Monday, November 21, 2011

Alan and the plate of chips

Last visit with Alan a breakthrough, or at least the first time I saw this behavior, that made a laugh run down my spine. Alan took a tortilla chip from the bowl delivered to the table. A big bowl heaped with thin, crispy chips, a small dish of guacamole, and as I daintily dipped my chip, Alan swooped in and took a chip, popped it in his mouth and ate it. From the bowl. It wasn’t his bowl, it was OUR bowl.

You’re saying no doubt – hunh? I know, it sounds pretty humdrum, but it was actually big. This wasn’t easy for Alan. He’s never done it, at least not in front of me. When Alan was living in the institution (33 years) he wasn’t allowed. Strict punishment for stealing food, and no communal bowls or plates of anything. Your own dish of mashed up meat and potatoes. Twenty minutes. ‘Let’s go everyone. Line up! Out the door! Back to your cottage!’ I’ve seen the photos of mealtime at Letchworth and while everyone looks cute in their uniforms, there are hundreds of these children in uniforms in the dining room.

Alan sat alone with me in the booth of the local chain restaurant – smiling from ear to ear. And he plucked a chip, and then, delightedly, another.

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