Plastic Spoons

Maybe I am losing it; maybe I am a little bit more dysfunctional than I would like to believe. There was the day when I wrote your banking people, a week after you died, the letter that we would have written together if there had been time. The mailing address was a PO Box. I transposed the ZIP code into the PO box number, and checked it twice, and the letter was returned as undeliverable.

But now I’m talking about those little plastic spoons I bought while you were in the nursing facility. Western Family brand, 24 Heavy Duty Plastic spoons, shatter resistant, about 29 cents. OK, this is the twenty-first Century — say about 79 cents.

I also bought the plastic Styrofoam cups, 15 oz. size. Just seeing them now is a real problem. I put them away, but I should just throw them out.

We never bought such things. We drink out of real glasses and eat with real utensils. The plastic was my bright idea to solve a transportation problem. You would remember them as the vehicle by which I smuggled your home-made milkshakes into the nursing facility. Vanilla ice cream, milk and real Double Stuffed Oreo cookies: real, home-made “Cookies and Cream”.

I know what many people would think. There are about 14 spoons left and half a pack of cups. He is going to rhapsodize on how he hates waste, how he hates throwing out a few pennies of plastic. Suspicious of myself, I thought of that. That’s not it.

I hate reminders of failure. As a kid, I could accept the occasional failing grade, but I didn’t frame the report cards.

Those cups and spoons carried on a tradition you started. When you still liked cooking and made your breakfasts and desserts (I did the dinners), you made imaginative milkshake concoctions to augment the flavor of the protein and calorie supplements. It was all part of our program to reverse that dreadful weight loss. Avalanche ice cream, cookies and cream, real chocolate — you could eat as much as you wanted. The only problem was, it wasn’t enough.

I invented the cookies and cream “from scratch” recipe. It was good for a few trips to the nursing facility, but by then you were down to close to eighty pounds.

Others may just see wasted plastic spoons that will never get used. I see failure. No, I am not talking about a personal shortcoming — no one tried harder than the two of us to restore your appetite. To me, the ice cream was valiant but insufficient. I know you liked it, so it was not irrelevant. When I see those dreadful plastic spoons now, I see an indescribable horror staring me in the face. I lost you.

You were not able to finish the last shake. On November 2d, I wrote about how you used to make me feel like a king for thoughtfulness far simpler than that milkshake:

This is not about me, ashamed as I ask,
how is the shake? Two brave sips, and then
"good", you reply, but you are glad to see me,
and we smile and visit again, your eyes now bright,
before you close them again to doze,
shake forgotten as yesterday, as we say goodnight.

Goodnight, I whisper again, misty-eyed:
let these goodbyes be always just for tonight,
alone and fearful on the inside,
and see-you-tomorrow on the outside.

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