An old Diet Coke Can (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last evening I took my brother to the VFW for the evening. He enjoys watching the people sing. We get to the door, and he always takes the lead, opening the door and going through first. This time he can’t get the door open. He sets his cane to the side, and uses both hands and with a little added cussing, the door opens. We go inside and I let him pick out a table to sit. Usually when we sit, the first thing he does, is order his food. This time he did not. So I asked him what he wanted for his supper, and he said he didn’t know. With him being so routine this was a surprise for me. I didn’t mind. I know what he always gets. There is no change with him. Routine, routine. I proceed to place his and my order, and wait for him to get up to go to the counter and purchase his diet coke. He said he wasn’t ready yet. Alright. It isn’t a crime to not get your drink first. I go across the room, and sit with a lady that I usually chat with. The waitress brings out the food stopping by his table first. They are talking, then she brings his food and mine to me. She tells me that he said he already ate his supper, that I must be real hungry. What? She places mine down to me and I pay her. I tell her that I will take his back over to him. We sit about six feet apart in this room. He is not really alone, but he feels very independent when we visit here. This is the reason for the visit , to let him make his own decisions, and yet I am close enough to be there if needed. So I take his food over to him and sit it down in front of him and ask him to get his wallet out so he can pay the lady. After reminding him a couple of times that this was his food, that he had not had supper prior, he needed to pay and eat. He gets his wallet out, mumbling words, I am glad I can not hear, nor the waitress, but I imagine as usual they are choice words indeed! After she leaves, I notice that he doesn’t have his drink. I ask him where it is, and he says it is right here. I look around, I don’t see anything. I said why don’t you let me go get it for you. My treat! He said no, that he would just go waste his money on another one. I said, tired from arguing already, what ever. After several moments went by and the food becoming room temperature, he finally gets back with his diet coke. I shape his hand into a cup and give him his medicines to take. The tremors are acting up and he gets all of them in his mouth except one tiny pill. It goes flying to the floor. Tears roll down his face. This is getting to be a common thing I see anymore. He calls himself stupid. I, as usual, getting to be a common thing also, explain to him it is no big deal. He is not stupid. Dry the tears. I get on my hands and knees and start searching for the missing pill. I find it and flush it in the stool. We just replace it when we arrive home. He goes about eating his supper and for this one night, he speaks to no one. Usually, he is full of chatter. Whether he knows you or not, he will carry on like best friends. He sits with his head down ward, and I can see that he is rubbing his fore head and scratching his head. Two of his famous nervous habits. I go over to see if he needs something, and blood is dripping down his fore head where he has rubbed his skin raw. I offer for him to come to where I am sitting, but he refuses. He wants his own space when we visit here. I understand. I go back to where I was sitting, and nothing changes for some time. Eventually I see him coming my way. He has the biggest grin on his face. I tell myself, the dementia is gone and now I have my brother back again. He sits at the table directly behind me just smiling, no talking, just smiling. Soon he gets up and goes to the bar seats. Much farther away from my view, but I can still see him. He tries to get on the bar stool, but is having trouble. I get up to go help him, but then a fellow from the seat beside him, stands up and pushes his butt over in the middle of the seat. . I see my brother turn around and glance my way, and still smiling. I tell myself, this is just his way of letting me know he still has his independence. That he is still in charge. I can accept this. I watch out of the corner of my eye to see what he is going to do over there. He has never sat at the bar before. He orders his drink, a diet cola, but the bartender is placing a beer in front of him. What? Oh my gosh! I get up and walk as fast as I can without making people think I am racing to a fire. The bartender is just getting ready to open the flip top can, and I raise my hand and say STOP! He can not have this. The bartender looks at me with a look that says who the hell are you to tell him what to do. I ask her to come to the end of the counter, and I softly explain as little as I can but yet making the point of why he can not have a beer. She walks back over to him, and takes the can and puts it back in the cooler. I ask him if he wants his diet cola. He says yes. Excitement over, I walk back to my seat. I notice that he orders himself a red can instead of the silver can. He orders a regular cola with loads of sugar. I let this one slip by. One sugar loaded can will not kill him. He drinks this like it is a drink from a shot glass. Bottoms up. No taking air, just gulp it down. He orders another one. A red can. This forces me to have to interfere once again. I go and explain again how he needs to drink diet cola. Cans are switched out. My brother is crying, the bartender becomes soft-hearted and I see her place another can, plus another can in front of him. I give up. I let out a sigh. This is a battle I choose not to try to win. One red can, two silver cans in one night, plus another silver can to take home with him for the next day. I feel like all eyes are on me at the bar. I can hear their thoughts out loud as they tell me I am nothing but a mean old woman trying to tell this adult what he can and can’t do. He stays at the bar for the remainder of the evening, drinking his cola and looking over at me periodically, grinning. A grin that was telling me he had won this one. It’s alright. I will let him win this one. It isn’t worth trying to explain the diabetes and the sugars. Just let him have his independence for tonight. Finally, the music has ended, and I hear the words, see ya folks next week. I wondered to myself, will there be a next week? Time will tell.