Food, Food, Food, OMG How Much Food?!

I was recently reading a blog about cooking meals throughout the week.  The concept of meals, planning ahead, menu’s, dietary requirements, healthy vs. non-healthy, etc.  It can be complicated sometimes.  Reading this mild blog I had a memory cross my mind.

This food thing…When my husband first became sick with pancreatic cancer the first thing that went for him was the ability to eat.  He couldn’t tolerate any of his favorite foods anymore and it became a real challenge to find foods that he could eat and tolerate.  His throat was closing due to vericose vein backing up in his throat; swallowing was very difficult for him.  The cancer caused his stomach to be upset all the time so finding anything he could eat was a real challenge.  Bananas were good but you can’t live only on banana’s.  I think even monkeys eat something else, right?

Mike loved to eat and I cooked to match his love.  But that ended and food instead of being enjoyable, became a mere necessity to survival.

Mike’s parents however did not seem to understand that food was a huge issue once cancer came to live in our home.  Mom and dad are both very large (read here obese) and habitually enjoyed three full square meals daily.  They came to stay with us on occasion while Mike was sick.  While staying in our home my in-law’s seemed to pretend nothing was amiss.  I got it then, I get it now.  But really people we can’t pretend Mike isn’t dying here can we? Or let’s do this on a schedule. I’ll pretend he’s just sick on M, W & F.  You get the rest of the days of the week.

In their pretense they wanted to be fed.  Meals.  Daily.  So out of respect for them I cooked.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I cared for Mike between meals, during meals, after meals.  Now let me explain these meals.  A piece of toast and some fruit for breakfast for these people was insufficient.  They needed their eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, coffee, juice and whatever else I could throw on the table.  Cooking for them didn’t bother me too much, at first.

But while they were eating, they would ask me, “what’s for lunch?”  Whaaat?  I haven’t cleaned the breakfast dishes yet and you are thinking about lunch?  My stomach was constantly in knots from the tension so eating was never pleasant for me.  Mike and I shared that discomfort.

Breakfast done and would these two gluttonous selfish people offer to clean the kitchen for me while I cared for my dying husband?  No way.   They’d get up from the table and go sit in whatever room Mike was sitting.

Alright, I’ll clean the kitchen.  It gave me something to do that was mundane and “normal” and I knew I’d have some time to myself as the in-laws wouldn’t come into that room at all.  Until lunch time.

Lunchtime.  Sandwiches and soup ok with you pigs–I meant people?  Ok.   Yes, with potato salad, chips or whatever.    A pattern developed soon enough.  I cooked and cleaned up after them and they viewed me as the nameless, faceless hired hand.  What about the 10 years I’ve been with your son?  What about the fact that he legally adopted my children?  You never learned my name in all those years?  I guess not.  But it wasn’t about me, it wasn’t about them it was all about Mike. So I bite my tongue.

I did find it offensive that these two people focused so much on food, something their son could not enjoy.  I found it just wrong on so many levels that they ignored what I thought was obvious, can you eat somewhere else so as not to remind your son what he’s missing out on?  It was also sad as Mike and I had a long-standing mandatory requirement–we made it a point to have dinner every night with our kids, as a family.  We connected then, at the dinner table each day.  To have this disconnection with his parents was hurtful.

One time Bob my FIL said he’d go to a local fast food place to pick up lunch.  Oh?  REALLY?!  Ok Mike can’t eat that crap and I don’t want to but thank you for offering to pay for something finally.  Bob ignored me of course.  To appease his parents Mike requested a baked potato with butter only. Nothing more, can’t eat anything other than that.  What does Bob bring home for his son?  A baked potato loaded with processed cheese and other junk.  We sit at the table and Mike unwraps this potato and looks at me, almost in desperation, “I can’t eat this!”  I knew that.  Actually he could eat it provided he wanted to be sick the rest of the day; to the extent of throwing up even.    I thought Mike was going to burst into tears.  He was a strong, solid and stoic man but cancer brings the strongest of us to our knees sometimes.  He said to his parents that he couldn’t eat it.  His mother thoughtfully piped in, that’s ok she (indicated me the maid) can just make you another potato.  Ok. Wait one minute here you b*%ch! I don’t HAVE any potatoes in the house right now and why didn’t you just get him what he asked for?!

I made Mike a shake for his lunch.

