“I get to have lunch with you today. How’s that sound?”
Dad simply shrugged.
“I think it’s time for us to head down to the dining room.” I flipped off the locks and the wheelchair began to roll towards the door, a familiar noontime ritual.
“Okay, I think this is your spot.” I pulled him up to the end of a long table and pulled up a chair next to him. ” Hi, everybody!”
Besides us, five sat around the table. One was nodding forward, doing. Another fiddled with a napkin. One smiled at me and asked, “So how do you like it here?” Another nodded.
After filling glasses with water and juice, one of the caregivers came around with a round of vegetable barley soup. I simply smiled and she set a cup in front of me. It was actually very good. My dad focused on his and I shared with him how my kids and grandkids were doing. Around the table, one lady poured her soup into her juice and stirred it up. The gentleman across from me pushed his cup of soup to the lady next to him and said, “Here, you can have it.” She slid it right back.
The main entree arrived next. Everyone had a choice. Grilled ham and cheese with potato chips, or a piece of grilled fish with some vegetables. I thought the sandwich looked pretty good. My dad didn’t look excited about either. The server set a sandwich in front of him.
Dad nibbled on a few of his chips as I ate my sandwich, pleasantly surprised at how tasty it was. At our table, some ate, some just sat, and some smiled at me as I tried to make conversation. “This is my Dad. I’m here from Florida. It’s snowing outside. How’s your lunch?”
Some smiled politely, some drank their juice, some looked off into the distance. Dad must have eaten a decent breakfast. He didn’t seem to be interested in lunch at all.
Until they brought out the ice cream.
Suddenly, everyone was on task. No one refused dessert. Everyone, including myself, dug into the small cup of vanilla. No matter what else is going on in the world or in your mind, if there’s ice cream, it’s a good day!
As we finished up our cups, I showed Dad the latest pictures of his great-grandkids. Some were wheeled away from our table. Others wandered off. Soon, it was just the two of us.
I gave him a hug as he asked, “Are you leaving already?”
“Yeah, my plane leaves in a few hours. But I’ll be up to see you again soon.”
Dad wouldn’t remember my visit to memory care that day. But I do.