Friday, October 21, 2016

Food Fights

The weight obsession part 2 The Food Fights

Mom worries about being fat. One of the things I say to her often is "you're just a little slip of a thing." Sometimes I say "hardly even a washen of soap" which is something her dad used to say. Sometimes I say "be careful in the tub or you might just slip down the drain." She giggles and says I'm spoiling her.

Hanging with mom makes me concerned about the long term health effects of our body image obsessed world. She is constantly talking about how fat people are and how they could do more to "pretty up." Some of this is generational, mom grew up at a time when "The Good Housewives Guide" that has been circulating on FB as a quaint throwback was genuinely advice for wives. She gets ready with lipstick and her hair combed every day for "when the boys come home."

Weight is part of that. She picks at food often, and complains that she isn't getting enough exercise, when we walk at the gym when the weather is cold and every day if the weather is over 40 and not raining.

Because she is so concerned about weight, I tried buying her food to help her get better nutrition without adding a lot of calories. Ensure, and fruit drink varieties with protein. Healthy choice soups--fruit, veggies, tuna and salmon. Some of the things she thinks are for the kids. She served Arthur and Maria Ensure over ice. She told me the fruit drinks were baby food for when her mom (died 1998) brought over Jr. (Her brother Charlie Briscoe Jr., who is 68?).

But weight obsession is only part of the food issue. Her taste buds seem impaired by her decline. She seems to be able to taste only things with lots of sugar or lots of sour, or salt. She salts her food to a criminal degree. She also eats sugar like mad. Cookies, candy bars, brownies, ice cream.

People say to me. "As long as she eating, let her eat what she wants." Maybe they are right, it would certainly be easier. But if she had her way she'd eat all sugar. She can eat a bowl of ice cream, and in three minutes eat another. If you say, you just had ice cream--she'll be completely shocked. "No, I didn't, I'm really careful about my weight, I would never eat two bowls of ice cream in one day, what are you trying to do to me?"

I make food and take it to her. Sometimes this is a huge success, other times not. Rejection has a variety of reasons. Pasta is a no, too fattening. Fried chicken is OK, because they had that on the farm when she was a kid. green beans and broccoli, OK. Eggplant, asparagus, and squash all rejected. I made stuffed peppers, and she put hers in the refrigerator for later. The kids found it next day with cereal poured over the top of it, and milk. So, maybe stuffed peppers is too unfamiliar a food.
Sometimes, I am not with her when she is hungry. So, I bought some frozen dinners for her to have in case. Turkey and noodles, spaghetti---things I know she likes. I found them in the refrigerator. One of them cooked beyond recognition, one defrosted and soggy, One with ketchup poured over it.
So, I thought, no frozen dinners.

Grocery shopping is a trial. If she goes with me, she rejects everything as too expensive. She loves turnips. She talks about how she'd love a crunchy cold turnip. At the grocery I picked up a turnip.
"Hey, how about one of these?" I say. She looks at the sign and frowns. "It's .69 per pound" she says, with shock. I say, "but this turnip looks so good. and its not a whole pound." I weighed it. I say "its a .40 turnip. Doesn't it look good. I think that turnip is worth .40. Don't you?" "NO, " she says and pushes the cart away.

She gets overwhelmed at how big the store is and how many people there are. She is constantly asking me where "the boys" are--and I'm not sure if she means Arthur and Maria and just has the genders wrong, or if these are different kids. If I say "which boys" she may answer Spencer and Logan (my nephews) or Ralph and Jr. (her brothers), or she may freak out because I don't know which boys.

If I bring her groceries, some of them get thrown away because she doesn't know where they came from. She'll say, "that was here when I moved in. Its no good." She ignores notes or dates written on anything. Or she calls me and reads me the notes over and over because she can't figure out "who left this note in her refrigerator."

I've started keeping food at my house and bringing it over in bits, with a huge production, trying to make an impression on her so she won't think the food is old and throw it out.

She doesn't have a stove, on purpose, because she doesn't turn things off. We had been relying on the microwave as a way to heat food up for her because it shuts itself off. After the frozen dinner debacle, I discovered, she can't really use the microwave either. I am slow--I didn't realize that the directions on the dinners were too hard. I just thought she didn't like them.

But then I came over and discovered that mom had mixed up biscuits from pancake mix and put them in a pan. She greeted me so happily and said, "You're just in time, I'm about to make biscuits." She had the microwave running and the "biscuits" on the counter, She said she was just about to put the biscuits in, she was preheating the oven.

Explaining the microwave results in a huge upset. I've had to sneak all metal pans away.
And aluminum foil
And pancake mix.

I never drink the coffee at my mom's. In fact, I've gone from being a coffee hound to one cup in the morning and tea or hot water the rest of the day. She pours already made coffee back through the coffee maker and grounds. God knows how many times she has done this--I clean the coffee maker constantly. Fortunately, as much as she always wants coffee--she doesn't drink it either. There are cups all over the house that she makes and puts down. I am always gathering up mugs. I don't think I have seen her drink coffee in weeks. She just carries it around.

Getting her to drink anything is a huge battle. I worry she is dehydrated. I push water. I tell her plants need water. You need water. You a delicate flower surrounded by weeds. You need to be strong. Drink water. She says "water makes me thirsty, I'd rather have coffee."

My friends have heard me say that the hardest thing about having kids is the constant production of food--for little critics who may not eat anything you make. One of the hardest things about having mom next door is food production, for a critic who may not like, understand, care about food when you bring it her. Every time you bring food is a roulette game. She may be happy.

"You are so nice,"

Or, she may get upset that you think she needs to be brought food, because she is "a grown woman who can take care of herself."
"And where is my stove?"

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