“Let’s go out for dinner this Thursday.” There is an underlying tone of expectation. I smiled a little smile, trying to decide if I should play along or brutally honest today. Usually, I decide based on how alert he is.
He seems to be “present” today.
“What do you want to eat?” I probe gently.
“Braised pork ribs.”
“You can’t take any solid food, Pa. The doctor has said that your swallowing is not so good, so you have to take softer food. We can always take more fruits?”
He stare at me and keep silent. We both know that “soft food” and “fruits” essentially means blending everything into a purée and mixed with a substance called thickener, which taste … I can’t imagine actually.
He knows deep in his heart too, I think, that the day will come — soon, that he’ll have to give up even such blended food and rely on tube feeding. The doctors have been raising this topic with me every time he’s admitted into the hospital.
“He can no longer swallow well and food tend to enter the wrong passage. This will lead to lung infections — very frequently. You have to be mentally prepared that he’ll have repeat occurrences and be in-out of the hospital.”
Which is what has been happening for the past few years. I’m so used to it that nowadays, I no longer panic when I receive a sms from the hospital in the middle of the night informing me that Pa has been admitted. Yet again and again, I’ve been telling the doctors “no” to their proposed tube feeding.
How can I say yes?
This is a man who has always loved his food. This is a man who, in his healthier days, will not hesitate to travel to places being said to have good food. This is a man who will bring his friends, relatives and families out for meals on every occassion that calls for a celebration. This is man who has never learnt how to say ‘I love you’ to his wife and children, but will always make sure that they have the best food to eat because that’s how he shows them his love.
How can I say yes?
This is a man who has been generous his whole life, never hesitating to give and share with and help anyone who is in need. Yet this is man who now relies on others for everything, from turning himself over in bed to bathing and changing. This is a man who used to be proud that, despite having completed just a primary education, he has built up a family and a career with sheer hard work. Yet this is a man who has lost all dignities from the day he was immobilized and forced to put on an adult diaper. This is a man who has always loved to travel to places, be it relatives’ houses on weekends or overseas for a holiday. Yet this is a man who has lost control of his own body, and no matter how hard he tries to get his words out to his daughters they just can’t hear him. This is a man whose only sense of freedom now is probably in the fact that he still can eat. Because it’s the only thing that he can do for himself now.
So how can I ever say yes?