Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Larry, Straws, and Hugs - oh my!

Part One: Larry

I am sure many of you in the Mercer County area have been blessed by knowing Larry.  Larry is the deli guy that used to work at Wegmans in Princeton.  He has this booming voice, and fantastic smile, and has a way of making you feel like you are the customer he had been waiting to see all day.  Larry always greeted you with eye contact, and a "how are you doing today!"  It really was the highlight of my shopping experience to see Larry.  He would ask about the family and tell me about his kids, or the newest grandchild.  Once he was so excited about his new granddaughter that he actually pulled out his phone to show me a picture!  (She is adorable by the way.)  I don't know if Larry loved his job, but it sure seemed like he did.  When I first met him I selfishly thought he was just that friendly to me.  Nope - turns out that he was just that friendly to everyone.  In fact there had been many times I had been on line at the deli counter, and people asked to skip their turn in order to be helped by Larry. "It's okay - I'll wait for Larry to weigh the swiss."  "Larry knows how I like my turkey sliced - I'll wait for him."  But I knew secretly it wasn't about the thinness of the turkey slices, or how he weighed the swiss to the correct amount. It was about the connection.  It was about the smile, and the laughter, and the way he made us feel.
Last December I brought Larry a Christmas card with a lottery scratch-off inside.  I had overheard him talking a few weeks earlier about his love of the lottery.  I scribbled a few words of encouragement (hope you win) and others about how kind he is.  When I handed it to him he said "Thank you. G-d bless." and I blessed him right back.
A few weeks went by and I didn't see Larry anymore.  I heard through the grapevine that his wife was ill and he was staying home to care for her.  I don't know that to be definitely true, but if it is, I imagine that of course Larry would care for his wife.  Through the years I learned about the love they shared and the family they created and raised together.  I prefer to imagine that Larry scratched off that lottery ticket and won big, and he and his beautiful wife are on a beach somewhere sipping fruity drinks, and loving on their grandkids.

Part Two: Straws

I LOVE drinking out of a straw.  I know that seems like a strange thing to love, but I really do love it. I especially love drinking a diet coke out of a straw.  It's my thing. After a long day of teaching you would often find me at the McDonald's drive-thru or at a local Wawa drinking my medium diet coke through a straw. At our home, on the kitchen counter we had a few rows of straw cups.  When the straws broke, got lost, or inevitably melted at the bottom of my dishwasher, I immediately got on Amazon and ordered a new pack of multi-colored straws.  So beautiful!  My girls definitely picked up on my love of the straw.
Yesterday I went to the rehab doctor - he is the guy overseeing my wheelchair needs and ordering.  I was filling him in on a couple of things, one being that I am choking a bit more when I am drinking - like fluid is going down the wrong pipe.  I need to take smaller sips,  Then he said I should stop using a straw. I held it together and said "really?" Yup - using a straw brings in too much liquid into my mouth at once and swooshes around too much in my mouth.  I believe my muscles in my mouth are weakening and can't appropriately direct the liquid where it needs to go.  Mind you that this going down the wrong pipe doesn't happen all the time, but more often to me than the average person.  Not using a straw is just one way to help alleviate this problem a bit.
When the doctor stepped out of the room and it was just me and my Mom, I began to cry.  I know, I know.  In the grand scheme of things not using a straw for the rest of my life is not that big of a deal. However I am very aware that this is just a drop in the bucket for swallowing and respiratory problems to come.  And it just pisses me off because I love the straw!
I was in kind of a pissy mood for the rest of the day.  When Adam got home I let it all out on him.  I was hysterical - crying so hard that he couldn't even understand me.  I finally got out the story about the straw.  Adam hugged me and let me cry,  Within 15 minutes the straw cups from our kitchen counter were put away and Adam had replaced them with light, plastic cups that are easy for me to hold.  This man gets me and my straws.

Part Three: Hugs

I have discovered a few other PALS* that write blogs.  I was reading one yesterday, and the woman made mention of missing hugs - full on, standing up body to standing up body, hugs.  YES!  I miss hugs too!  I still hug, but mostly it is from the sitting position and it becomes a kind of half-hug.  And that is okay.  I'll definitely take it.  But there is something about a whole body hug, when you can feel it in your arms and legs and your body kind of melts into the other person.  And I am not talking about a foreplay hug, or a hug that leads to something more.  Just your run of the mill hug.  I miss it.
Adam misses it too.  We always liked to hug.  Sometimes when he helps me up, he makes sure to hug me like we used to, before he sets me down.  Strong arms wrapped around me, face nuzzled in my neck hugs. It feels normal and safe. Comforting.

*PALS = Person/People with ALS

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