That was a sampling of a usual day regarding food with the in-laws.  At times Mike was in the hospital and these people would bring food to the room.  The smell of food became impossible for me to tolerate. It represented so much in the life of Mike and me.  It became an insult every time the in-laws mentioned food–which seemed constantly.  One time I did broach the subject with them, do you understand that we don’t really know what causes pancreatic cancer?   After all dear MIL isn’t it true that your mother also died of pancreatic cancer?  Don’t you think there might be a connection to the food and the cancer?  Don’t you think, perhaps that eating a little less food daily would help you lose some weight and thereby ease your aching knees and your high blood pressure dear MIL?  And dear FIL don’t you think if you ate less food every day you wouldn’t be having all your health problems?  Their response to me was, “you have to eat to live.”  Yes, true but your eating habits are in fact killing you and perhaps the eating habits you instilled in your kids is now what’s killing your son.  Just a thought, sorry to bother you from your next meal planning dear in-laws.

One time, toward THE END, they brought food into the hospital.  I don’t know what it was and didn’t care.  Three months of this highly annoying food thing and I was just about done with the whole thing. I refused their offer for food. I refused their offer to let me use their hotel room to shower.  I didn’t need them for that as someone who worked in the hospital knew I was not leaving, he provided me soap, towel, a shower and other amenities.  I was fine.  A few hours later some friends of my daughters showed up.  They brought food, toothbrush/paste and that sort of thing. Thoughtful because I hadn’t asked for anything.  The thing that stands out for me is the food. I don’t remember what they brought but I ate it.  I ate it in front of my in-laws. I knew then what I know now, it was an utter act of defiance. The friends who brought the food, brought it out of compassion and caring, the in-laws tried to tempt me with offers of food for ulterior motives.  The motives I discovered later.  They are not part of this writing so I will omit them.  However, I discovered I could eat something brought by people who cared and couldn’t eat anything brought by people who were mean, selfish and stupid.  As if the very food they brought contained the emotions of the one who brought it and could somehow invade me.  Ok, I was pretty tired after 3 months of this drama on a daily basis. Maybe I wasn’t thinking all that rationally.  Or maybe I was.  I didn’t care to be honest if I insulted the in-laws or not.

After Mike died I planned a wake, with food, food, food.  Food for the guests.  His family did not attend.

FOOD FOOD FOOD FOOD, the idea of food disgusted me!  After that day I thought to myself I am so sick of food the concept of food, the preparation of food, the word food, anything associated with food I’m done.  I got a true understanding and appreciation for eating disorders then.  My life was falling apart, every day was chaos, I could control none of it BUT the food I put in my mouth.  That part was the only part I could control.  So I controlled my environment by the food I decided I wasn’t going to eat.  Which was ALL food.  For a time.  A long time.  About 8 months of time.  One day I took a look at myself in the mirror and realized I had lost a lot of weight.  Not being overweight to begin with I didn’t have much fat to lose.  While looking at myself I realized I have control now, the in-laws are completely and forever out of my life so I don’t need to be defiant any longer.  So I began to eat regular meals again.  That alone brought its own share of hurt–did I cook food that killed Mike?  Should I have been more insistent that he eat more salads and less meat?  Woulda’s, shoulda’s and coulda’s can haunt a person.  I have changed what I cook now, its much more healthy and I am very conscious of what I’ve eaten for the day, or not.

I picture the in-laws sitting at their dining table gobbling handfuls of unhealthy fried food and I wonder if they ever remember the meals I prepared for them.  I laugh at myself then and tell myself they don’t remember my name why would they remember the meals?  My MIL always refused to eat one dish–no matter which meal it was–one dish that I cooked, she would refuse to eat.  Don’t tell me she wasn’t doing some passive-aggressive power play at every meal!  I am relieved now to know that I shall never, ever have to see them again; especially that I will never have to cook for them again. Ever.   Its small but I’ll take it.

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10 thoughts on “Food, Food, Food, OMG How Much Food?!

  1. I am so sorry to hear about your husband. I completely understand about the food thing as well. I have Ulcerative Colitis and my experience is similar, well-meaning people trying to force feed you, not listening when you say your stomach won’t be able to handle it. And food becoming a focus and a means for survival rather than something you enjoy. The psychological battle of needing to eat but knowing that food will cause you pain. I’m on a support forum and my experience is not unique. Parents and friends have been lost because of an unwillingness to try and understand something they can’t get their head around. I have a friend who had his drink spiked with alcohol by his so-called friends, after he had told them he couldn’t drink because of his condition. I am so sorry you and he had to go through that. If there’s one positive that can come out of situations like these is that you find out who your true friends and carers are and they are worth their weight in gold, like you to your husband for instance.

