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Daze of My Life: Dinner with My Parents

Daze of My Life
Dinner with My Parents

I have a problem (just one?) and surprise, surprise, it has to do with food, but it's not the problem you regular readers might think, given our seven-year history together. No, the problem to which I refer has to do with my mother and my wife, and myself, and what it is I tell either one I've already eaten before I find myself eating with them, or not. Let me try to explain.
Two to three nights per week, I eat dinner with my parents, either at their home or out at a restaurant. The getting together with them for dinner is more about family than it is about food, so it matters not where we go to dinner or what we eat at home as much as it matters that whatever we do we're together when we're doing it. Moreover, given certain age and health considerations of my parents, the meals I eat there are not particularly well-balanced or as nutritious as they once might have been. Instead, it's more important that the meals are easily prepared and quickly cleaned up. As for dinners out, again mindful of my parent's needs, it's more important that the restaurant be local, with zero wait and quick, efficient service; all requirements to provide them the most satisfying evening possible, as it absolutely should be.
That being established, my dilemma begins around 4 PM, when I arrive home from work after a long day of not eating much. As such, I'm hungry so I'll snack or I'll eat dinner early (which is a problem for my wife, Dina, but that's another story). However, if it's a night when I'll be eating dinner with my parents, I might eat a bit more than a snack before I leave. Why? Because as has happened too many times to ignore, when I go to my parent's house hungry, dinner (whether in or out) will be modest, shall we say, and I'll finish the meal hungry. Conversely, on those late afternoons when I eat more than a snack, anticipating that dinner will be light: a bologna sandwich, a hot dog, a doggie bag, etc., invariably those are the evenings when dinner will be balanced, nutritious and filling. So I'll either be stuffed or starving.
Granted, having will power would help but so would having meal information in advance. But since neither of my parents can hear very well, the prospects of discussing, planning and/or deciding on dinner over the phone are, practically speaking (and listening), nearly impossible. As a result, it's rare that I'll know much about dinner until I actually arrive at their home.
Now my mother, being my mother, wants to make sure that I'm getting enough to eat, though I'm hardly undernourished. So, upon my arrival, she'll ask if I've had much to eat that day. If I say "Yes, I've eaten today," and then dinner is indeed filling, she'll likely comment AFTER the meal, "KB, 50 pounds, that's all you need to lose, then you'd look like a million bucks." If I say "No, I haven't eaten much," and then dinner is less than filling, my mother will worry that I haven't had enough to eat and feel somehow responsible, which of course, she isn't.
Either way I'll have eaten too much or too little and with each meal scenario, my mother will have concerns. And since I don't want my mother to have any more concerns than she already has, I make light of whatever we eat, or don't eat, wherever we are when dinner is served. If I eat a lot, it's because I ate a little earlier; if I eat a little, it's because I ate a lot earlier. (Overall, I'm eating plenty, regardless of what I tell my mother, and that's the real problem.)
Next week: Whether or not I should have dessert at my parent's house, not knowing when my wife, Dina, will be home from work and then when home if she'll even be interested in having dessert, which we would normally have together, and if she asks, what I tell her I had for dessert at my parent's house.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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