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|Newsletters: A Holiday Tale|
A Holiday Tale
Robert “Flute” Snyder
Shortly after chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer in my left tonsil left me unable to eat, my wife and I moved to the Twin Cities of Minnesota to be near her large family. I was faced with the problem of dealing with relatives aged two through eighty. How should I present myself at parties, dinners, and church gatherings? “Oh, I can’t eat, so just don’t set a place for me.” Or, “You’ll just have to get used to seeing me sit in front of you while I pump my dinner from a horse-sized syringe.”
At large dinner parties in relative’s homes, I often felt like a bump on a log sitting at a table with 22 people, but not eating. So, I became a self-appointed table waiter. Sometimes I serve, fill water glasses, re-circulate food items from the kitchen, and then remove the dinnerware to the kitchen. All the while, I can be washing pots and pans, and generally staying out of the way. If I’m careful and don’t clank the dishes, the host and hostess forget that I’m working in their kitchen and avoiding the dish washing machine. (They like to show off their machine when the relatives come for a visit.)
Entertaining Myself and Guests
At holiday gatherings, I often play background music on the piano, usually Christmas carols. It’s particularly curious when the grandfather of the group, 82 year-old Chuck, relates later, by title, which songs I played. Amazing memory! I get the impression he prefers my music to the conversation right next to him at the table. At any rate, the hostess always remarks how nice it is to hear her piano played, even though it doesn’t get played much anymore. In fact, she found out that the piano needed to be tuned, so she hired me to tune it. Not a bad way to make some money off the rich relatives!
In homes where there’s no piano, I can play my flute in the downstairs family room near the stairway leading up to the eating area. Having been a college professor and professional flute player for thirty years, playing the flute is one of the easier things that I do. When I’m downstairs and out of sight, the audience doesn’t notice that I need to take a sip of water every fifteen minutes or so to keep my mouth wet. Radiation killed my saliva glands, so playing the flute requires some planning. Blow, blow, wet; blow, blow, wet. The moist air passing helps keep my mouth from drying as fast as if I were jogging through the Kalahari Desert.
Recently, one of the more adventurous male members of the family pressured me to tube feed by syringe at the table with the other twenty-two people in attendance. However, he’s never witnessed the times when something goes wrong, the syringe pops out of the G-tube, the food blows out onto Grandma’s white ceiling, white walls, and oyster-white carpet. No thanks, I prefer to make my boo-boos in private: in the bathroom downstairs where I can easily wipe off the four-foot mirror, the Formica counter top and the imitation Florentine floor tiles.
Coping with social situations when you’re fed by tube becomes a matter of making choices. I choose not to feed in front of any audience, but have found pleasure in serving and entertaining my friends and family.