Alzheimer’s Anecdotes, Chapter 7: Meatloaf Cowgirl


There’s an occasional Alzheimer’s Disease anecdote that leaves both the sufferer and his or her primary caretaker just a-bubbling with humor and good feelings. I don’t mean the out-of-bounds, off base things the brain produces on a regular basis as the disease progresses, though there are plenty of those. No, what I’m referring to is the welcome flash of brilliance that lets you know your beloved is still in there, still able to shine forth in glory from time to time.

Yesterday, Pam came in to wake me up a bit earlier than she would have normally done. She was excited. “All five boxes of your Sleep Number bed have come in,” she announced, her face glowing. “Zach’s got them all at his house. I knew you’d want to wake up for that!”

“Indeed,” I grunted, happy to see her enthusiasm but not exactly rested after a few hours on the Sealy mattress that had been my sleeping spot for the last four years. “Call me in another hour, will you?”

Going back to sleep was a lost cause. My wife was energized. She assured me she could go take a shower without my help, indeed she could. Before long, still only half awake, I was sitting on the toilet–not taking care of business, just hanging around in case she’d overestimated her capabilities.

Surprisingly, she hadn’t.

We climbed into the truck, put the rig in four wheel drive to ease through the ever trickier wash en route to the highway, and motored on up to the Country House Restaurant. We’d grab lunch first, then pick up a clean new tarp from Home Depot and head for Zach’s.

Naturally, she had a bit of trouble deciding what to order. This has been a bit of a lifetime challenge for her, much exacerbated by her Alzheimer’s Disease. She dithered. Finally, though, she asked a question I didn’t expect. “Have you had the meatloaf? How is it?”

“I have had it. A couple of times. And it’s not bad. It’s not yours, but it’s not bad.”

That’s another thing Alzheimer’s has sabotaged. When Pam and I met eighteen years ago, she was one hellacious cook. I doubted her immediate claim that she could fatten me up; I’d never run much over 170 pounds and didn’t figure a new cook in my life could make a difference. I was wrong. Fourteen months later, I stepped on the scale at 196 pounds, every bit of the extra sticking out of front me in an enormous gut. Her German chicken, brisket, you name it, mm-mm!! But the last time she made meatloaf, right here at the Border Fort, it was barely edible. We got one meal out of it before abandoning the remainder to the desert.

The wild critters didn’t mind, of course. They’d eaten worse.

Anyway, she ordered the meatloaf at Country House. The restaurant always puts plenty of it on the plate, usually two sizeable slices with mashed potatoes and gravy. Our meals came…and both of us stared at her meatloaf plate in shock. The cook hadn’t given her a couple of slices; he’d given her what looked like the whole meatloaf, or at least a good fraction of it. It wasn’t sliced at all. Except for being severed from whatever remained back in the kitchen, the mound of meat was an unbroken monolithic monster.

“Whoa,” Pam exclaimed, “they must really want me to gain weight!”

“It wasn’t like that when I ordered it!” We were both laughing, finding the gastronomic giant on the plate pretty danged humorous. Had the cook simply had that end of the meatloaf left and simply forgotten to do any slicing? Was he stoned out of his gourd? A practical joker? Angry because some previous diner had complained the slices weren’t thick enough? What?

“I’m really going to have to cowgirl up to eat all this,” Pam said, a reference to the tee shirt she was wearing which bore the legend, COWGIRL UP.

“Babe, I couldn’t have eaten all that when I was fifteen.” At fifteen, I could down four sloppy joes and never even blink, but this? Not a chance. “I’ve got to get a photo of that.”

“Oh. You do?” Seeing me dig out the Canon PowerShot, my little entertainer began cycling through her repertoire of facial expressions, searching for just the right one for this historic occasion. She could have easily done a stage act in her day and did in fact perform on stage with Janis Joplin at Woodstock. Her timing is impeccable…and just as the shutter clicked, she nailed the perfect expression. One side of her mouth is twisted up in a half smile. Her eyes are bugged way out, staring a the meat monster in front of her.

This, I knew the moment I saw it, is a classic. A keeper. One for the ages.

The meatloaf cowgirl.  Startled, she stares bug-eyed at the mountain of meatloaf served unsliced by the restaurant staff.

The meatloaf cowgirl. Startled, she stares bug-eyed at the mountain of meatloaf served unsliced by the restaurant staff.

