August 2, 2011 — I commented on someone’s kitchen blog the other day that I am growing low-fat, shredded cheese in my garden. Or so that’s how the words came out.
Emma doesn’t say many words anymore. She hasn’t admonished me lately, even, with “You get your hands off my walker!” She just hits and kicks – oh, and sticks out her tongue. The other day, though, as I seated her at the dining room table and instructed her to put her feet under the table rather than to the side of the chair, she scolded, “Get your feet out of my way!” It was the chair legs. I was standing behind her chair.
Back in 2008, when Emma was still somewhat coherent, and she had just gotten her walker, she didn’t fall for a while, she was still continent and able to communicate and do some things for herself. Nevertheless, over the next year or so, some words came out funny, like the time my friend R came over and cooked dinner for us. When she was done eating, Emma got up from the table, took her walker, and as she passed behind R, still sitting at the table opposite me, said, “Spizzle jitney.”
“Spizzle jitney…?” said R.
“Yeah, I think so,” I said.
“What does that mean?” he asked. She used to refer to her walker as her Caddy, like the Cadillacs she owned, so R wondered if she was referring to her walker. “Or, is she saying that it’s a jitney?” he speculated.
“No. I think she was thanking you, telling you “Special dinner,” I replied. I still think that’s what she was trying to say. She doesn’t say much now, except “Thank you,” “Nice to see you” and “You leave my walker alone,” but back then, two to four years ago, she would talk a little and some words and phrases came out funny.
The handsome Dr. Patel came by one day last week to do Emma’s 60-day checkup. He asked me if I had any questions. Of course, I wanted to rush into “How old are you?” [Read: “Just how many decades younger than I are you anyway?” Tess, our nurse, says she doesn’t think he’s that much younger. Tess, as ever, is supportive.] And, “Why aren’t you married?” It’s my understanding he’s not gay – from what I’ve heard and from his demeanor.
Rather than a discussion in that vein, however, I directed our conversation toward his discontinuing certain of her medications and he explained what happens as the body gradually shuts down. This prelude led to our engagement in a protracted conversation about incontinence and bowel movements.
After those words, he stood up, looked me directly in the eye, said, “It’s good seeing you again” (I, the crumbgatherer), and headed for the door. He left his small black case in the blue chair where he had been sitting. I gathered it up, went after him at the door and handed it to him. “I wouldn’t know what to do with it,” I said.
My mouth opened and the words shot out, like verbal diarrhea, leaving my stunned mind to figure out how to retract the mess.
It seemed to me that for us both, this was our Columbo moment. How I miss the late actor Peter Falk, especially in the role he created as Columbo, the rumpled trench-coated, seemingly bumbling detective. He’d head out the door, hunch over, scratch his head, turn, just as the “person of interest” was closing the door in relief, stretch his arm forward and say, “Oh, and one more thing…”.