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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Don't talk to me until...

Morning coffee is one of my favorite things. I love everything about it – listening to it brew, smelling it and that very first taste which signals my brain to wake up. I’m not mean without my coffee, I just am not really awake until I have my first few sips.

I can drink it black, but I prefer real cream and sugar. Although, I’m not opposed to Splenda, or brown sugar, but the cream… well… that’s a different story. It must be cream. Not milk. Not Cremora. I want real live cream. It can be heavy or regular cream, as long as it is cream. OK. So, mostly I use half-n-half, but that’s only because it’s cheaper.

My family says I’m a coffee snob. I like dark roast and my very favorite is Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast. My next fav would be Starbucks Caffe Verona. In the interest of my budget, my daily grind is Folgers’ Black Silk in order to keep the budget happy.
Riley used to join me for that first cup-a-day, but no longer does. He sets up the coffee every evening and puts out two cups even though only one cup will be used. I’m surprised that he doesn’t fill the cup with vodka and then top it off with coffee as his mixer. That’s what he used to do, but now the coffee never reaches his lips. By noon his lonely coffee cup is put back into the cupboard just to be brought back out the when setting up for the next morning.

Morning coffee is only one of the things that has changed in Riley’s repertoire of culinary delights. I asked him to help me make a list of his favorite dishes. It was quite a long list and he has added to it since it was first created. He’ll be watching television and shout out “your most delicious pot pies!” and I’ll put it on the list. The list keeps on getting fatter and I don’t mean just in numbers, but in calorie count – Banana Cream Pie and Fudgy Deviled Food Cake. I’m not worried about the calories, why should I deny a dying man his last piece of pie?
I have been concerned about Riley’s eating habits because, like most end-stage alcoholics, he has a habit of not eating much, if anything at all. My thought was that I would try to make some of his favorite things as an enticement for him to actually consume the food. I have started making him breakfast every morning because I know he will usually eat about half of what I make for him. If he doesn’t get any other nourishment down all day, at least I know he has had something.

Cooking is something I enjoy. It’s a stress-reliever for me. When I’m cooking I’m concentrating on what’s going on in the kitchen and anything outside that gets dulled by my internal dimmer switch. Some days are harder to dim than others. But when that switch works I feel as though I’m cooking my way out of the chaos. And the good part is that Riley really doesn’t bother me too much when I’m tapping into my culinary creative side. Maybe he knows that the end result will be something he will enjoy. Maybe there is still some sanity left in that part of his brain. Whatever it is, I’m grateful for it.
At first things were working well. I made Cream of Sun Dried Tomato Soup, Barbecued Beef Brisket, Chili, and Banana Cream Pie as dinner (and dessert) a couple of weeks ago. He ate a serving of each. Then he started tapering off. He only ate about three-quarters of a serving of Broccoli Cheddar Quiche, Chicken Curry Casserole. Yesterday he asked for Pork Chops and Sauerkraut, but he never touched any of it. It was transferred to a storage container which he took out of the refrigerator several times, but never made it to the microwave. Tonight I’m making Moroccan Lamb with Cucumber Salad. Maybe some of it will reach his stomach along with the Tapioca Pudding I’m making for dessert.

Sometimes I think I’m foolish for going to all the trouble to make these time-consuming recipes. However, I benefit twice for my trouble – I am in my cooking sanctuary AND I get to eat the food! That’s a win-win for me and could be for Riley, if he would only actually eat what I cook.
I understand that at this stage of alcoholism, Riley’s first priority is not what is on his dinner plate. He just wants to make sure his drink never goes empty. When he does eat, often what he gets down comes back up. I’m not sure I’d want to eat either if I was faced with that prospect.

It doesn’t matter to me that when the meal is complete and I have prepared him a plate, the plate sits on the TV tray next to his rocking chair until he wakes up and decides to take a few bites. I always cover the plate with a lid that keeps Jade from sampling what’s there. When Riley stumbles his way into the den and proceeds to have his dinner, he only takes a few bites. The plate gets up on the counter and he will sometimes pick at it throughout the night. I suppose that’s OK, but often Jade will manage to get to the plate and -- wah-la --  the food is gone! Then Riley will insist he was the one who cleaned his plate. One day, I walked in to find Riley feeding himself a bite as Jade was helping herself to her own bites! Oh well… it’s impossible for me to expect him to comply with my request that Jade NOT have human food.
When our daughter was about four years old, she was a very finicky eater. Her brother, on the other hand, would eat anything and everything on his plate. But, Alea was sneaky. We had a little dog whose head was just at the height of the dining room chair. Alea would put bites of her food just on the edge of the chair and the dog would come up and eat what she had placed there. For a long time, I thought she was eating her dinner. I don’t know how long she had been giving her food to the dog by the time I found out. Riley giving Jade his food always reminds me of that situation with Alea and although I’m frustrated – I have to admit that I do smile.

Riley is not four years old and just avoiding eating his green peas. He’s an adult who has the mind of a child. It’s part of the dementia resulting from having a brain that is bombarded with ammonia over and over again. Yesterday that child caused me to start my day in an unpleasant manner. After a very small cup of coffee, I went to the kitchen to refill my cup. It was only 4:30 a.m. but the pot was empty. It was not just empty, the pot was neatly put back into its place on the countertop. WHAT!! Where was my coffee!!
“I thought you were done with it,” said Riley with a quizzical look on his face. He looked like an innocent child who was just trying to help. It was the same look he had when he threw away the whole half of a Prime Rib Roast because he couldn’t find a storage container big enough to hold it in one piece. The roast was a planned left over that would get me another meal. It’s the only way I can justify the cost of such and expensive meat.

“I only got one cup,” I replied as I began to make a fresh pot. Oh well… since I had to make another pot, I took out the good stuff. As I listened to that pot and smelled the strong coffee aroma, my frustration melted away. Ummmm… I pretended it was my very first cup of the day. Riley’s child-like behavior allowed me a do-over morning. It’s another little thing for which I can be grateful.


ADDY said...

You must be sick of me saying it, but Riley sounds so much like my husband at the end. It is uncanny how a disease can reduce all alcoholics to exactly the same behaviour, thought processes and excuses.

Syd said...

Your cooking sounds good.

jo said...

thats what i always say too, addy.

weird how their so much alike, isnt it?

Anonymous said...

I can relate to each and every post. does your's have a fascination with cooking shows? not to mention ncis.
keep posting, as it makes me feel not so alone

sallie said...

I agree, so many simiarities with my situation too! He used to love his morning coffee and only eats small amounts at a time. Your blog has been so comforting to me.