Friday, December 25, 2009

What would you like for dinner?

Back when Jerry first became the Disabled Guy, he couldn't speak. He had to learn how to talk (and walk, and write, eat with utensils, and do all those things we take for granted). He also became stubborn. I used to have to argue with him to get him to shower every day- which we later found out was because he simply forgot that he hadn't showered.

Dinnertime became an argument as well. If he decided he didn't like what I made, he'd just not eat. He couldn't get anything to eat for himself (because he could only use one hand and used a claw-footed cane at the time), so he would literally go hungry. So, I started asking him in the morning, what he wanted for dinner. Since he couldn't speak (and after a while, could only say a word or two), the conversation would go like this:

Me: "What do you want for dinner? Spaghetti?"

He'd shake his head.


Head shake.

"Breakfast?" (as in eggs, bacon, grits)

Head shake.

And it would go on till he nodded.

After a month or so of therapy, he started saying one and two words at a time. He would also gesture with his hand, as if a random wrist flick would somehow indicate his point to us. During this time, he referred to me as "Mom" and my mother (who was staying with us at first) as "Gramma". This was because that's what the kids called us. So, I asked him what he wanted for dinner. (there's no point to telling you that now, other than it might come up again later. He didn't start calling me by my name or the usual "dear" that we've called each other forever for almost a year, maybe longer).

So, one night, this is how the dinner inquisition went-


"No." with a heavy sigh.


Another sigh and another "no".

I ran through the gamut of ground beef-related dinner foods I could make. And he said no to them all. I reached a level of frustration and blurted, "Well, what do you want for dinner?"

He held up his hand and rubbed his fingertips and thumb together. "H-hamburger..."


"No!" and he did the fingertip rub and said, "Haaaaaammmmmburrrrrgerrrr...." and he raised his eyebrows expectantly, as if he knew what he was saying.

We did this for a while, again with various dinner foods one can make with ground beef. He was getting as frustrated as I was and I could tell. All the while, he'd rub his fingertips together and enunciate the word "hamburger".

He furrowed his brow and looked at the ceiling. His face was (and still partly is) paralyzed on the right side and while he could hide his emotions on the left side of his face, he couldn't on the right. The right side of his mouth frowned deeply. He raised his fingers and put them in front of me and said, as slowly and calmly as he could: "Hammmmmm... burrrrr... gerrrrr..."

I raised my eyebrows in response- "Hamburger?"

And with his fingers still rubbing he said, "Sauce."

So I asked, "Sauce? Spaghetti?"

He angrily exclaimed: "NO!" He muttered the word sauce a few times then said, "Sams?" It was an excited question. He almost smiled in triumph. "Hamburger," he said with a pause (and his fingers rubbing), "Sams..." he sighed happily. "Hamburger... *pause* Sams. Haaammmbuuuuurgerrrr Saaaammmmzzz!"

"Hamburger Sams?"

He nodded excitedly. And still, rubbed his fingertips against his thumb.

"Hamburger Sams?" I said again. I said it a few times, then I asked, "Sloppy Joes?"

"THAT'S IT!" he exclaimed.

That was the day that Sloppy Joes became Hamburger Sams. We still call it that, even though he knows what it is and can (and does) use the correct word.

And for your enjoyment, here's a photo of Jerry wearing one of his Christmas gifts- I got him a leopard print Snuggie. He's on blood thinners and his paralyzed arm gets quite cold (even in the summer months). And the dog that is sprawled on his lap is Bruno- Luna's first puppy with Jasper as the father.

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