by Chris Hennessy
(Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Marge was very tiny, almost swallowed up by the wheelchair. A nurse's aide pushed her into the dining room, then left abruptly. An attendant brought a tray and set it before her; she could barely reach it. At the table sat a WW2 vet, a former restaurant manager, a deaf nonagenarian, a woman in a mobilized wheelchair and myself recovering from, a diabetic foot infection.
Charlie wheeled his chair to a pile of bibs, handed one to each diner, and tied one gently around Marge's neck. Jim rode to her side and handed her the milk carton, which she couldn't reach. He remained by her side, handing her parts of the meal.
Then it was Gert's turn. Part dementia victim, part Sarah Bernhardt, she would wave her forkful of food in the air and sing to it. "Here's my carrots. Look at my carrots."
"Eat it, Gert, Put it into your mouth;" Martin, whom we called the Marlboro Man, would urge.
"O.K," she'd answer, swooping it in a graceful arc and pronouncing, "into the mouth it goes," then stopping to say, "Hello, Dolly," to anyone passing. Milton. across from her, would grow impatient. "What's the matter with you? Can't you finish?"
"Oh," Gert would answer, suddenly realizing she had a mission in life, to clean her plate. When Milton got up to face his butterfly -festooned walker, Gert would plead, "Don't leave me!" and work the wheels of her chair in order to catch up.
Milton, who was deaf, would look up occasionally and bellow out, "What's the matter with you? Can't you finish?"