Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Dog's Bone

Well, I am nothing if not totally self-centered and obsessively determined never to let something go once I've grabbed a hold of it. And therefore here we are again, back to one of my favorite well-gnawed bones of contention: eating. Why do I do it? Why do I insist on belaboring the point that I can't eat like you eat? Largely because, I think, that after nearly seven years of not having eaten normally, I still cannot comprehend the fact that what I did every single day of my life until June of 2003 without so much as a thought--what you do every single day of your life without so much as a thought--I can no longer do and will never be able to do again. And while I like to kid myself into believing this has nothing to do with self pity, if a gun were put to my head I would have to admit to just the teeniest-tiniest bit of "poor me."

So why, then, do I insist on dragging you into it? Because I so badly want you to think, really think, of just how lucky you pause for a moment and think of all those things you do without a thought-- and what it would be like not to be able to do them.

People born with physical disabilities learn from birth how to deal with them. They have no other life experiences to compare them to. Those who develop disabilities later in life are often unable to accept the limitations suddenly imposed on them. And that's the position in which I find myself.

I went to lunch today and ordered an open-face meatloaf sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy ("extra gravy, please"). Why I seem to insist upon fooling myself I have no real idea. Perhaps it's just a matter of wishful thinking. Perhaps, when I order, I honestly think the past eight years will be erased, and I will eat more than six bites. I watch the diners around me, nonchalantly scooping forkfuls of mashed potatoes and french fries and cole slaw and potato salad into their mouths, chewing perhaps four times before swallowing easily, their forks dipping to the plate for another forkful. I especially hate it when they accompany the first bite of something which is apparently delicious with the scrunched face, rolled-eyed look one usually associates with an orgasm. Whatever I order, no matter how delicious it may look, or smell, always ends up tasting like flavored styrofoam.

The waitress brought my lunch. A huge plate of, well, what I'd ordered, with a side of carrots and peas. (I forgot to mention that the lunch special includes a large bowl of soup, which I always order to go, since there is no way I could eat even one third of it and anything else.) There is, on that plate, the equivalent of five or six...and I do not exaggerate...meals for me. I hesitate going to restaurants because I cannot stand to see food go to waste, and it invariably does with me. I've tried asking for half portions, but they either look at me as though they think I can't afford a full meal, or inform me that I will have to be charged full price. I resist snapping that of course I'll have to be charged for the full meal...I just don't want a full meal!

My friend Gary ordered a Portobello mushroom sandwich on a bun the size of half a basketball, and it comes with soup, potato salad, a dill pickle slice, etc. I have two forkfuls of mashed potatoes, three forkfuls of meatloaf, a small slice of carrot, and half a forkful of peas, each bite followed by endless chewing because I have no saliva to cue the throat when it is time to swallow. Swallowing must be a conscious effort, and each must be accompanied by swallow of coffee to wash it down. By the time I have managed this, fifteen or twenty minutes have passed, and Gary has eaten everything on his plate. People who came in and were seated after we were have already ordered, eaten, finished, and left.

Please let me emphasize that I am totally aware of all those people...far more than either of us might imagine...who have disabilities infinitely greater than my own, and when I think of that fact, I am truly ashamed of myself. But it comes back to the fact that these are my personal experiences, and try as I might, I cannot accept things as they are.

Last night my dinner consisted of one slice of bread and butter, and I had lost all interest in it halfway through. Were it not for the high-calorie liquid supplements I take, I surely would starve. But I don't starve, and can even be considered lucky in that I never have to worry about the all the health dangers that can come with obesity. So I get by very well, actually. Which doesn't mean for one second that I didn't wish it were different.

Now, go have something to eat. Enjoy every single bite, and with every bite take just a second to consider just how blessed you are.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In the meantime, you're invited to visit my recently-revised website at, or drop me a note at I'd love to hear from you.

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