Thanksgiving means extra grocery shopping. I think I’ve found a good, pre-packaged gluten free bread stuffing for the turkey. Two years ago, I made my own using a loaf of gluten free bread, onions, celery, chicken broth, oil and spices. I liked it, though to be honest, when you can’t have wheat most grain products taste pretty good.
Of course I still had to stuff the turkey with Mrs. Cubison’s Bread Stuffing for Mother as she was convinced anything without wheat would not be worth eating. She had a bite or so of mine and said it wasn’t too bad, which was why I was surprised last year when she suggested we just stuff the turkey with gluten free bread stuffing. Works for me as I’m up for anything that makes life easier and not having to make two different stuffings qualifies.
Modifying my diet is nothing new. I’ve spent the last thirty years finding foods that work for whatever physical quirk my medical gurus and I have uncovered. At first it was like I was on safari in a far off galaxy, floating among the stars, spear guns and large nets at the ready, avoiding the meteors threatening to knock me off my perch; hanging on so that I didn’t float untethered into the great beyond, but bit by trial by bit, I found things that worked and that I liked. The rosy glow of health and increased stamina to stay balanced among the piranhas being the obvious pay-off.
Try explaining all that to your elderly Mother who believes if we just eat normally, all will be fine. Of course, her definition of normal depends upon whatever tangent she currently finds palatable. Like the spicy hot sauce, chips and Coke she lived on for a couple of years before I moved here.
“Why?” I asked.
“My stomach was upset” she said, “and I had really bad diarrhea and that was all that tasted good.”
Hmmm. There could be a pattern here: spicy hot sauce, huge amounts of sugar and the caffeine in the coke – do you see the connection to not feeling good, Mother? Evidently not.
Sadly for her, she can no longer shop or drive so doing the shopping is now up to me. I’m not buying foods that will make her health quirks worse. And does she get ticked off.
“I can’t believe you threw out my loose leaf Black Tea,” she says, her voice rising.
“I didn’t throw it out, I donated it to the church,” I say as I fill her tea canister with Caffeine free loose tea.
“If I put something on the list, then that’s what I expect you to get,” she slams the ink pen down on the grocery list, pulls her red sweater closer around her and glares at me.
“Here’s the deal, Mother,” I put the fresh veggies in the crisper and close the refrigerator door, “if it’s so important to you to eat things that aggravate GERD, then fine, that’s what I’ll buy,” I open a 3 lb bag of sugar and fill the canister, “and when you can’t swallow your food and aspirate in your sleep, I’ll just call the EMTs after you’re gone, ok?” I slam the canister back into its spot at the back of the counter.
“Humpf,” she reaches for her cane, turns and with each slow step clonks towards the dining room, “it’s time for my painting show,” and the TV goes on at full volume.
It’s been a winding, spinning trip but from time to time she catches up to me and when she gets there I’m surprised at what she does, like offering to make gluten free desserts and saying she’s thinks the packaged gluten free stuffing I found will be delicious. I’m amazed that somewhere in her easily confused brain that can’t remember the names of her great-great-grandchildren and which grand-children got married last year, she has learned some new ways to eat. Proof positive: you can teach an old dog new tricks. If they don’t kill you first, that is.
I feel the burn of the rope over my shoulder lessen and the weight of the barge I tow easing as it navigates more easily on its travel through the stars. I thought I was here just to help her maintain, to be comfortable, to keep her health balanced so that her end would be easier. I didn’t know the journey would also be about me letting go. I had no idea it would be about finding new ways to communicate. I couldn’t see that it would be about accepting Mother’s weaknesses while remembering to recognize her strengths. I had to learn this journey is not really about Mother, it’s about me. What I will learn. Who I will be. Who I will look like after she’s gone. Relieved? Worn down? Blossomed into a new inner beauty? That’s the one I’d like to choose. Only God can get me there and thankfully He’s pulling this barge with me.