Friday, November 16, 2018

Tanya's secret

I took Tanya shopping a couple of weeks ago because she was getting ready for a trip. She has befriended a Ukrainian pop star who had a big show that weekend in the Moscow Kremlin. A bunch of her groupie friends planned to meet for the show and a night on the town afterwards. Naturally, one doesn't go to Moscow unprepared, so she wanted my help going to a big mall where she could shop for accessories.

I hadn't eaten lunch, and by the time she completed her spree I was eager to eat. We found a restaurant in the mall, a pizza joint. Unfortunately, neither of us wanted pizza so I read her the entire rest of the menu. Steak. There was no doubt in my mind that she wanted the steak, but she wouldn't order it because she knew it must be the most expensive thing on the menu. She doesn't eat much at all, and never anything like this, so I encouraged her by ordering salmon steak for myself, at the same price. (Eleven dollars. I'm not throwing money around here.)

The steak took a long time, probably because they had to thaw it before they could cook it. But it was one of the nicest-looking pieces of meat I've seen in Belarus and they prepared it just right. I enjoyed watching Tanya enjoy it and commented that she was the first person I'd noticed in Belarus who knows how to hold a knife and fork. She guessed that she'd learned from movies before she lost her sight, but maybe she picked it up from family: there's some royalty back in her lineage.

Further, this conversation elicited a secret. Tanya told me that she had not eaten with knife and fork since she lost her vision, and she felt flummoxed eight years later when I took her out to lunch for the first time. Presented with silverware, she thought, "Well, I used to know how to do this. I'd better give it a shot." I did notice that she grew more successful at cleaning her plate during the two-plus years we've known each other, but I'm very amused to learn that this is such a new skill.

I wrote a draft of the paragraphs above before Tanya’s trip, but didn’t publish it right away because I wanted to get her permission. She agreed, and she told me that there’s a sequel. In Moscow her gang of groupies got together for a big meal. Some of them only knew each other from the internet, and many of them were unaware of Tanya’s disability. But the friend at her side knew, of course, and offered to help Tanya with her steak. Feeling confident after her joyous meal at the mall, she declined help. Those who knew watched with some interest and ended up commenting on how beautifully she handled her meal.

In telling the story, Tanya said how much she appreciates that I’ve taken her out to cafes so she could have this experience, how it has enriched her life. I could say the same, of course. Having her for a foster daughter has enriched my life in many ways, by at least as much.

No comments:

Post a Comment