Lorie Sheffer is back with her enlightening look at fast food and happiness:
Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. – Nathaniel Hawthorne
I dreaded going to the nursing home. The 80 days of visiting my dad in the hospital and the two weeks in the rehabilitation hospital were draining at times, but not as depressing as the nursing facility. Insurance for hospitalization has ended now, but thankfully he can finish recovering in a nursing home where he can get the minimal care he still requires and the physical therapy he desperately needs. We can’t worry about the atmosphere at this stage. It is difficult for him, psychologically, to be there, but it is temporary and we have no choice. I try to think of things to lighten the mood and to make his stay as normal as possible. He refuses to eat in the dining room. Maybe just having lost my aunt to Alzheimer’s a few years ago, he is not ready to be in that setting, especially considering all he has been through. Interacting with the residents is too emotionally draining for him at this point.
Driving across town gave me time to think of something to do for him. Harley Davidson had just ended its shift and traffic was almost at a standstill. He hinted to me more than once that he enjoys Wendy’s baked potatoes and chicken sandwiches more than restaurant food. I think this comment was in response to my raving about Thai food I had one afternoon. Continuing west on route 30, I saw the giant inflatable Frosty perched atop Wendy’s, and my decision was made. When I got to the drive thru, confusion set in. There are several types of chicken sandwiches from which to choose. Knowing my father as I do, I immediately ruled out the spicy one, and then just randomly guessed at which to choose. Homestyle; that sounded like Dad. But I also decided to get a deluxe cheeseburger just in case. I agonized for the 5 minutes it took me to get to the nursing home. What if I got the wrong thing? He was sitting in his room, alone, waiting for the staff to bring his tray of soup and sandwich. The residents eat their main meal at noon and just have a light dinner. When he saw the Wendy’s bags his eyes lit up. My guess about the chicken was correct, so now I had a cheeseburger left in the bag. The nurse came in and smiled that Dad was getting some “real” food. I asked her if she knew anyone who was interested in a cheeseburger. She said she didn’t think so, but then she got an idea. Apparently the lady across the hall refuses to eat. Sometimes her family brings things in for her. They have to coax her. The nurse took the bag across the hall. She came back with a huge smile on her face. “You just made her day!” I never saw this lady, but I got the report that she ate the entire burger and she enjoyed every bite of it.
When I got into my car later that evening, I didn’t feel the anxiety and exhaustion I normally feel. I had a smile on my face. I was happy that I was able to take something in for Dad, but I was thinking more about how I was able to randomly do something nice for someone who I have still never even laid eyes on. Something as small as a cheeseburger, which was an afterthought that I would have thrown away had nobody wanted it, had meant that this elderly lady could enjoy a taste of the outside world. Maybe sometimes we just over think things, assuming it requires some grand gesture to make people happy, when in fact we can make someone else’s day for the price of a fast food burger.