“My supper is gone!”  Since she had not been eating for a while, I asked her if she was done.  Almost all the leftover Quiche from lunch was still there.  The fruit had not been touched.  She said her food was gone.  I turned the plate, pointed to the Quiche sitting there and asked if she saw it.  She said she did.

We had ended up at McFarland’s Restaurant for lunch because of the awkward fit of the retired pastor in the life of the parish from which he retired.  We attended the funeral of one of the people I respected most over the years.  Ann was 93.  Just imagine what she had seen in those 93 years.  In our tradition we do not canonize saints.  If we did, Ann would be one!  She and husband Maury, who died about ten years ago, had helped found the congregation in the late nineteen forties.  I remember a few visits with both of them at their home after I first arrived in the parish in 1996.  Ann was doing with Maury what I am now doing with Mary Ann.  She was doing it with much more grace and humble acceptance than I have demonstrated.  While wishing to spend time talking with the family and close friends, I was not comfortable inviting myself and Mary Ann to the meal provided for them.  With a little more of that gut grieving going on, we headed to McFarland’s for lunch.  I keep wondering how much of this sort of grieving the Pastor I followed suffered in silence without my ever knowing it.  Thinking about that helps me put into perspective what is just part of this step in the journey.  It also surfaces some guilt that I was not more sensitive to his place in life at that time.

The most exciting event that wound some joy and anticipation into that same gut was the gift of the most effective anti-depressant of which I am aware, Lori’s home made chocolate chip cookies — a huge container of dozens of them.  Lori’s thoughtfulness will provide some pleasure for days to come — actually longer if I get some into the freezer before we devour them all.

At McFarland’s Mary Ann worked on the Quiche she had ordered for a full hour after the food arrived at the table.  I offered to help in one way or another at various times, trying not to make her feel as if I was rushing her.  She would not accept any help.  She struggled to get pieces on the fork that were secure enough not to fall off on the way to her mouth.  Toward the end of the meal she did allow me to cut a large piece of watermelon that accompanied the Quiche into smaller pieces.

After that hour, she had eaten about 30% (at the most) of the Quiche and one small piece of the melon, none of the rest of the fruit on the plate.  Of course people had come and gone all around us.  The folks who sometimes come, eat, and play bridge were starting to play at the table next to us.

I left the tip, got Mary Ann into the wheel chair, gathered the take home container and her purse together so that we could pay the bill and head to the car.  When I put the check and the twenty dollar bill on the  counter in front of Walt McFarland, the Owner, he just wished us a Happy New Year and did not pick up the twenty.  He said it was on him.  It is surprising how powerful kind gestures can be when a person is stressed and struggling.  He carried our containers out to the car and opened the doors for us on the way there.  Mary Ann just can’t negotiate styrofoam containers without crushing them or losing them off her lap (understandably) as the chair moves.  As a result, I have the challenge of holding the styrofoam containers (leftover meal and left over Coke in a takeout cup), pushing and steering the wheel chair, getting the doors open and holding them open so that we can get out.  Walt is a good guy!

Mary Ann started trying to get up this morning at 4am.  Between then and about 8:30am there were the usual snacks, little plastic containers of applesauce and tapioca pudding, some commode trips, some arguing about my need for her to stay in bed so that I could accumulate enough sleep between tasks to function during the day.  When we got up, she was determined to make sure we got ready in time to attend the funeral.  She was alert about many things at that point, except that there were things she could not do by herself.  After getting her usual yogurt and cereal to eat with her pills, I wanted her to sit securely in her chair while I showered and dressed. She could not sit.  She was too determined to get ready to go.  She said I could take my shower while she got dressed.  She hasn’t been able to get dressed by herself in a number of years.  I got her completely ready to go, and finally she was willing to stay seated long enough for me to get ready.  We had plenty of time.  We were ready almost an hour before we needed to leave.  By the time we left, she had sort of shut down mentally and physically.  We were able to get to the funeral, but not without much difficulty.

When we got home after the meal, she was not tracking well.  I asked her if she needed to use the bathroom; she said yes.  I was trying to tranfer her from the chair to the toilet stool, and as she was standing up, she began reaching forward and down. I asked her what she was doing.  With a very irritated tone that I could not see what was so obvious to her, she said she was washing her hands.  I don’t remember what I said, but I managed to get her seated and afterward get her to the bed for a long nap.  Just before she awoke, I had opened and shut the front door, leading her to decide that she had missed Zach and Erin coming by with there new baby.  She had been dreaming and, as she admitted at that point, she can’t tell the difference between dreams and reality.  Later this evening she told me that she had just seen me smoking a cigarette.  Other than a few days in college almost fifty years ago, I have never smoked cigarettes.

This has been and continues to be and interesting time in our journey.  There seems to be some transitioning going on for both Mary Ann and me.  I am not sure to where we are transitioning, but I guess we will figure that out as time goes by.

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