In the nursing home, everyone gathers in the dining room. Aides serve each resident individually, reading the nutritionist’s orders from small slips of paper with each resident’s name.
I pick up Dad’s tray. The little strip says, Ray Ozarow: Pureed. It lists all the items on his tray: chopped chicken, chopped asparagus, chopped kasha varnishkes. Which is nice because they all look the same - four white ramekins filled with pale green mush.
"Mix them all together," Dad instructs.
“You want the soup in there, too?”
"What kind of soup ?" he asks.
I pick up the paper slip. "It just says, pureed soup," I say.
"Ah," he chuckles. "We have that one a lot.”
He decides to drink the soup first.
Unable to use his hands, Dad must be fed now. In order to maintain his dignity, he asks me to bring wide smoothie straws from Dunkin’ Donuts so he can suck up the pureed meal. He doesn’t want to bother anyone. Doesn’t want an aide to have to take the time to sit and move the food into his mouth.
I slide the straw into the soup. "Soup of unknown origin... outer space soup." he says, sucking the broth.
"Maybe some challah bread now, he says. I open the cellophane package that contains one slice of bread and tear off a piece.
“Not too small,” he prompts. We work together like this all the way through the meal. One bite at a time.
I tear off a bigger piece of bread. We watch the non-dairy creamer melt into the coffee. I stir in two pink packets of Sweet and Low.
Sucking hot coffee into his mouth, Dad swallows, then, randomly, he says, "I've gotten used to never having lox again."
“Are you thinking you’d like some lox? Do you want me to bring you some lox?
“No, no, that's alright.”
“I could put a bagel and cream cheese and lox in the blender...”
“You could.” He says and we both crack up laughing.