When my mother comes over for lunch I like to watch how she eats. because like everything else in dementia there are changes but no changes. If, you know what I mean.
“I like the French Pea soup, because it is so thick,” she says. “I’m glad you like it, mom.”
If there was a precision to my mother’s exacting ways when she was half her age, her present state of precision-minded determination is now pure Marcel Proust OCD.
She takes in more of the soup, gently dragging the soup spoon across the lake of liquid to say, “I like the French Pea soup, because it is so thick,” she says again. I say nothing, otherwise this parrot routine could go on indefinitely.
Instead, “How about some crackers?” Next up, buttering the Premium Christies. With her purple dragon talon nails that would do any hipster’s wife proud, she holds the square cracker dutifully spreading the butter to cover every, single speck of salt. Corner to corner like a military issue bed sheet, the butter tucks onto the very edge of the cracker.
It is times like this I wonder what goes on in that meticulous head of hers. Of course, each of the 8 crackers is consumed with the utmost of correct perfection.
I used to take her out to the Coast Hotel on Denman for Sunday dinner. To this day, I marvel at how she polished oﬀ half a roast chicken, mouthful by exacting mouthful. Her knife poised in between the tines of the fork as she methodically parsed oﬀ piece by piece, bite by bite, like she was clearing a miniature forest of brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes.
You could set a metronome to the graceful rhythm of her hands going to knife and fork, across the plate and into her mouth. I literally just watched this choreography play out. Maybe it was knowing she came from hard scrabble, depression-era prairie poverty that brought a catch to my throat, watching her saver every bite.
But, soon the scraping sound of a spoon against the porcelain bowl over and over again slaps me back to the reality at hand. Every last drop, of course, is consumed. No waste. “Ok, you don’t need to eat the bowl, mom.”
The last part of the afternoon is spent having a smoke in the ‘Smoking Lounge’ beside my apartment building. There, she convenes with the other smokers in my apartment building who have to abide by the non-smoking laws.
Everybody likes Trudy. Someone comments on the T-shirt I bought her which reads, I Am Right About Everything, Mom.
She flaps open her sweater to show oﬀ, “…you better believe it, woman.” When we get back upstairs she asks, “I wonder if I will ever see a cigaret today.” “Mom, you just had a cigaret.” “See how quickly, I forget?” she laughs.