Though I like to think of myself as a quasi-vegetarian, there is no denying the occasional craving for a bloody steak now and again. This afternoon we were out and I decided I really didn't want to cook - ever again, if I were pressed to admit - so I suggested a meal out. After laying before Michael all the acceptable options - fast food preferably but I might consider a real meal at a real restaurant if the service was quick - he hesitated for several minutes then uttered one word: Steak.
Poor Michael is not a vegetarian even though he is subjected to tofu-this and soy-that on a regular basis. Many years ago when I served my rather tasty tofu cutlets for the first time, he declared it was akin to eating erasers. Too bad. All future meals of tofu cutlets were then served with copious amounts of chutney for his sake. I won't say he came to love them but he learned to be a good boy and choke down half a cutlet with gobs of sauce and large glasses of beer in the days when he was still allowed such pleasures.
But when the idea of steak was presented to me, my hungry taste buds went into overdrive. As we were heading back towards home at this point, I quickly racked my brain for a suitable restaurant. It was only late afternoon (we had skipped lunch) so the crowds would be minimal making our arrival and departure less of a freak show for the assembled diners.
I declared this first meal in a real restaurant in over a year and a half to be a celebration of that anniversary I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. A year ago on August 30 I busted my husband out of hospital, leaving a trail of bloodied floors, wounded nurses and annoyed doctors. He was not released on good behaviour, I can assure you of that.
We were celebrating something else too, though Michael was unaware of the significance. We were returning home from a visit with his 87-year-old mother who was rushed into hospital over three days ago with severe pain in her leg, tachycardia and an elevation in her white blood cell count, though the last two symptoms were only discovered at the hospital. She could not walk and had to be carried out of her home on a stretcher. This poor woman, who has been fiercely independent in her own home until now, was lying frightened and disheartened that nobody could figure out why the pain in her leg is still so bad, rendering her completely unable to walk. Obviously, if the problem doesn't sort itself out, she cannot go home and we will have to make other living arrangements for her. Like so many of her generation, she has no intention of living anywhere but home, though now she is at least open to the idea of a few days in a convalescent home if necessary once she is discharged.
I have visited her three of the past four days in hospital, the first two with the help of a friend or our caregiver to sit with Michael. I had little desire to risk taking him in to see his mother while she was languishing in the emergency ward but resolved to take him if and when she is transferred up to a proper room on a ward. Well, that hasn't happened yet; the hospital she is in is so overcrowded there simply isn't a bed for her. When I spoke to her this morning on the phone, she sounded so unhappy and frightened that I couldn't bear leaving her there all day alone. So early this afternoon when he was finally mobile, I packed Michael and his wheelchair into the car and off we went.
Emergency wards, in fact all things associated with hospitals, are anathema to Michael, as you may remember. Both his mother and I had agreed that he would not visit her there, but since the likelihood of her ever being transferred elsewhere during this stay is slim, I decided to risk it.
We stayed well over an hour with my mother-in-law who seemed genuinely happy to see us and our pile of newspapers and books, despite her frustration, fatigue and fear. Michael was perfect, not the least bit perturbed, so we have promised to try again tomorrow.
A celebration of a thick, juicy steak was definitely in order.