A bag of onions may not be important to you, but it was to him, the produce compartment in the refrigerator missing the familiar red mesh bag.
He makes exactly the same breakfast every day: a few sips of Pepsi and his vitamins, followed by two scrambled eggs made with real butter, fried onions, and a half slice of American cheese, a whole wheat English muffin toasted dark and buttered, and two slices of turkey bacon, microwaved. Once upon a time this process took twenty minutes, now two hours, minimum.
He was agitated about the absence of onions, so I suggested using a Vidalia onion instead. You would think I'd recommended bananas by the murderous look he gave me. I said, "There are two, right next to the potatoes and celery." After finding one, he complained it was too large, holding the offending onion for me to see. He was standing in the kitchen, a hallway and half a room away.
I sipped my coffee and calmly said, "You can borrow some of my Vidalia onion or you can make your eggs without any onions." He disliked the choice until I promised to go to the grocery store later. He turned his back to me, getting his special plate, his favorite frying pan, the knife with the black handle, and the rest of the ingredients, all the while saying, "Jesus-fucking-Christ, this is a fuck of a way to start the fucking day with the wrong onions."
Being in a rather mellow mood myself, in the midst of reading Under the Lilacs by Louisa M. Alcott, I said to the back of his grey head, "Remember the list on the front of the refrigerator, where when we're getting low on something, there is a pencil to write down the item?"
He was still not happy with me and my Vidalia onions, so I got up from my morning reading. Looking into his eyes, I said," You bought these onions for me and although they aren't the yellow ones you like, you bought them because I'm the love of your life, and I think they're rather special." I watched him process my words, while still holding the too-big-onion in his left hand.
Suddenly he smiled like the Cheshire cat and said, "I knew there was a reason I married you." Then his face got worried, "Should I write onions on the list?"
"No," I answered, getting more coffee, "I already wrote it down."
He asked me this four or five more times until I suggested, "Why don't you make your breakfast and I will go to the grocery store right now, in my nightgown?" I don't know what he heard, except perhaps grocery store and the promise of the right onions, the yellow ones in the red mesh bag, three pounds for $2.49.
He stopped what is referred to as looping, and began to chop a small portion of the large onion, meticulously. All was right in his breakfast world.
I went back to my morning place and switched to a different book called Still Alice, from a first time novelist, based on exhaustive research, written from the viewpoint and voice of a Harvard professor of cognitive psychology and expert in linguistics, who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's, so real it is heartwrenching to read. I wiped away a few tears, blaming the onions.
Still Alice, author Lisa Genova, Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard and online writer for the National Alzheimer's Association, © 2007, 2009. Published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Shuster, Inc. NY. ISBN 978-1-4391-7004-5, ISBN 978-1-4391-5703-9 (ebook)
Under the Lilacs, author Louisa May Alcott, © 1877, 1878, 1905, 1919, 1928. Published by Little, Brown, and Company