(Part two of a series.)
Daily life changes with Daddy at the farm
One of the first realizations I had the day after bringing Daddy home to the farm to live was that feeding him was going to be a lot easier. Instead of being 26 miles away he was right there in the living room. Wow, that part was going to be much easier on me.
I hadn’t minded making and delivering food to Dad’s house, but getting him to eat it, and getting the care providers to handle the food reasonably and reliably had been a real issue. I often found full meals went untouched or had gone moldy and forgotten. I would leave notes and instructions but could never be sure who showed up from the service or whether or not they were read or followed. And while we had and currently have, a few absolutely amazing care providers, wonderful women who remain family friends to this very day, (Hello dear Taylor and Kaila and Liv and Kim and Mandi) we also had quite a few carers from the service provider who had me shaking my head in bewilderment.
One brief memorable scene in Dad’s kitchen remains at the top of my mind: While taking out a fresh and lovely bone broth chicken and vegetable soup container at the front of the fridge I made a simple request to one of the new young CNA’s one day on my way out the door. “Please, if you don’t mind,” I asked, “Please just gently heat up this soup and serve with some buttered toast. Just don’t use the microwave.” I placed the container in her hands as I gathered my things to leave. The young lady was standing in front of the stove at the time and blinked at me with a bit of confusion in her eyes. “But how?” She honestly asked, “How do I heat up the soup if I don’t use a microwave?”
I remember trying not to be obvious in my reaction and and keep my jaw from dropping open. I probably did take a breath, though, before blinking myself and answering her. I bent down and opened the cabinet of cookware next to her knees. I took out a small saucepan, retrieved the container from her hands and poured its contents into the pot. I turned the burner on medium low and showed her how to stir and simmer the already cooked soup, no need to boil, until cook slowly until hot. I was kind. I promise I was, but my mind was reeling with questions. My own children could do this simple task when they were quite young. How? How does one reach their 20’s and pass a certified nurse assistant program without knowing how to warm a bowl of soup on a stovetop? How was this lovely person raised? With only take out or microwaved meals? What other basic, common sense issue regarding my dad could confound her, or any of the round robin roster of people who came to sit with my Dad?
These kinds of questions happily faded away from my awareness after bringing him home. I no longer had to follow up on the minutiae of Daddy’s care with other people. What a relief!
One of my main concerns, his weight and nutrition now was fully under my direct control or as much as is possible with feeding another human. I made sure that good, clean, fresh food was put in front of Dad three times a day. When I would ask him what he wanted to eat or if he had any cravings or requests, he would not respond with any suggestions. He would eat a little bit or more than that and never really say a word about the food. If asked, he would have and to this day still basically has, only two responses to meals: “Its okay,” or “Its just fine.” The former means he could take it or leave it. The latter means he really liked it. If he says “Its just “fine!” with volume or enthusiasm, that means the food was top notch and he was very happy . Only about twice can I recall him saying this rare line: “You don’t need to cook me that again.” That was code for he really did not care for the food at all. I think a much too spicy Indian Curry was the last time I heard him say that.
I still ask Dad what he might want me to cook or what he might like to eat but he always just shakes his head and smiles. He doesn’t say words, but the meaning is very clear: “I will not ask for anything special, I will eat (or not eat much of) whatever you put in front of me.” I know even as I ask him he won’t ever respond. I still try to ask though, and I try to bring him foods and healthy treats he loves or take him out for seafood when I can.
I ponder this a lot. Was it the way he was raised? Was it the fact that he grew up in Nebraska on a modest family farm and lived through the Great Depression? Is it because eating isn’t the same it used to be for his 91 year old body? It was and is likely these things and more. The not asking for food or specific foods, or to go out to eat, though is only a part of the story. I can honestly say that even though Daddy lives here and I take care of every little detail of his life: He simply doesn’t ask for anything.
(Part 3 tomorrow)