Taken from a dream and a quiet time
She was holding a piece of bread to eat, but started to shred it instead. Piece by piece it fell out of view on to the floor. She found another piece on her plate and lifted it to her mouth and felt it rest in her mouth. Her jaws moved for a while and then stopped and the bread rested on her lips. Then she pulled at it with her hand and shredded that piece as well. Gretchen came into the room and moaned “Oh Ellen, you need to eat your breakfast. Oh what a mess.” She picked up pieces, with pinching arthritic fingers. and put them in her pocket. She wiped Ellen’s face with the cloth napkin and offered a sip of the strong coffee which Ellen enjoyed with smiling eyes. After a few sips Ellen’s interest diminished and Gretchen switched to the orange juice which Sarah has “spiked” with nutritional supplements. Ellen started to reach for bread again and Gretchen moved her hand to a fork. With the fork in hand, Ellen was guided to the scrambled egg. The egg fared no better than the bread. It stayed at the front of Ellen’s mouth and then her tongue moved out and to the front of her gown. After wiping that and leaving it on the side of her plate, Gretchen asked “Would you like to try it with jam?” and put a little jam on another forkful of eggs. This time Ellen sucked it to the inside of her mouth and chewed a few enthusiastic motions. “Swallow” and she did, which made Gretchen beam with satisfaction.
“Dear God. Bless this food.”
A few minutes later, Sarah brought a small cup of applesauce. This contained Ellen’s morning medicines. Sarah spooned the sweet applesauce and Ellen was happy to receive it. Sarah left to record that Ellen had taken her meds.
Gretchen turned on the radio and asked Ellen if she could hear it alright. It was the university pubic radio that Ellen always liked. The news was hard to follow, but the voices were authoritative and familiar and both women enjoyed the routine. Gretchen sat in a wooden chair by the bedside, a chair adorned with crocheted cushions, and she made soft conversational comment in response to the news items.