season. We all know how kids are. Coughing, sneezing, wiping and picking noses and grabbing crotches.

Ya, I'm really thinking that ordering from the menu has its merits. You may not get the quantity or the variety. But think about all the stuff you're NOT getting. And that's not so bad.

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