When you think of a buffet, do you imagine an amazing array of tempting foods? Eat all you want? Try new dishes? All this may be true, if you can see. What it means to a blind person is being dependent on a companion to describe the foods, dish up your portions, not mention what you might have wanted, or fill your plate with the first 3 items so theres no room for a much more desirable dish down the line. Heres some green stuff, he might say. I dont know what it is. Want some of that? Last Friday, when I learned that there was to be a Mothers day brunch at my mothers assisted living home, my heart sank. Here was yet another hurdle I had to jump. A brunch for the families of the residents sounds like a very nice thing to do, but for the residents families who cant attend, its not only a dreary reminder of their loneliness, but for visually impaired residents, like my mother, its a nightmare. Trying to make it to the dining room through a crowd of people in line at the buffet table is the first obstacle. Then trying to get service from an already overworked staff, because of the buffet, is hopeless. I went through that nightmare last summer, when they had a Hawaiian themed buffet. Never again. Since then, I arranged to hire help to assist my mother and me. If I hadnt, she would have taken one look at the chaos down the hall in front of her and turned around to have cheese and crackers in her room. Thats exactly what she did the one time I couldnt get there.

Yesterday, I enlisted the help of my friend Judy. We greeted my mom in her room, left Pippen to stay with her, and then filled 3 plates at the buffet. Fortunately, my mother likes pretty much everything, so making choices for her wasnt a problem, but it would have been nicer if she could have made her own. But helping her navigate through the crowd and find a table, all with a piano playing to further mask her already faulty hearing would have been frustrating at best. So we took dinner to her, and we all enjoyed the food in the quiet of her room. But what if Judy hadnt been able to come? Being a blind daughter who wants to help her mother get through the indignities and inconvenience of being old, I am helpless when it comes to things like this. Its one of the few times that blindness stops me in my tracks. I have never enjoyed buffets. I always decline when someone asks me if they can just get a plate full of food for me while I wait at the table. Would they like it if somebody else picked out what they were going to eat? Then the food gets all mixed together, unknown bites of salad mixed with green bean casserole in the same forkful. Then I might stick my fork into what I think is a potato and find that Ive stabbed a deviled egg. At least when I make my own choices, I have some notion of what I might be about to put in my mouth. I think there ought to be a practice of putting a little sign on each casserole that is not obviously identified saying what the heck it is. Green stuff just doesnt do it for me. Jell-O? Broccoli? Spinach? It makes a difference to me. And now at this assisted living home, I not only had to face that for myself but also for my mother.

But what annoyed me the most was that the food was spectacularly delicious. Why does this bother me? Its obvious to me that this spread was intended to showcase the quality of food prepared daily for the residents. The truth is that what the residents get on a daily basis is like hog slop compared with what we had yesterday. They might argue that it was meant as a treat for the residents too, but how much of that buffet table made it to the plates of the residents who didnt have family there to see to it? It makes me sad to think of it.


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