Marty may be forgetful, but he still has an innate sense of quality. He didn’t go cheap when he bought this air mattress. Usually when I sleep on these things I wake up flat on the floor. Not this one. Hasn’t lost air yet.
We went to the grocery store yesterday and wandered around for an hour. I injected a few “Do you like ____?” to gauge his taste, but mostly I listened and watched which foods he was drawn to. I’m going back to the store alone to make a list of the foods I recommended and the ones he seemed interested in. This will hopefully help him make better choices when he goes grocery shopping with someone else after I’m gone. Highlights of our grocery party: He said he’d swap out his Stouffer’s meals for Amy’s, and he likes asparagus, bananas and eggs made any way.
This was also a grocery shopping trip for me. I got in late Monday evening, so there was no time to hit a store before hitting the sack. I’d packed some almonds, PB2, and a banana in my suitcase in anticipation of nothing in my brother’s house for breakfast. I confess I was pretty excited when he gave me the tour of his cupboard and I saw the bag of Frosted Mini Wheats. Only a box of Froot Loops would have made me feel more like I was 8 again. I indulged the next morning and loved every bite.
I threw my staples in the cart – veggies, fruit, Greek yogurt, pita, hummus, Boca burgers, et al – and he bought milk, OJ, paper plates, plastic cups, and laundry soap. After putting our groceries in the truck, I asked him where the nearest Starbucks was. It took him a few minutes to consider my question, but his memory didn’t fail him when he said he thought there was one in the Super Target. Score! When I hopped up into the driver’s seat of his F-150 with my venti non-fat latte (yes, venti), he was staring at the grocery receipt.
“This is the longest receipt I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’ve never bought garbanzo beans before!”
Last night we went to my parents’ house for dinner. My sister-in-law and niece joined us. A small gathering, but still a social interaction nonetheless. My mother is hard of hearing and so we need to talk loudly for her to hear us. She, by nature, is a boisterous woman with a hardy laugh, so their small townhouse was familiarly chaotic with conversation, something I am used to and can handle, but I’m not the one with a brain injury. I kept a close eye on Marty, and found myself talking to him quietly, not unlike you’d talk to anyone within your care, inquiring how he was doing and if he needed anything.
I cooked some chicken in olive oil and garlic powder for folks to put on their spinach salads. I chopped onions, carrots, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, and found some cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top. Marty ate a salad and a piece of bread, and Mom surprised him with his favorite dessert – vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. As his resident “dietician,” I was happy with that.
When we got home, he settled into his recliner with a bottle of water and put on the Twins game. I went outside to make a few phone calls. They were short calls, however, because even at 7:30 the heat index was still 118 degrees and the dew point a record-breaking 82 degrees. My hair hates me.
When I came back in, Marty got all big brother on me.
“It’s hot out there,” he said. “You can make your calls in my room and shut the door. It’s OK.”
I assured him next time I would, then he suggested I sit down and put my feet up, and so I did. And we spent the next few hours talking and laughing like the siblings we’ve always been. I went to my camper bed after brushing my teeth in his girlified bathroom feeling like if I did nothing else but be here to remind Marty who he is and always has been, then I will have done more than I could ever have originally hoped to accomplish.
Before going into his room across the hall, Marty stood in my doorway and smiled.
“I know you’re missing your family, but I’m glad you’re here.”
“But you’re my family, too, and I want to be here.”
“I know,” he said, “but I’m still glad you’re here.”