Dispatches from the Dining Room
June 5, 2012
As she approached her table for dinner, Alice spied something on the floor. With her poor eyesight she could make out that it was small, light in color, and unimportant as far as she was concerned. She ignored it.
When Celia, her dining partner, arrived, she took an interest in the object on the floor. According to Alice, Celia always takes an interest in things. She fastens a big bag to the front of her motorized scooter and in it she carries pens and pads of paper for writing notes to Alice, tea bags, packets of sugar, tubes of this and that, newspapers, magazines, and other things she finds throughout her day.
Celia squinted at the object and questioned it. “What is that?”
Alice told her she didn’t know and didn’t care, but Celia pressed on. “What could it be?” She leaned sideways in her scooter, trying to get her face closer to the thing on the floor.
“Watch out! Be careful! Let it be!” Alice always worries that the worst will happen and is generous with her warnings.
Celia paid no attention. She’s a short, wide woman, 95 years old (one year younger than Alice). With much struggle and many heaving sighs, at last she managed to pull herself up to the chair’s edge to get a better look. Alice leaned her elbows on the table, clasped her hands over her brow, and shook her head. “Oh my!”
Using her left foot, Celia tried to push the object over to Alice, who then raised her hands, palms outward, warding off tragedy. “No!”
Frustrated, Celia bent forward and sideways to touch the mystery but her scooter, with the bulk of weight now on its front-most, left-side portion, made an ominous buzzing sound as the back right tire started to rise from the floor. “Celia, move back!” Alice commanded, and to her amazement Celia obeyed.
But it wasn’t over. When a staff member came by, Celia asked him to pick the thing up, which he did. In his rush to move on to other tables with his rolling cart of coffee pots and water pitchers, he put it on the counter top – out of their reach and out of their sight.
Alice felt relieved. They’d finished with that nonsense. Throughout the meal, she tried to steer the conversation to other matters, but Celia’s eyes repeatedly drifted away from her dining partner and to the counter top, curiouser and curiouser.
Alice finally gave up on food and conversation. She stood up, bid her friend good night, and aimed her walker toward home. As she passed the counter where the object sat, she stopped, stared at it, and picked it up, then turned around and put it down on the table where Celia was just finishing her dessert. “You almost tipped over for a bottle cap,” she said.
“Oh me, oh my,” Alice said, when she finished telling me this story. “What am I going to do with that girl?”
Celia does not like mushrooms.
Whenever they’re included in salads at The Place, she passes them on to Alice.
But last night the cook served only mushroom soup, so it wasn’t easy to separate the fungus from the meal itself.”Really tiny pieces of mushrooms were floating around in there,” Alice told me during our late evening call.
Nevertheless, she said, Celia tried at first to pick them out. After a few tries she gave up and, ever so slowly, ate the soup. When she finally finished, Alice asked, “Well, Celia, did you like it?”
Celia hesitated, then answered. “Almost.”