Thursday, 10 August 2017

Caregiving For My 86-Year-Old Uncle

As some of you may know, I have been taking care of my ageing uncle whenever my aunt leaves to Egypt for short visits. They live in the Valley area and have been in the U.S since 1961. Mentally, the 86-year-old Dr. Toutou is completely fine and still quite sharp, it’s mainly one of his knees and some “water on the lungs” — known as fluid in the chest. As such, I leave Venice Beach and move in there for 10 days or even a couple of weeks; preparing breakfast, making dinner, and listening to his engaging stories.

Being in the area with nothing much to do, I end up writing a whole lot. Actually while here I have previously written several articles like the ants trilogy 1, 2, 3, which were inspired by the ants I observed in the garden.

I have also written about the stories I heard from Toutou like The Doctor Who Wittily Saved Two Lives in 1956 and the denser Between Shifting & Shattering Paradigms As I Cook Dinner — On Fast Food, Fluoride, and What ‘Work’ Really Is.

Others in Arabic are about his memories from 1950s-1960s Egypt such as (رحلة عبر التاريخ: واحة باريس). One more is Stop-n-Search That Hippy about a fun encounter with cops.

This year, however, the sweet man has lost his sense of taste (and smell). This is quite normal as the number of taste buds decreases while the rest begin to shrink after the age of 60. It has already happened to my dear mother and she’s coping with it. The man is also eating less portions. 

Speaking of which, I am now reminded by a friend who twenty years ago lived with his grandmother who had also lost her sense of smell; so smoking weed inside the house was pretty cool.

At first I tried a bit of psychology with Toutou, saying that he has known the taste of onions — which he adores — for 85 years, so whenever he eats onions he should envision what they taste like and the brain will do the rest.

Next came the cooking phase. A few hours after breakfast I go to his TV room and propose what I’ll be making that day. I feel like a waiter who must entice the customer with words and images to keep him captivated. To be honest, I cannot imagine how this loss may affect someone as sensual as myself. So I guess I’m trying to find ways to cope before it ever occurs to me.

Dinner is usually served with more allure as I explain how I cooked the meal and all the added ingredients. This is usually followed by him smiling while his eyes widen up. I wish him a Bon Appétit and let him indulge while watching his favourite channels.

During this time I go to the kitchen and do the dishes. 30 minutes later I go back to take the leftover and do more dishes and that is that for the night. Though he may have a small snack later, like a piece of pumpkin pie, some ice cream, or a just a 7-Up; he’s not too crazy about fruits, salad or nuts, which are my kind of snacks.

Since I already enjoy cooking and feeding others, I do it all with joy. A couple of times I was tempted to reduce the butter or salt in order to make the meal healthier — because he cannot taste — but I didn’t do it. In any way I cook healthily so there is no need to cheat.

Then again, an 86-year-old man, let alone a doctor who spent 60 years helping people, should do whatever he pleases. Even the occasional burger from Jack in the Box or those fried chickens I know he loves so much should be totally fine. These meals make him happy, then let him be happy.

Besides, he has always been relatively healthy, so eating fast food whenever he feels like it is not much of a big deal. Writing about this herein made me decide that this is exactly what I will be doing today: I will go get him some fri... no, grilled chicken and something else on the side and that will be dinner.

Mission accomplished

Thing is, I have always enjoyed the company of older folks. In fact, these yearly visits also inspire me to write some of my philosophical reflections; one of which is: Make it a habit to spend time with people over 80 and kids below 10 every once in a while. Simply because you do learn a whole lot from them.

What is interesting is that whenever I’m back here I’m always reminded by this peculiar sense of satisfaction stemming from helping someone who can never repay you and without expecting anything in return. For someone who is unmarried, childless, and leads a somewhat solitary life, this experience adds me with a certain substance that I think I need in my life. Something to help me grow and to add to my humanness.

Shine On.


The Doctor Who Wittily Saved Two Lives in 1956

Between Shifting & Shattering Paradigms As I Cook Dinner — On Fast Food, Fluoride, and What ‘Work’ Really Is

Stop-n-Search That Hippy

Why Ants Carry Their Dead and Other Fascinating Facts

Ants Carry Other Live Ones As Means of Transportation: Further Evidence That They Must Be Communicating [Video]

Guiding Ants Out Of The Kitchen...Alive

A Letter That Hit Me In The Feels

Rooting Into The Past

For The Love Of Storytelling

My Correspondence With a 31-Year-Old Reader Before He Passed Away

 رحلة عبر التاريخ: واحة باريس
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