Alzheimer’s Anecdotes, Chapter 8: The Bloody Steak

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At 7:57 this evening, the Outback Steak House in Sierra Vista served Pam a bloody rare steak and triggered a massive Alzheimer’s anecdote episode.

Despite our awareness for more than a decade that Pam definitely had the disease, it’s only been this year (2014) that has begun to slam home the inescapable truth that it’s affecting her behavior in public. My beloved redhead had always been able to fake it in front of other people, hiding her illness rather effectively. Her stellar spelling ability was long gone, but proper public decorum (unless she needed to tell off somebody who needed telling off) was a given.

Now…not so much.

It’s not that she wanders around with her panties on her head or anything like that, but…well, let’s just get on with the story; it’s pretty self-explanatory.

Not long before sundown, we climbed into the truck and headed to town by way of Zach’s place. Her son had received a box containing special sheets and a mattress pad for her new Sleep Number bed; we would pick that up, then head on into Sierra Vista so she could gorge on ribeye steak (ordered medium) and unlimited shrimp scampi, her favorite comfort food. She was happily expectant; the last time we’d been to the Outback, her steak had been cooked to perfection and she’d gone through 18 shrimp like a Hoover vacuum on steroids.

All went well enough until some dude from the kitchen (not our young blonde waitress) delivered Pam’s steak…raw. Had that hunk of meat been any less cooked, it would have been stampeding out of the restaurant. That beef critter hadn’t been slaughtered; it had only been wounded a little bit.

The following photo shows the steak AFTER it had been returned to the kitchen and cooked some more.

Pam's ribeye steak at the Outback Steak House in Sierra Vista AFTER it had been returned to the kitchen to be cooked some more. It had been ordered medium.

Pam’s ribeye steak at the Outback Steak House in Sierra Vista AFTER it had been returned to the kitchen to be cooked some more. It had been ordered medium.

One thing that all too obviously sends Pam into a state is the shock of the unexpected and unacceptable. It’s at those moments when a dramatic Alzheimer’s anecdote is most likely to spring to life. When that steak was first presented, bright red from end to end and as raw as a career politician’s naked ambition, she freaked–and picked up the hunk of meat with her fingers, shoving it right back at the idiot who’d been so confident that “medium” meant “still eating grass”. Both of us, Pam and I, were remonstrating with the fellow…who unfortunately seemed a bit nonplussed that the meat–not even cooked enough to be warmer than room temperature–was not acceptable to this particular customer.

It came back a little too quickly, in my opinion. In the meantime, however, Pam moved on, addressing her baked potato, sawing the spud (which fortunately was cooked to perfection) with her steak knife held in one hand…while hanging onto the butter-greasy tuber for dear life with the other hand. In her distress, she’d completely forgotten how to use a fork. Quite possibly, she’d completely spaced the concept of a fork’s existence in the affairs of the Universe.

True, I’d finally gotten her to put the hanging, raw, floppy piece of meat back down on her plate so I could spear it with my own fork and then transfer it to a plate the confused and none too apologetic kitchen dude happened to have handy, but it’s doubtful my fork usage in front of her eyeballs had even registered.

At least she didn’t wipe her meat-greasy and then potato-greasy hand on her jeans; she used the nice, thick black cloth napkin for that. Point for Pam.

I finally got her to sit back and let me crosscut her baked potato for her, using knife and fork as a team. A radical concept, that.

This would not have happened if the steak had been properly cooked in the first place. If it had, she’d have simply admired the thing, murmured appreciatively, “Oh, that looks good!”, and allowed me to cut it up for her as I’ve been doing for some time now. Even in her younger Master Cook years, she was never all that safe around a knife. She wouldn’t likely have tackled the potato, either, allowing me to slice that up for her as well. But unexpected shock is enough to throw this Alzheimer’s sufferer clean off the rails.

Of course, it got worse a bit later. Three waitresses, dressed all in Outback Steak House black like some banana republic’s death squad, marched firmly past our booth to a nearby table and, at the top of their lungs, sang Happy Birthday to a diner. They were at Pam’s back. When the burst of sound slammed through the already loud chatter in the restaurant, Pam jerked, flinched, and hunched over sideways with her hands flying up defensively over her head. Alzheimer’s Disease is not my wife’s only issue; she’s also (among other things) a high strung, nervous type, and paranoid to boot. When the songmeisters finished up with their final “Happy birthday to you”, though, Pam–now somewhat recovered from her initial shell shock–twinkled at me and added quietly in perfect pitch, “…and no-o more!”

The one thing she’s not, is boring.