*Primary Progressive Aphasia, a degeneration of the part of the brain that affects speech.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Food and Music: A Perfect Match

I’m not sure when he noticed me. Perhaps when I was opening Tommy’s tiny catsup pouch with my teeth. Or, when I put my hand on my husband's, and said, “slow,” reminding him to chew one mouthful before taking another.

The stranger waited until we finished our lunch and Tommy was heading for the door before he stopped me and said, “I hope my wife takes such good care of me when I need it.” I preened and thanked him.

This monitoring of my husband’s meals is a new task in my caregiving routine. His Primary progressive aphasia affects speech and can also impact swallowing. So, our mealtimes together have taken on a new watchful ambiance.

As Tommy and I left the restaurant to walk, arm-in-arm, I thought about our very first meal together. Vigilance was absent back then. Our first date was at a Mexican restaurant that was near Tommy's apartment and my townhouse.

As we dipped corn chips into salsa, we revealed our favorite things. We were like game show contestants hoping to find correct answers. We matched on Masterpiece Theatre, jazz vocalists, dogs and cats, and quiet nights at home. When we moved on from chips and salsa to tacos and burritos, our lists became more specific. And when we learned we had the very same favorite song, “It Never Entered My Mind” by Rodgers and Hart, we felt we had won first prize.

At my door after the meal, we exchanged a goodnight kiss, neighborly, but with promise. Tommy said he’d call. I was certain he would.

The very next evening, instead of that phone call, he knocked on my door. “I have a present for you,” he said.

We sat on the couch as I unwrapped a Johnny Hartman CD that included “It Never Entered My Mind.”

“When, how?” I asked. I was touched.

“I took the El downtown and bought it at a music store,” he said. “Do you like it?"

We played it then, and again at our wedding two years later when my daughters walked me down the aisle in a Las Vegas ceremony.

While music has continued to be part of our lives, our meals have changed. Early on, we'd go to dinner once a week with friends. We'd argue over politics, discuss news headlines, catch each other up on far-flung children and grandchildren. When Tommy could still get a few words out, our dinner companions would try to keep him in the conversation. If necessary, I'd step in to translate.

Eventually, though, my husband could not speak at all. Our dinners out diminished because it became too painful for me to see him silent, on the sidelines. The invitations still came, but I accepted less and less, except for special occasions.

Tommy and I have compensated by upping our lunches out. Just the two of us. Our fondness for food, just like our taste in music, is a perfect match. Hand-in-hand, one day a week, we go to our favorite barbecue restaurant. On another day, we’ll patronize a neighborhood Greek diner, and often, we opt for the city's most popular hot dog place.

My husband peruses menus with the pair of reading glasses I keep for him in my tote. He'll point to his choice, but I already know them: all of the vegetarian sides at the barbecue place, spaghetti with marinara at the diner, and a veggie dog with everything on it at the hot dog joint. We share the fries.

On the afternoon when we arrived home from the barbecue place where I was praised for my caregiving, Tommy flopped on his couch to watch TV. I settled on mine, and since no conversation would be forthcoming, put on my iPod headphones. My musing about our first date at the Mexican restaurant, where we matched on music, was still in my head. I scrolled through the list until I found our favorite song, “It Never Entered My Mind:”

I don't care if there's powder on my nose. 
I don't care if my hairdo is in place.
I've lost the very meaning of repose. 
I never put a mudpack on my face. 
Oh, who'd have thought that I'd walk in the daze now?
I never go to shows at night, but just to matinees now. 
I see the show and home I go. 

Once I laughed when I heard you saying 

that I'd be playing solitaire, 
uneasy in my easy chair. 
It never entered my mind.

Once you told me I was mistaken, 
that I'd awaken with the sun
and order orange juice for one. 
It never entered my mind.

You have what I lack myself
and now I even have to scratch my back myself.

Once you warned me that if you scorned me
I'd sing the maiden's prayer again
 and wish that you where there again
to get into my hair again. 
It never entered my mind.

1 comment:

  1. so utterly beautiful. my heart has been stretched. bless you, bless tommy, bless this story......