“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” ~Ernestine Ulmer
When Chris, his grandfather, the kids and I wheeled Vernon out to the courtyard for this morning’s visit, we were told: “Make sure he comes back for lunch at noon.” We looked at each other curiously, but also as if to say: “Okaaaaay. We all know he can’t eat anything.” Perhaps a special event was on the schedule.
Erin, Chris’ wife, had packed Vernon an early Christmas bag full of imported chocolates. Vernon, at least in the old days, had an unstoppable sweet-tooth, so it was a very personal gift. He recognized all the British packaging straightaway and took such a big bite of one of the bars, I was a little worried he might not be able to get it down…and I’d get in big trouble with the staff. But he survived, savoring that bite the way I imagine chocolate should be savored. After he finally got it down, and we asked him what he thought, he said: “It’s pretty good. But not good enough for me.” I knew I’d married a man with impeccable taste.
Maki spoke to Vernon in Norwegian to see if he could understand and respond in kind, and they were able to converse a little. Vernon struggled to find some words in his memory, but we realized this might be a good exercise for his brain. Maki is leaving soon for Christmas break, so I hope he is up for this kind of language therapy in the new year. I think it could be helpful. Everything is worth trying.
When we wheeled Vernon in to the dining hall at last, there was a whole plate of food waiting for him. Real food. Meat and potatoes, literally. I figured he would be able to handle the mashed potatoes and thickened cranberry juice, and maybe a bite of pudding, but that there must have been a mistake with the roast beef on his plate.
Even last week, Thanksgiving day, the speech therapist had come by with some softened foods to try, but Vernon had made such horrible faces at their taste (as he has all along) it looked like we were still a long way off from his appetite kicking in. Maybe with so little success in her time with him, she just decided to just let him start practicing at mealtimes (with a staff-member’s help) to see what might happen. I don’t know, but today I was amazed that not only didn’t he twist his face in disgust, he actually chewed his food. He preferred the thickened juice and water to the food, but at least he was beginning to EAT. Perhaps he was more interested in the texture and using his teeth than the taste.
So it begins. He will still be fed by tube for most of his nutrients, but slowly…he is working his way back to eating like a human being.
Soon another attachment will come off his body. Another leap, another inch toward independence.