“How about we try that new place that just opened up near the mall?”
I knew my husband was referring to the new restaurant in town. In the old days, I’d simply agree and that would be that. But now, living with ALS, I’ve learned a thing or two about what’s needed to help keep my adventures in dining just as enjoyable as they were before.
Food, in general, is a touchy subject for many with ALS, and so is accessibility. I always do an online search for the restaurant’s website to thoroughly scrutinize photos and check out their menu. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), places like restaurants have become accessible to all. But when having to navigate walkers, wheelchairs, and mobility devices, one can’t be too careful. Photos of the restaurant’s entrance and interior dining area give me a head’s up to any potential challenges.
Next, I check out their menu offerings and pre-select an item, plus a backup one. Oh, and what I pick definitely needs to be something I can bring home in a box. Why? Well, I don’t know about you, but when we’re seated and our food arrives, the strangest thing happens…
With my plate in front of me, I adjust my napkin, cut the first pieces of food and look up — only to see that my dining companions are nearly finished!
What? Have I been transported to another time dimension, or has the pace of eating become faster?
Disregarding my wonderful husband, who always could consume an entire meal in only eight minutes flat (15 minutes tops for Thanksgiving Dinner), our lives and the world we live in has sped up. Fast talkers, fast movers, and fast eaters. Even the restaurant staff seems to want to move things along.
So, rather than stressing out about the food on my plate and trying to keep pace, I focus instead on what’s around me. I know too well that over time many of us who live with ALS tend to become isolated from outside activities. Dining out gives us the opportunity to be among people, soak up the atmosphere, and see new things. Plus, it’s an automatic boost to our self-esteem and confidence to know we’re still capable of these types of excursions.
No doubt about it, ALS has made me appreciate and savor each of life’s moments. And yes, I’m an honorary member of the “one-thing-at-a-time club,” so in the end, I don’t mind that I’m carrying my meal home in a box.
Even though no two journeys are alike, and each of our stages of ALS and rates of progression differ widely from each other, I believe ALS patients can and should continue to participate in social activities, such as dining out.
All it takes is a little pre-planning, the help of your support team, and a good sense of humor.
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