On the twenty-third day, my gift was to help feed my friend a hot dog. Alex is an old, dear friend from back in our New York days, and he and his wife came to Florida because Dan and I found them a home and insisted. They were able to transfer their jobs from chilly New York to Port St. Lucie, which was growing exponentially practically every week. Florida has been really good to them, much better than New York ever was, and though we didn’t see one another often, we’ve always had the kind of friendship where you picked right back up where you left off. So when Alex fell at work and suffered a brain bleed – a big one, Dan and I were happy to be able to jump in and help be there for he and MaryAnn.
The recovery is slow though, and Alex is staying in a rehab facility near his home right now, and he will likely be there for a while to come. His progress is slow, which is understandable given his advanced age, and today Dan and I showed up to visit him just as MaryAnn was signing the visitor log for her daily pilgrimage to be by his side. He’d been asking for a hot dog every day, and believe it or not, the rehab facility wasn’t keen on serving it to him, but MaryAnn always finds a way to please her husband, so a hot dog was on the tray, heavy with onions and smelling like a gas station hot dog. But MaryAnn had to do some errand-running and pick up some paperwork to finalize her leave of absence from work, so she and Dan left me with Alex to visit and help him with his lunch.
Dan could eat hot dogs every day! He loves them with a passion that I can only liken to my love of chocolate, but because we know they’re not healthy, we try to limit our hot dog consumption to a couple times a year unless Dan has some massive craving and wears me down. Alex and I attacked the hot dog, and it was slow going because I knew he had to practice eating on his own. MaryAnn might not always be there to feed him, and he already feels so useless since the surgery that it was good for Dan to take MaryAnn away and me to have a chance to sit with him. It took an hour to get through a single hot dog, and even then he left a couple of bites in order to save room for the cookie sandwich the nurse brought in on his otherwise untouched lunch tray.
Sitting in a room, making small talk while my friend worked on accomplishing the simplest of tasks – feeding himself – gave me a chance to give a gift to him. I gave him the gift of my time and humor, and he gave me the gift of enjoying just spending time with a friend. I know I will never win awards for my patience…I won’t even place in that contest, but today my gift was to just chill out and relax, enjoying the small bit of time my friend and I could share together as he tries to make his way back to the world. And for today, that was a pretty good gift for both of us.