Andrew’s. Love. Seasoning.

Andrew flings about in the kitchen like a one man band playing at once the drums and fiddle and bass while humming the tune.  He is making dinner for me and, much more importantly, his girlfriend, Sarah.   Get out of his way.  The sausage is sizzling, the shrimp getting pealed, the pasta is boiling, a tossed green salad appears.  Flour is dusting the entirety of the counters, packaging is detritus he doesn’t bother to throw away.  The jumble and chaos seems to feed his creative brew; the music is hot and hotter, the girlfriend is amused and happy; I am getting a very good meal for being at the right place at the right time.

I unhook my father from his oxogen, remove his glasses, power up his wheelchair:  he wants to join us for dinner.  No matter that he cannot eat a bite of this savory feast.  He cannot even drink a sip of water anymore.  His daily bread comes in the form of liquid goop ingested through a feeding tube.  He cannot speak so that we will understand.  But he wheels up to the table nonetheless, proving to me beyond any doubt that the dinner table is a social ritual, a bonding beyond food, even beyond conversation.  He simply wants to join the circle.

I light the candles.  Say a prayer of blessing.  Try to think of all the ways one can savor the world when taste and tongue are out of commission.  My father smiles to see us there, to watch us break into the crunchy garlic bread, the savory made-in-the-moment concoction Andrew has orchestrated.  He laughs to hear Sarah’s stories from her social work station in the nearby rural part of town.  He listens to the chatter, feels the fondness alive and glowing in his grandson, feasts on the family, even in little tastes of it.

I asked him later if he ever feels a little bit like Job.  His movement is all but gone, food is over, words are taken from him; he cannot scratch his ear.  Spasms of pain shudder over him throughout the day. Now his wife of 60 years is gone.   He shakes his head no.  And he tries to speak, though I do not understand the greater part of it.  But I hear something like this:  No, I am thankful for my life.  I am glad for my work, for the writing I can still do. And I rejoice greatly in my family.

Sparkling and wide-eyed,  he looks up at me and smiles.

~ by Susan on 10/28/2012.

7 Responses to “Andrew’s. Love. Seasoning.”

  1. Susan,

    Thank you for your insights into your father’s struggle with ALS. Your writings also serve to update those, such as I, who in the last few years, have become tangential to your father’s life. Of course, those of us whose work he oversaw as Provost were not close friends, but many of us worked closely with him at times. I do have some fond memories of him which I’ll cherish always. I admired Wylodine as well. I felt grief for all of you, but your father in particular when she passed away.

    Give your father greetings with affection for me, please. Also accept my gratitude for your periodic essays and my admiration of your profound care for both your parents.

    Janice Milner Lasseter

  2. No words, just tears. Thank yu for sharing this with us — for sharing your father’s struggles and grace, for including us in your beautiful evocation of this life, still.

    • Elizabeth, thank you for hanging in here with me. It means so much to me, somehow, in ways I think you understand. I am following your passionate stands, your rather heroic journey, as well, and appreciate all that you are standing for, and who you are standing with. Thank you for this connection.

  3. Dear Susan,
    “Profound” is a good word to describe not only the devotion with which you cared for your mother, and continue to care for your father, but also your own soulful response to their lives as well as the gift of your insight in expressing it.. I thank you from my heart!

  4. Susan, Oh how i love for you and for your dad, this time together – i recognize it, continue to savor it. thank you. for your selfless, loving tale of this lovely man who knows the true meaning of living.

    The apple does not fall far…..

    Courtney Wood Clark

    • Thank you, Courtney, for continuing to follow the road, knowing where this leads.
      I’m so grateful to you for your companionship along the way.

  5. susan, i can’t thank you enough for sharing your writings with us.  we are so touched by your words and your expression of your father’s being still with you all and a part of your lives in a happy way.  we love you all and pray that God will give you all every thing you need to share the good family times.  we miss wylodine – she stopped by george’s class every sunday and shared with him.  our hearts are with you.  much love, p

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