Tuesday, May 6, 2006 Observation
"There is no love sincerer than the love of food." [George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) Act 1]
I agree! I hate to admit it, but at this time in my life, and in my particular physical condition, eating has become my favorite indoor and outdoor sport. Not being able to do much of anything else physically, I love to eat! We were at a wedding reception the other evening and were sitting at a table with some friends we hadn't seen for many years. Jo Anne was shoveling pasta, Caesar salad, and bread rolls into my mouth as my friend looked on in amazement saying, "Don't you have any restrictions to your diet in your condition?" Between bites of pasta and salad I managed to choke out the words, "Only what Jo Anne places on me." My statement to my friend, I'm sorry to report, had grave implications.
At the time of my accident I had a feeding tube inserted in my stomach. I was on a ventilator system at the time that did not allow me to speak or eat or drink. I was so traumatized by what was happening I can't really say I missed eating regular food. The ingredients that came to me through the feeding tube seemed to satisfy my need for nourishment and I wasn't suffering from hunger pangs. About a month and a half after the feeding tube had been inserted the doctor felt it was time to remove it and try to get me eating normally once again. This would begin an eating saga that that would continue to the present day. Unbelievably, I found that I had no desire to eat once the feeding tube was removed. No food tasted good to me and eating was simply a bother. I believe I was also in a deep depression and just simply could not eat. Every mealtime became a confrontation between Jo Anne and me; she pushing food on me I didn't want, and me resisting vigorously. Finally the doctor threatened to put the feeding tube back in which would have caused me to take a big step backward in my recovery.
The Vita Mix machine came to the rescue! I could easily suck through a straw whereas chewing literally required more energy and power than I could muster up at the time. Jo Anne and her dad began to make wonderful Vita Mix drinks with every conceivable good thing in them including protean supplements. I would manage to get down a couple of these each day, and I still remember the day almost 18 years later, as Jo Anne and I were walking and rolling down one of the corridors at Rancho Los Amigos hospital that I felt hunger pangs and a desire to eat for the first time in months. There was a little food cart in that part of the hospital and if I remember correctly Jo Anne bought me a burrito which tasted better than good.
Well, once I started eating again I grew very accustomed to it rather quickly. Everything began to taste really good. After I was discharged from the hospital, whenever I would accompany Jo Anne in the van while she was running errands, we would invariably stop at Carl's Jr. to pick me up a Western bacon cheeseburger with fries. Jo Anne was feeling sorry for me at the time and didn't know how long I would live so she was willing to meet all of my requests for greasy hamburgers and french fries which reminds me of the time we ordered just french fries and the girl at the counter said "Would you like fries with that?". One day my son John was looking at me very closely and said to his mother, "Mom don't you think dad is getting really fat?" I never did like that kid! Jo Anne took a critical look at me and instantaneously I was escorted out of "Hamburger Heaven." She put me on a diet and when I'm on a diet I can't cheat. Think of it, for almost 18 years now, every item of food that has entered my mouth has come by way of Jo Anne or under her direction. In the midst of one of my first "Jo Anne diets" Dick Fox saved my life. Jo Anne left me in his care one afternoon while she went somewhere, and Dick cunningly was able to smuggle in a brown paper bag filled with bite-size snickers candy bars, a can of sour cream Pringles potato chips, and a large can of Cashew nuts. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
I have learned to eat in a variety of positions. I eat really well flat on my back for example. In intensive care one morning a couple of years ago I had ordered up bacon and eggs, hash browns and pancakes for breakfast. I was lying flat on my back and an elderly RN refused to feed me until she could prop me up. I finally convinced her that I could handle breakfast efficiently and quickly in my current position. She was astonished as I seemingly inhaled that big breakfast. I don't do so well on my left or right side. Soup is a particular problem when you are lying on your side. Jo Anne is not extremely good with her left hand and as she spoons clam chowder into my mouth with an awkward backhand motion I get about a third of the spoonful in my mouth and the rest runs down my chin. Have you ever had a clam chowder bath?
I do my best eating sitting up in my wheelchair. It is a very interesting experience to not be able to feed yourself how and when you would like to. Eating lunch with Jo Anne at home for example, can take an inordinate amount of time. She will give me a bite of the sandwich and then go check on the mail. If there's mail she will take it into her office and go through it. She will whiz through the kitchen, giving me another bite, on her way to put in a load of wash, and so it goes. If I have soup, halfway through lunch, I have to have it reheated in the microwave. I don't want to put Jo Anne in a bad light however. She has been blessed with a great talent for multitasking. She can feed me, herself, and our granddaughter, Natalie, all at the same time without missing a beat. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they feed you. If we were to go to a wonderful restaurant or have a special meal at home Jo Anne would invariably give me the first bite. If I were hungry would I do the same thing? I don't know; would you?
Truthfully, Jo Anne has helped preserve the quality of my life through her wise choice and amounts of food she allows me to eat. I consider her my personal fitness trainer, and submit my will to hers regarding my diet. With my weight under control now, and with Jo Anne getting a bit softer, you might see us at In--N--Out Burger more frequently than you would imagine.
For me, eating is a humbling experience. Not only does the food and daily nourishment I require ultimately come from a loving Heavenly Father -- although processed by men -- but also from the hand of a loved one. I am doubly dependent on God and loving family and friends for my daily physical nourishment. My constant need for physical food helps me to understand the Lord's words to the people among whom he ministered. They said to Him: "Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven...And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." [John 6: 31-32, 35]