The Little Things Can Mean So Much
The other morning, I woke up to find a note on my husband’s wheelchair cushion: “Buttercup, please cook the sausage. Love, Todd.”
He was reminding me of the bratwurst I had pulled out of the freezer a couple days before. His arms haven’t worked in years because he has ALS, so the note was obviously written by his nighttime caregiver. Nonetheless, I smiled, remembering the days, early in our marriage, when he would leave for work before I awoke. He would often write a note addressed to Buttercup, telling me that he loved me.
Neither Todd nor I can remember how he came to call me Buttercup.
I forget the little things.
Maybe Todd got the name from “The Princess Bride,” but he doesn’t think he had seen the movie when he started calling me Buttercup. Maybe he had seen the tiny flowers growing in my parents’ field, but he hadn’t been to the Upper Peninsula in early summer until after we moved here, after he had ALS and we were building an accessible home next door to my parents’.
I miss the little things.
On pre-ALS Saturday mornings, Todd would often cook a gourmet omelet for me. His hands moved in a blur, finely chopping ham, onions, peppers, and tomatoes with a chef’s knife. He preheated oil in a cast-iron skillet, and the ham sizzled when he threw it into the pan. He staged the other ingredients, adding them at just the right time so the flavors would meld, and each ingredient was cooked to perfection. He set the sautéed mixture aside, cooked the beaten eggs, and then folded the ingredients inside. He sprinkled the top of the omelet with the pinch of cheddar he had shredded from a block of Wisconsin cheese.
ALS is a disease of big losses, but I also grieve the loss of little things. Todd’s ALS was upper limb onset, so by time he was diagnosed in June 2010, his omelet-cooking days were already over.
I grieved a big loss that summer, the diagnosis that brought the thought of imminent death for the love of my life — my partner, the father of my children, the man with whom I shared dreams of travel and adventure. I didn’t think something so little, so trivial, would be missed so much.
But then at the end of July, as I was sleeping in on my birthday, Todd called me for breakfast. He had coached his sister, who was visiting that weekend, on how to cook me one of his signature omelets.
I sat at the table with sorrowful joy and tasted perfection one more time. So unexpected, so delicious.
It’s a little thing, but Todd works hard so that I don’t forget. When I was recovering from an outpatient surgery last fall, and we hired a caregiver for Todd while I was out of commission, he taught her how to cook one of his omelets for my breakfast.
There are so many losses with this disease — but sometimes delightful little surprises, too.
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