Monday, March 19, 2012

The Restaurant Procedure

My visit with Mom last week was just lovely.  I worked on Monday then drove up to North GA on Tuesday, and we had our traditional breakfast for dinner at the nice IHOP.  (It really is kind of surprisingly nice for an IHOP.)  I had the 2x2x2 like always (2 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, 2 pancakes), without even going through the pointless charade of looking at the menu.  Mom had the Senior Rooty, with blueberries on her pancakes. 

Mom walks with a walker now, but it's too hard to manuever inside a restaurant, so that means our Restaurant Procedure, which is as follows:

I park in a handicapped spot (Mom has a placard to hang on my rearview mirror).  I come around and help Mom out, I carry the pillow that she uses for her back and we walk into the restaurant with her holding onto my outstretched arm and hand.  A lot of times people see us coming and helpfully hold the door for us.  Inside, I ask for a booth (chairs are more likely to have hard backs that are uncomfortable for Mom, even with her pillow) and if it's a big restaurant like Red Lobster, I ask for a booth near the front to avoid a long walk.  I walk with Mom to our table, and help her adjust the pillow behind her back.

Once seated, the temperature discussion begins.  Is it too cold?  Should I go out to the car and get Mom's jacket for her?  Is there a breeze blowing on Mom, should we ask for another table?  Mom has trouble hearing, she has nerve damage in her ears that her hearing aid doesn't help with, so I lean across the table to speak to her.  When the temperature issue is settled, the what-will-we-order discussion starts.  Mom feels very put upon by the large portions most restaurants serve, so I offer to split an entree with her.  Mom worries that I won't have enough food, and I reassure her that it'll be fine.  She usually says she never really feels hungry, and I don't quite know how to respond to that.

Sometimes servers are very respectful to Mom, and once they see that she has trouble hearing, they will speak up a bit, or speak a little slower.  Sometimes they're impatient, and I have to translate what they said for Mom; but she always does her own ordering.

Once settled in and with our order in place, Mom will look around at the other diners.  Last week in IHOP, she had a whole waving thing going with a tiny girl in a baby seat who kept smiling at Mom.  When the food comes, there is always a minor argument when Mom wants to give me "just one more shrimp" or something else off her plate.

The big argument happens when the check comes.  My tiny little mother, who I have never known to raise her voice or be confrontational with anyone (LITERALLY, I am not exaggerating) will snatch away that check as quickly as her arthritic hands will let her.  And let me tell you, she is not kidding.

She is a Southern woman who fully believes that it is her job to show visitors hospitality such as the visitor has never previously known.  This Southern hospitality must, at all costs, consist of copious amounts of food, including but not limited to sweet tea and biscuits, and if possible sending the visitor away with a big bag of tomatoes, peaches, or walnuts, whichever is in season.  It hurts Mom to have visitors come and, not only can she not feed them, but they are trying to buy her food!  That will not DO, not at all.

This is where the bargaining begins.  How about if I let her pay at IHOP, but I will pay when we go to Red Lobster?  If I let her pay the check, can I leave the tip?  My rate of success depends largely on the time of year.  At Christmas, she is adamant about wanting to pay for everything, because the horror of her not being able to feed me and Greg is compounded by her not having a pile of beautifully wrapped gifts for us.  Last week, the best I could do was leave the tip, because she felt bad about not having a birthday present for me.  It's a tricky thing, because I just hate having her pay for anything, but I don't want to hurt her feelings, and it's a big deal to her.  I thanked her several times during the trip, telling her how much I appreciated her birthday present of buying my lunches.

As annoying as all this sounds, I love it.  I really do.  I'm proud to walk into a restaurant with my 90-year old Mother on my arm.  I'm proud of her for going out, when walking is such a scary thing for her, and she has so much trouble hearing people.  I love her for being so sweet and wanting to give me things. I try so hard to make sure everything is comfortable for her, and it can get stressful when things are not in my control.

But my visit was so very nice.  I had dinner with her and her friends in the dining room, we shopped successfully for underwear and a robe and a pretty blouse for her, we looked at old photos, she seemed delighted to get the large-print biography of Regis Philbin I brought her (she loves Reege), and everything was just fine.

I drove back on Friday.  I miss her already.  With all the upheaval in my life, I am not sure when I'll be able to go back.