Saturday, August 12, 2006

Liebfraumilch

Nurse Jane comes to visit Bea, tucked into bed and just about as comfy as a bedridden can possibly be. I peel back the covers. Pillows are wedged here and there. Bea wears a fresh nightie and a tranquil smile. Lucy was in to give a bed bath earlier. It is almost as if she had stuck a magic wand in her back pocket, and while she worked, a fine pellicle of pixie dust had settled over everything, including my mother. The team from Hospice & Palliative Care of Cape Cod all seem like fairies. Having their support makes home care so much easier.

“Let me sleep,” Bea says when I try to wake her. “Go away. I want to sleep.”

“Nurse Jane is here to see you,” I say. “She wants to examine your bedsore.”

Bea opens one eye and immediately closes it, more tightly this time.

“Can I at least check your blood pressure?” asks Jane.

“No.”

So, Jane and I stand there, on either side of the bed, and chat for a while in the hope it will inspire Bea to join us. Bea plays possum, but we know she is listening intently. After a few minutes, Jane checks the bedsore, and together we “flip” Bea.

“She hasn’t been accepting any fluids recently,” I tell Jane. “Milk, orange juice, chocolate milk, water, cranberry – I’ve tried everything.”

“You need to drink, Bea,” says Jane, pragmatic as ever. She reaches down and runs a finger affectionately along her patient's nose. “If you had a choice, what drink would you want? What’s your drink of choice?”

“Wine.”

“Wine?!” Jane purses her lips. “What kind? White, red?”

“White.”

“Any special type?”

Bea squeaks out the word, “Liebfraumilk.”

I recognize the name immediately as an old favorite of hers, Germany's most exported wine, sweet, inexpensive, and generally looked down upon by connoisseurs. This was what my parents drank for years until I imposed my French tastes and started buying Pinot Grigio.

With Jane’s blessing, I go to the liquor store and purchase a bottle of Liebfraumilk. Triumphantly I carry in a glass with a flexible straw. Bea draws in the sweet liquid. Then her face decomposes into a grimace as if I had brought lemon juice.

“Too sour!” she exclaims furrowing not only her brow but her whole face.

I know how sweet Liebfraumilk is. I take a sip to make sure. Yes, sickly sweet.

Tastes must change as we age …

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