Lately, my mom has stopped calling as much to ask about Alan. I think she is worried that the calling-every-day-bit was starting to stress me out. So now when she does call, she cuts right to the chase — what is he eating? Is he eating? She is very concerned now that he will stop eating and will wither away into a bean stalk. For this very good reason, she takes every phone call to remind me to feed him canned soup. I have no idea where she got this recommended cancer patient staple from, and it seems rather odd coming from a woman who usually makes her own soups from the rinds of leftover summer watermelons. But because she has been down the road of radiation and chemotherapy before, I don’t question her advice and I definitely do not tell her about the untouched, never thought of 5 cans of soup that have been sitting in the kitchen cupboard since I moved in.
Her phone calls don’t stress me out because I can tell her honestly that he is eating. A lot. It’s amazing how much he can eat now and how it all seems to disappear into thin air. He is as thin as he’s ever been, maybe even thinner than when he was running everyday. After the initial shock of seeing him eat every meal like he hasn’t eaten in days, the next thing that holds me in awe is the fact that he even has an appetite at all. It’s hard to believe he has any room left for actual food after watching him swallow the stomach full of pills he takes every day. The pill menagerie is sprawled all over — across his desk, in the kitchen, by the bedside table — in all different sizes and shapes, but each working to either stop or stunt something or the other.
I really took note of the wild appetite the other night when he made grilled cheese sandwiches — 3 for himself and 1 for me. Drenched in buttered bread and filled with hot American cheese, they reminded me of the cheese bread I’d buy during breaks in junior high. I started telling Alan about the similarity in taste and realized in horror that I was going to be that mom/grandma who tells her kids/grand kids about the times when she was young. With my mouth half full and my fingers greasy, I heard myself say, “When I was in junior high, I used to buy cheesy bread for only 35 cents!”