One of my family’s favorite activities is a candlelit dinner. The dinners aren’t necessarily about the food but about the great conversation that typically happens during a meal. While visiting California, Corey set up a bunch of dinners so we could see old friends and meet new ones.
Dinners have become a little bit difficult for me because I’m having trouble swallowing and because my fingers, hands and arms are weak which makes it hard to feed myself. So for some reason I get a little nervous or maybe a little self-conscious about my disabilities during meals, though I know I shouldn’t because friends and family don’t care and are so willing to help.
Our first dinner on the trip was with one of my best friends from high school, Nancy Mingle Bates, and her husband Michael. We dined outside at a beautiful oceanside restaurant near San Luis Obispo, California. We all ordered fish and chips which was a relief to me because I could pick it up with my fingers rather than using a knife and fork which is difficult for me to do.
Our second dinner was at Bevan and Corey’s house. They invited José Cisneros and Mark Kelleher over for pasta. At the start of dinner Corey poured me an inch of wine in a light plastic cup because it was easier for me to lift. The meal started with appetizers and without hesitation our friend Mark offered to put crab dip on a chip for me, which made it easy for me to eat. During the course of the meal I started to choke a little so I walked away from the table. Everyone casually kept talking while Mark and Corey helped me get back to normal and return to the table. No one made a big deal out of it, they just acknowledged it and kept talking. My speech is also slowing down, but everyone listened attentively with patience as I told my stories. The dinner conversation was lovely and I ended the night feeling as though I had climbed a mountain.
On Tuesday of last week Ronnie Matthews, one of Bryan’s best friends from St. Michael’s Elementary, drove three hours from Fresno to visit us in San Francisco. Mark had to run an errand for part of the day so he left Ronnie and I alone to venture out to get something to eat. Ronnie was so protective and gently held my hand as we walked to the restaurant. It felt so good to see the boy I’ve known since he was very little grow up into such a beautiful, kind and gentle young man.
That same night we hosted our nephew Christopher and another Muskegon friend Deborah Ferguson and her boyfriend Adam who all currently live in San Francisco. Deborah and Adam brought food, wine and dessert to make our dinner easier for us. They were all very helpful and understanding. I hadn’t seen Christopher since I was diagnosed, so when he saw me walk for the first time he immediately got up and hugged me tight as if to say “I’m sorry.”
The last two dinner parties were hosted by Peter and Maureen Keller who flew in from Vancouver, Washington to visit their daughter Kari and to meet us. Corey and Kari became great friends while working at Square and were excited for their families to get to know one another.
Kari’s parents arrived in San Francisco around 2:00pm on Thursday, bought groceries, cooked a meal and hosted a fabulous spaghetti dinner at 7:00pm. Kari invited friends Marc and his wife Marlowe, Adam and his girlfriend Chris and Beth to join us. Mark and I met all of these wonderful people last year and were anxious to see them again, even though I was a little nervous. But during the course of dinner everyone offered to help and made me feel very comfortable. While having dinner I got a little messy because of my lack of coordination and Mark said I had a little spaghetti on my face. Chris was sitting next to me and immediately helped me clean my face like it was no big deal.
On our last night in San Francisco we went to a popular restaurant called Bar Tartine to try to see Mary and Charlie Fritz’s daughter Molly. Bevan was sitting close to me and cut up my food and served me. By now I am beginning to feel comfortable with people helping me.
After dinner we headed to Easy Breezy for dessert and by the end of our evening I was tired and my arms felt heavy so my right arm dropped while eating my frozen yogurt. Corey picked up my spoon and fed me my last few bites. When I was finished I said to him, “We’ve come full circle.”
Our San Francisco trip was different this time than last but awesome anyway thanks to all of the wonderful people we saw. Mark and I won’t be so nervous to venture out next time because everything turned out better than we could have imagined.