Elder Series – Fine Dining

M Dawn Thacker has compiled a series of short stories about elders, their experiences aging, and the challenges they face. M Dawn continues her series with Fine Dining…


Linen table coverings, cloth napkins, heavier weight stainless steel cutlery, crystal glasses with stems, china cups and saucers, a bud vase with alstroemeria, whose colors change weekly, soft classical music on the stereo, nursing assistants trained as waiters and waitresses, administrative staff schooled in hostessing, all efforts to make meals more civilized in the nursing home dining room.

“Where is my coffee?” Jim yells from his wheelchair at the corner table. “All I want is a damn cup of coffee.”

“Shut up that yelling and cursing, nobody wants to hear that!” Mrs. Wells, the large woman in a gaudy flowered duster who’s seated at one of the middle tables, yells back at Jim.

“You shut the hell up!” He counters.

Aproned Staff bustle off to the two tables to run interference. They distract Jim and Mrs. Wells with coffee and quiet conversation.

Jack picks his nose and Jenny who sits next to him slaps his hand. He looks up, surprised, but doesn’t retaliate.

Mr. Peterson and Mr. Young discuss opening day of Major League baseball. They are the epitome of fine dining. Staff members hold them up as an example to others.

The cook is behind the serving window, dropping serving pans noisily into the metal steam table. He tears off the plastic and foil coverings, sticks thermometers and ladles into the recognizable and unrecognizable textures and colors of today’s offerings. He adjusts his chef’s hat and apron as to look his best at the part he plays in this event.

A nursing assistant sits at one of the tables, having moved aside the dinnerware. She sorts meal tickets with each resident’s name and diet. She grumbles, “Dietary never puts these tickets in order. Every day, I have to take time to sort them by table.” Servers can’t serve one at a table without serving all, someone would steal a French fry from a neighbor’s plate; a fight would ensue.

The main meal today is fried chicken, scalloped potatoes, green beans and a whole wheat roll. The alternate is turkey pot pie. The sandwich of the day is egg salad. No one likes turkey pot pie. There will be leftovers.

“Would you like me to cut up your chicken for you?” a nursing assistant offers as she slides a plate onto the table.

No one in this room, save Mrs. Pietsch, who graduated from finishing school before she married the judge, has ever cut their fried chicken off the bone. Since age two, when they were old enough to chew food safely, these folks have picked up the wing, leg or thigh with their fingers and have pulled the meat off with their teeth, picking the bones clean like a scavenger and sucking them afterward. They grew up on farms where that was expected. They didn’t waste anything, not even the marrow. Staff offer a knife and fork though, because this is fine dining.

“That’s my sugar!” Ethel screeches from her seat under the chandelier.

“Don’t have your damn name on it,” Katie, her tablemate, answers, tearing the paper envelope and pouring the contents into her iced tea. Staff run to intervene, trailing squares of white and pink packets in their wake as they strive to head off another argument.

At 12:43, all tables have been served and refills of beverages have been offered. Staff gather to regroup in a back corner, formulating a game plan. The dessert cart is on its way from the kitchen and the final round of fine dining is about to begin.


Fine Dining © 2011 M Dawn Thacker. Read M Dawn’s latest on Now.readthisplease.com and check back for the next story in her Elder Series.



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