I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
“I was so hungry last night,” Bobby told me this morning, “and nobody offered me any food.”
He was helping with a fish dinner at church, a monthly event that I shun, but at which he helps. He has been dubbed “the best pourer we ever had.” That means that he pours coffee well, a rather dubious distinction.
The truth is that he has the gift of service and hospitality. He is ever aware of other people’s needs, and sees to them, without complaint, almost like a dad version of Mother Teresa, but that may be exaggerating slightly. Not much, though.
Someone, however, had to see to Mother Teresa’s needs. I imagine that, as she spent long days caring for the poor, the destitute, the sick, the hungry, the dregs of India’s society, there was someone who made sure that she ate and drank. Who that person was, I don’t know, but everyone needs someone to care for them.
Nobody saw to Bobby’s needs at the fish supper, though. He was famished when he got home and had two large servings of the chicken casserole that we had had for dinner.
“In their defense,” he said, “I usually don’t take anything when they offer it, so maybe they think I never want anything.”
At our Easter dinner, my mother did something very sweet. Her Alzheimer’s is taking over more and more. Her affect is flat. She often doesn’t recognize me, or even seem remotely happy to see me.
We had our Easter dinner at the nursing home, though, so she could join us. Last year, we had gone out to a fancy restaurant and taken her with us. It was with great difficulty that we had gotten her in and out of the car, and in and out of her wheelchair. After the dinner, she had been quite sick with pneumonia, something unrelated to our dinner out and yet linked in my memory. This year we ate in.
The nursing home set a long table for us, fifteen people in all. My mother sat next to my father. Yes, it was institution food, but they did their best to make it special. We had ham, carrots, rolls, and something unidentifiable. Some thought it was cooked squash, others cooked pumpkin, still other sweet potato. Whatever it was, I didn’t eat it. Orange mushy stuff has never appealed to me.
For dessert we were served key lime pie.
My father is generally known to be the world’s slowest eater. On Easter, my mother gave him a run for his money. She puttered away at her food and they both started their pie together. Suddenly my mother cut off the tip of her pie and put it on my father’s plate.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
She didn’t answer him, but turned to me. “You gotta keep ’em happy,” she said. And she smiled.
I laughed. It used to be, in the earlier days of her Alzheimer’s, that she would steal food off his plate, especially sweets. Now the act was reversed.
And then I thought about Mother Teresa. My father lived a life of service himself, working long hours, taking care of other people, often the poorest of the poor in our area. My mother was the one who took care of him, and now, she was reliving that part of her life.
It was precious.
Love begins by taking care of the closest ones — the ones at home.