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    • Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to read AND comment.

      Its a simple thing really, people just can’t and sometimes don’t want to understand something they haven’t been through. Its laziness on their part if you ask me.

      This friend of yours who had his drink spiked with alcohol even though these “friends” of his knew he couldn’t drink….can I assume he’s ok? Idiots those “friends” of his…just plain stupid fools.

      Knowing his condition and the health risks and spiking his drink would border on criminal actons in most people’s minds as well as the police.

      I hope he kicked those “friends” to the curb and found better, more compassionate, understanding people to hang out with. Friends like that who needs enemies, right?

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  2. Wow, Rose Chimera, that post covers so many issues. By the time I reached the end I’d forgotten what I had wanted to say about the beginning. I know that despite the unhappy tone of the whole situation, you managed to inject some dry humour which made me laugh: “pigs, I meant people” LOL. Sorry, but that was funny.

    Yes there was obviously a lot of passive aggressive behaviour going on there (which I always interpret as a sign of cowardice – if you want to make a point, go ahead and say something). They were probably secretly insecure because you weren’t obese and they were. I’ve had a similar experience with my mother who always tells me (and a lot of people) that we are “too skinny”, when she in fact is the one who is very large to the point where it causes her pain in her knees etc. I’ve got no problem with other people’s weight, (including hers) however large they may be, so I don’t appreciate people criticising my weight.

    And that experience you had with the “control” versus parents-in-law and how you consciously made the connection with eating disorders and could sympathise, you are absolutely right! A lot of eating disorders *do* arise out of a desire to prove that the person has some control over their life, even if it’s only what they will or won’t eat. Very interesting that you had that experience.

    And also I thought it fascinating how your mind or soul rejected their food but accepted it from the girls, like somehow their food was tainted. I can totally see how that would feel. Somehow it seems like for you food represents life, and for them it represents death, because you eat to live, and they are eating themselves to death, literally. That’s just my interpretation; I don’t know how your mind was actually working at the time. I think I might have felt like that though.

    All very interesting and profound. Thank you for sharing.

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    • I literally got goosebumps reading your response. You hit the nail on the head on so many points! I do think they were insecure, but not about the weight thing. My husband was 6’3 and averaged 240lbs. He was pretty active though while they are not. So it wasn’t their size per se that they were insecure about. I think it was more that they decided to view me as some sort of interloper into their family. That I was somehow a hurdle, a block, a barrier between them and their son. That wasn’t true at all but can’t tell a mule anything. They wouldn’t have even been in his life if I hadn’t insisted–over the years–to repair damage that had been done.

      It was ultimately about control for them. Maybe even me. But I figured being married to him gives me the upper hand. They did attempt to take “custody” of Mike while he was sedated in ICU; they wanted control over his medical care and contacted social workers, the police and other “officials” to ensure they took him away from me. I won that battle…a pathetic, useless, hateful thing they did…but I won a battle I didn’t want to be involved in. But it was about Mike, it was his wishes I wasn’t going to quit no matter how tired I was. They left the day the decision came down that I was to maintain control, they never saw him again as he died about a week later. When MIke’s son called them to tell them Mike had passed, their response was, “you couldn’t have waited for us to get there?” (they lived 5 hours away). I think that statement alone shows them for who they are. I do think about them still. I do hope they’ve found some peace somewhere in their dark hearts but I don’t know if they can. If you’ve looked at some old archives on my blog titled Courtroom drama, you’d know what they did after Mike passed.

      Its a curious thing to reflect back and consider the impact negative, nasty, hurtful people can have on you and to know, present day, that impact is no longer there. Its a lesson that I carry however, harsh words do hurt, be kind to one another, be patient and above all else “..forgive them for they know not what they do.”

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      • If anyone is going to know why they felt insecure and threatened by you, you’re obviously in the best position to know. It varies from one person to another. So sorry you had to go through that nightmare.

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    • Oh and as to the “dry humor” I’m sarcastic I can’t help it, its a burden..lol…I am aware its a defensive mechanism yet….I can’t help myself sometimes.

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      • My sense of humour is kind of the same, and I tend to get sarcastic when I’m annoyed as well. I read somewhere that it’s common for my zodiac sign or something. But I also read somewhere that it’s a defense mechanism. Whatever it is, it’s still pretty funny! LOL.

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