Thursday, September 29, 2011

From The Department of Living Vicariously

Imagine you couldn’t eat. That the only way your body could get it’s daily nutrition was through a tube connected to your stomach through your belly. And you live your days in a wheel chair because of a head injury you received many years ago. But you’re vibrant despite the injury. You still make jokes and you’re still interested in the world around you. And you used to like to cook. But you live in a group home now, with other men who by the misfortune of gravity or summer’s heat or a stroke or a drug overdose have to depend on a staff of many to get through every day. You got through Vietnam, you had a family, but gravity caught up with you one day while working on the side of a highway, and now you make the best of a rotten deal.

So how do you still enjoy food if you can’t have it anymore? Easy - you ask other people what they are eating.

So every Thursday, after I assist with Mario’s hippotherapy class, R. arrives. And he’s a chatter box, we all have to resist his questions while helping him up on his horse and into the saddle. We have to be quiet to get the ride underway.
R. is allowed to ask us questions when we halt. But once we are walking, he has to be quiet. Ask R. how he feels on the horse today and he answers very honestly, “Like a wishbone!” R. is stiff from sitting in a wheel chair all the time and getting his legs around a western saddle on a 15.3 hand horse is a big undertaking. And there’s the fear that he fights - he's courageous to let us put him up on a horse, really. We get him to breathe, to loosen his legs, to meditate on the movement of the horse as we go around the ring. And then we halt and the questions start, R. asks the same questions every week, “Did you cook last night?” If the answer is yes, “Wad you cook?” Today I told him I grilled steaks and made a Waldorf salad with two kinds of apple to go with the meat.
R. didn’t care about the salad, but he wanted to know all about the steak, “Did you baste it? In butter?”

“No, I marinated it.”

“Wad you marinate it in?”


“How long did you cook it?”

“Not long, my husband likes his steak bloody rare.”

Later in the session, R. stands in the stirrups while walking for a long period of time. This is a big success, a physical triumph. When he sits back down in the saddle, he asks, “Wad do I get?”

Mary Beth jokes, “Maybe we can push a cookie through that tube . . . ”

“Make it Oatmeal Raisin” says R.

But then Mary Beth thinks and changes her mind, “Hmmm, R. that might not be a good idea though, the cookie might clog up the tube.”

R. is not faised. The thought of cookies bring on more questions, he looks at Mary Beth, “Wads your favorite cookie?”

“Chocolate Chip.”

Then he looks at me, “Wads your favorite cookie?”

“Oh Chocolate Chip. Definitely.”

Then he looks at Alecia, his side walker, “Wad your favorite cookie?”

“Chocolate Chip!”

R. pets his horse and says, “Wad about Fig Newtons?”

Mary Beth doesn’t like Fig Newtons, and I admit I’ll eat Fig Newtons if they are around. There’s some flutter about Oreos - Mary Beth doesn’t like those either, and I say Hydrox are better than Oreos, cause they aren’t as sugary.

A couple of weeks ago R. asked me what I cooked for dinner the night before, I told him Salmon. He told me to put lots of butter on it.


ponygirlnmh said...

My best friend had a feeding tube and she wanted to smell everything we ate/drank. She said it was almost as good as eating it.

Of course, her tube was removed eventually and she could eat normally.

R sounds like a lot of fun and someone who doesn't let things get him down-very inspirational. Thanks for sharing that- it gave me a much needed reminder about apprecitating life.

Chocolate chip cookies rule. Fig Newtons, not so much.

Cathy Kiffney Studio said...

Thanks Wolfy, poignant story and is worth remembering that we should not take our everyday gifts for granted.

Alicia said...

Wow. How beautifully you captured that moment in time. And I thought you were only leading a horse... apparently you were also taking notes!