Art and Words by Aster Woods – Aster is caregiver to her mother
03/08/2020 10.32 AM Clean Bedroom
03/08/2020 10.52 AM Find Last Night’s Dinner
03/08/2020 10.55 AM Have Difficult Conversation about Vegetables
I want her to eat vegetables. I want her to eat vegetables so much. I have a Pinterest board full of creative ideas for hiding them, or else making them fun; all are designed for fussy children, not adults. My mum has her sense of taste eroded and warped through too many medications. It tastes metallic, chemical, or burns as if it’s causing an allergic reaction. Almost all foods have turned against her, from vegetables all the way to her beloved chocolate oranges. But it’s the vegetables I care about.
Food tastes bad. I know, I know. But you need vegetables, I say. Your body needs these nutrients, now more than ever. She refuses. She will eat: pasta, cheese, fish fingers, and sausages. But vegetables, I say. You always made me eat my vegetables, as a kid when you were taking care of me and not the other way around. I had to even when I didn’t want to and now it’s payback time. I will meet you halfway, I say. I will blend carrots into cheese sauce on your pasta. I will bake onions into a quiche; you might care about them less if they’re smuggled under bacon, if you don’t have to look them in the eye.
It doesn’t work. I’m dying, she says. Why should I care how much worse I get? There’s no being healthy for me. Healthy is not an option for me. I am and will continue to be unhealthy until I die this year or next year. Any time, really. I am suffering enough. Why can’t I do what I want, now? Why does this have to be harder on me?
I spend half an hour angry, then tearful, then angry again.
I understand. I think. She’s got a point; she knows that eating broccoli now will make no difference to a body already eating itself. I know this too. I know I cannot make her healthy again. But I am selfish. I am still the child, her child. Why can’t she do this for me? Doesn’t she owe me something, don’t all mothers owe their children something? For the sacrifices I have made for her, why can she let me feel I am making a difference? If she were my daughter, and I was her mother, I would force her to eat her vegetables. There is a well-published litany of tactics for this. If you eat your vegetables, you will have ice cream for dessert. You’re not leaving the table until you eat your vegetables. I have neither stick nor carrot for her. There is no treat she can enjoy anymore, no punishment I could inflict worse than her existing suffering.
But I’m not giving up.