Two years ago when we were home for Christmas, Mom put the squeeze on Mark and I to visit my Uncle Paul in the nursing home. The wound he had from a recent surgery was not healing like it should, and since he lives alone it was suggested that he take advantage of his Medicare benefit of short-term nursing home care until his post-surgery problems got better.
It's a little hard to get psyched for a visit like that, but The Queen Mum doesn't let up on the nagging when it comes to things like visiting the sick.
He was in pretty good shape and we chatted for awhile in his room and then it was time for lunch. Mom, Mark and I followed him to the cafeteria and met the group of friends that he regularly ate with. None of them seemed especially infirmed or old and there was lively chatter around the table.
The lunch for the day was salisbury steak.
At the end of the table sat a man with all the signs of Parkinson's. His salisbury steak lunch had clearly been put through a blender. He called an aide over and told her that his therapist said he could start eating solid food that day so could she please take this back and bring him a regular lunch. She left and when she returned said that no order was put in for solid food so he'd have to eat what was in front of him. They went back and forth discussing this oversight, each time him pushing the plate a little closet towards her. She wouldn't relent and he looked near tears.
I was seething and ready to jump into the fray for somebody I'd known for all of five minutes..
How about you find his therapist and get the okay so he can have a frigging normal lunch like everyone else at this table? Better yet, page her that way you don't even have to leave the room. Look at this. Who in their right mind would willingly eat this shit?
Instead I sat there being pissed. After lunch we said our goodbyes to my uncle and when we were walking out the door I said to Mom, "You are never going to be in a place like this."
Part of Mark's research work is on Parkinson's, and although I don't know anyone personally affected by that disease, I'll always remember that man. Wearily resigned to eat what he was given, he pushed the plate closer and slowly brought his trembling hand to his mouth with more dignity than I would ever be capable of mustering.