After our little snack, we stopped at Zach’s where we loaded the Sleep Number boxes in the back of the truck and headed out with Zach, Stephanie (Mrs. Zach), and Will (friend of family) following in their Volkswagen Beetle. At the wash on Paloma Trail, the Bug was parked (no way it could cross the wash) and Stephy climbed in the cab with us while the guys rode in the truck bed. Zach and Stephy had a use for my old mattress, but most of all, I needed a bit of help getting the Sealy out of the house. Corners have gotten tighter over the years.

Zach and I work as a well oiled team, but we found assignments for Will, too. He became a man of multiple titles, Door Dude for a while (holding the door open while watching for any overly adventurous cats who might like the taste of freedom or hear the call of the wild), then Tarp Supervisor, lying on the clean new tarp in the dirty old truck bed so the tarp wouldn’t blow away while Zach and I were fetching the mattress.

Back we all went, across the wash and yonder to Zach’s place. (Yeah, Stephy’s place, too, but for brevity I’m calling it Zach’s place.) The Sealy mattress and box spring were unloaded. Pam and I were done, except of course that I’d likely be up most of the night putting my new Sleep Number unit together.

Not yet, though. We weren’t going home yet. My wife frequently complains that I don’t want her going to town with me. That’s not entirely true–I mostly don’t want her going to Walmart. On impulse, I asked her, “Want to go to the Outback for supper before we go home?” I didn’t want her permanently traumatized, her nights filled with dream visions of mountains of meatloaf.

Surprised–very surprised–she accepted immediately…and, at the Outback, ate well, consuming a decent portion of her filet mignon steak and eighteen shrimp that were made available through the restaurant’s Steak and All the Shrimp You Can Eat offer.

That’s my meatloaf cowgirl. She may have Alzheimer’s, but there are days when she can still rise to the challenge.

Unfortunately, she tried out my new Sleep Number bed today, and now she wants to trade beds.

9 thoughts on “Alzheimer’s Anecdotes, Chapter 7: Meatloaf Cowgirl

  1. That chunk of meatloaf is amazing. I have never ordered it there, but everything else I have tried will fill up almost anyone and tastes great. They have great food. You could definitely fatten her up at that place. The expression on her face is priceless too..

  2. It really is amazing. Not that she was able to eat it all! But still. I keep calling it Country Kitchen, but other than that….

    She definitely got that expression exactly right. 🙂

  3. Holy Mackerel! That’s one hunka meat! What were they thinking? Did she take a doggy bag home?

    I think it’s too cool Pam was on stage with Janis Joplin at Woodstock. Did she sing? Play an instrument?

    I suppose you’ll be ordering another Sleep Number bed in the not too distant future, huh?

  4. Sha: Yes, she did take a doggy bag home, but not for herself. There are wild critters who gladly clean the desert every night.

    Pam sang on stage with Janis. Becky’s husband even recognized her on sight when they arrived here in Cochise County; she (Pam) and Janis show up together in the very early portion of the Woodstock movie, which was showing on TV.

    ALREADY ordered another Sleep Number bed. Absolute top of the line (this being for Pam, duh), retails for a lot more than mine–but got it online, where they provided huge discounts (which the store did not). Final pricing, the two beds cost about the same.


    Becky: I’m sleeping pretty will with the new bed. Still fiddling with the Sleep Number adjustment a bit. I tend to sleep in different positions throughout the night (or morning as the case may be). Not tossing and turning, just shifting every so often. Belly down, facing right, is the trickiest; get that wrong, and I get a crick in my neck. At the moment, 30 seems to be the best number–you have to adjust in increments of 5.

  5. Ghost, I searched You Tube for videos of JJ at Woodstock. The only one that gives her entire performance is accompanied by stills. What song(s) did Pam sing with her? Was Pam back up? I’m desperate to find a video of Pam with Janis. Can you steer me in the right direction?

  6. Sha, I don’t believe you’ll find it on YouTube. The movie Dennis & Becky saw was on TV. I’m guessing it was the documentary mentioned in Wikipedia:
    “Woodstock is a 1970 American documentary of the watershed counterculture Woodstock Festival that took place in August 1969 at Bethel in New York. Entertainment Weekly called this film the benchmark of concert movies and one of the most entertaining documentaries ever made. The film was directed by Michael Wadleigh and was edited by (amongst others) Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker; Schoonmaker was nominated for an Academy Award for Film Editing.”
    The documentary is available on Amazon, two DVD’s, Director’s Cut. Don’t know if that cut has Janis & Pam on it or not; will let you know once we’ve received & reviewed the product. Neither Pam nor I have seen the film with her in it.

    Pam and Janis sang side by side, or rather, bouncing all around the stage. Janis’s performance ran late Saturday night (2:00 to 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning).

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