Dinner has become very interesting at our house. The full execution of it from preparation to cleanup resembles something like a military operation, or an episode of Amazing Race. When her Mom moved in, we knew there would be some major adjustments, and dinner is one of those that has changed. We are still trying to learn the rules. This stems partially from the Alzheimer’s and partly from the fact that her approach to dinner and mealtimes in general, drastically differs from ours.
Ours is relaxation, appreciation of the food, fellowship and conversation.
Hers is put it on the table so we can get it over and go back to watching TV.
From what I understand, cooking food was always a chore for her. She always hated it. It was never a labor of love. They called her cooking burnt offerings. Mealtime was something to get through, in survival mode….and the table was a form of controlled chaos.
Some days it almost seems like we are settling into some kind of rhythm, then the next day everything is crazy again and the rules change.
Dinner has become like a strategic operation. Kind of like a race against time. You do what you can on the sly so that you can get to it before she does. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound very kind, but believe me. It is necessary. Otherwise it would never happen at all.
If you start too early, she comes and stands in the middle of the kitchen and watches every move you make, not saying a word……just staring, glaring really. So you want to minimize the amount of time that happens. Other times, she watches over your shoulder asking, “What’s that?” and “What are you doing now?” You have to dance around her.
Sometimes she will take a seat where she can watch, stony faced and silent. It is unnerving. You start to do everything faster so you can get it done and get out. If you’ve ever watched an episode of “Keeping Up Appearances” and know what happens when neighbor Elizabeth comes for coffee at Hyacinth’s, you will know just about how it looks in the kitchen right before dinner goes on the table. It’s worth a look up on You Tube.
And she will not……. absolutely not sit down until everyone else is seated.
She treats everything on her plate with a certain amount of disdain and suspicion. That part is just personality, nothing to do with the disease. She does the same thing in restaurants, it’s as if she is just daring the food to be edible.
You cringe inwardly, waiting for the comment, “There is a taste in here that I don’t care for…..” or “I’m still trying to decide if I like it,” when it is something a bit different than meat and potatoes. Sometimes, but only if we ask first mind you, there will be an affirmative response to “How do you like it, Mom?” But that is risky territory. Mostly we cook what we know is safe.
The TV stays on to cover the loud sniffing while dining.
Clean up resembles a Chinese fire-drill. By the time it is done we are all mentally exhausted.
I remember all the times I prayed for God to make me more loving, to turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh…….I so want to respond the way Jesus would. To have the patience to let her help. We give her tasks so that she can feel useful and feel like she has a place of welcome in our home, her home too now……but it’s very hard sometimes.
There is a part of me that is stubborn enough to make this work without any of us going crazy, and for that I am grateful.
“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:9,10