Me or a Ham Sandwich

Posted on April 20th, 2012 by Viveca in Gallimaufry

By late 2011, I was finally beginning to get some recognition from Al’s caregivers at the VA nursing home, and they invited me to attend his care meeting. I met a roomful of nutritionists, nurses, physical therapists, chaplains, doctors, social workers, and other hospital staff. They were all very kind and respectful and listened to Al attentively when he complained and when he ranted. One woman introduced herself only as the occupational therapist, and I asked whether her name is Susan. She was surprised I knew, so I explained that Al had just been raving about some chocolate halvah she had given him. As we were talking, Al interrupted me to tell the room that food was his only remaining pleasure in life. “Look at me,” he said, gesturing to me, sitting next to him holding hands, “I’ve got a beautiful woman here with me, and I’d give her up in a second if I could just enjoy a ham sandwich.”

When we returned to his room after the meeting, I asked, “Al, how could you sell me out in front of all those people? I’m finally getting some respect for them, and you say you don’t care about me as much as a ham sandwich!”

Al gave me the sweetest smile and nodded guiltily: “I only said those things because they’re true,” he explained. “I’ve had five wives, and where are they now? But a ham sandwich? That’ll keep you warm at night!”

After I left him, while walking back to my car, I saw an imam, a security officer, and a janitor standing on a lawn taking camera pictures of something. I thought they were investigating hurricane Irene damage, but as I came closer they pointed out a giant hawk sitting on a tree branch eating a bright green canary. A hawk and a canary in Queens.

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