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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tommy Untucked

“Are you sure you want me to buy these?” I asked Tommy as we stood in the candy aisle at Target. In one hand, I was holding a 10.5 ounce bag of mini Three Musketeers, Milky Ways, Trix, and Snickers;  and in the other, a 12 ounce mini Hershey’s with nuggets.

As I waited for my husband’s response, my eyes landed on his tummy, which lately, has plumped and oozed over his belt.

Ignoring my stare, Tommy answered with two thumbs up.

I persisted. “Honey,” I said. “These candies are making you gain weight.” I shook each bag for emphasis. “You’re eating too many of them.”

He continued his affirmative thumb raise.

“Okay,” I said, as I tossed the bags into the cart and rolled on.

My 77-year-old husband is dealing with a serious medical condition that has robbed him of speech and dimmed his reasoning.  How could I deny him sweets? Also, he is stubborn and likely wouldn’t listen to any lectures on wise food choices.

But, as I pushed the cart through the aisles, and Tommy headed up the escalator to savor golf equipment, I thought of the man I married 14 years ago. He was a proud 145 pounds with nary an ounce of pinch-able fat. His biceps were solid as Major League baseballs, his calf muscles impressively sloped upward, and his stomach enviously flat.

This physique was hard-won. “I was a smoker and overweight,” he had confessed in the dawning days of our romance. “My cholesterol was high and I was in lousy shape. When the doctor told me I had to change my lifestyle or I’d die, I did what he said.”

So, Tommy joined the local YMCA and became a regular. He stopped smoking, started running and bike riding, and within time, dropped weight, and lowered his blood pressure and cholesterol measures.

On top of that, four years into our marriage, he became a vegetarian and has remained meat-, chicken-, and fish-free since then. He’s judicious on portions and appears to stop when full. But, he can’t seem to resist those mini chocolates.

Throughout the day, I will see him rise from his prone position on the couch, or upon returning from a bike ride or park walk, and head for the kitchen. I’ll hear the familiar gasp of the opened freezer door, the crinkle of a plastic bag, then the slap of the sealed door. Next, the pop of the garbage can lid, the rip of foil, and the sugary symphony’s final note as the lid slams shut.

The other day, I decided if I couldn’t stop Tommy from gorging on the minis, I could do something to improve his appearance and ease.

He was on the couch flipping the remote, and as always, his t-shirt was tucked into his size 36 cargo shorts, and a black leather belt was looped and clasped in the waist band. His paunch loomed over the belt, which didn’t disguise the freed first button.

“Why not remove the belt and untuck your shirt.” I said. “You’ll be much more comfortable.”

I didn’t wait for his answer. I unhooked the belt from its notch and wrenched it out like a whip. Then, I wrestled his Japanese Free Spirit t-shirt out of his shorts and draped it over his stomach.

“Now, stand up, Honey,” I said. “Isn’t that better?”

He rose, gave a deep breath, put two thumbs up, and did a little shimmy shake which I took as two degrees above the thumb raise.

 “You look nicer, too,” I said. “Slimmer.”

He grinned and did one more dance before returning to the couch and MeTV.

Now that he’s untucked, and his belly is hard to spot, I ignore his jaunts to the freezer.  Let him enjoy. There’s always 38’s, elastic waist bands, sweat pants, and other wardrobe fixes that will allow my husband to expand. 

At his next exam, when his cholesterol and blood pressure are checked, it will be up to his doctor to learn if the levels rose, and perhaps issue a warning. But since she knows Tommy’s diagnosis, and is aware of his losses and day-to-day struggles, I suspect her prescription will be similar to mine: “Enjoy,” she’ll say.

And, he will.

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