Went to Toledo today to check in on my mother and Chuck. They’re both 85. Mom has Parkinson’s and arthritis. Chuck is having difficulty swallowing and is moving a lot more slowly. They are both determined to stay independent in their home.
I brought all the fixings for a salad we could make together for lunch. Wanting to get mom to use her hands, I wheeled her into the kitchen and placed her at the end of the table. I put some greens on three plates in front of her and proceeded to cut the variety of ingredients I brought. I asked her to arrange them “artistically” on our three plates.
I cut the cucumbers and told her to put 5 on each plate. Then I cut the carrots and told her to portion them out. That was when I noticed that she deliberately placed each small piece of carrot — one at a time — on the plates. There were avocado pieces, tomatoes, raisins, hard-boiled egg, potatoes, chick peas, feta cheese, cauliflower, radishes, roast beef (her favorite), and green onion yet to distribute. As I brought her a dish filled with each item I cut, she methodically worked to place them on the plates. Needless to say, so my mother didn’t get visibly backed up by the items cut for the salad, I had to slow. way. down. I admired the color of the radishes, chatted with my mom about relatives, put each item away as I finished cutting what was needed, wiped down counters and other kitchen locations, folded some towels, perused the photos on the refrigerator. We started preparations around 12:30. Two hours later, the salads were complete. While lunch was being prepared, Chuck watered the plants outside and put the cut flowers I brought in a vase. These tasks took him about two hours too.
Then, of course, the table needed to be set, ice put in glasses, silverware located. Before we began to eat, Chuck decided to say grace. It was an unhurried review of all that he was grateful for. By the time we began to eat I was sure it was time for dinner.
Lunch conversation revolved around health issues, family issues, and the Olympics, specifically the gymnasts. My mother ate slowly, but with commitment, through the layers of her salad. Twenty minutes into eating she said, “I finally got to a piece of lettuce,” remarking on the abundance of food on her plate. She also shared that she had never eaten avocado before and she really liked it.
I brought fruit for dessert- blueberries, strawberries, cherries. Chuck insisted on rinsing the fruit and preparing the strawberries. He cored the whole quart. It took him 25 minutes. By the time we cleaned up and had an opportunity to look at some photographs it was 4:30.
Tonight as I watch the Olympics–Michael Phelps, Tyler Clary, Rebecca Soni setting world records in speed; Gabby Douglas spinning around the uneven bars high in the air, dashing across the mat, flipping and somersaulting– I picture my mother and Chuck, who have less and less time on this planet, taking all the time in the world.