Second Breakfast by Kay Marie Porterfield

Glazed apple fritter

Food is my only connection left with my father, so I’m determined to make the most of it. By trial and error, I have found a bakery that mixes big chunks of apple into the dough, and then fries it until the fruit is transparent, but still slightly firm, a shop that uses the right amount of cinnamon and just enough glaze.

He smiles at the small white bag in my hand. I place it on his lap, and he clutches the top while I wheel him down the hallway to the empty nursing home cafeteria. After I park him at a window table, I pour two cups of weak coffee, diluting his even further with water. His expression is eager when I set the cups down and spread paper napkins in front of us, yet when I try to take the bag of apple fritters from him, he doesn’t let go. Carefully I uncurl his twisted fingers from the top of the sack, one by one. He does not resist.

Our twice-a-week ritual is a reminder of second breakfasts on the farm when, covered with field dust, he would sit in the kitchen at mid-morning for coffee and sweet rolls. Opening the bag with a flourish, I center the fritters on the napkins as if they were sacrament. He waits patiently while I tear his fritter into several pieces because he is too weak to lift a whole one. He doesn’t begin eating until I tell him to pick up one of the pieces and then to put it into his mouth and finally to chew it.

Eating with excruciating slowness, he persists. Although the movements of his liver spotted hands are halting, they have a peculiar grace that borders on daintiness. His bites are tiny and precise. I break our silence only to remind him to stop chewing and to swallow.

The staff has moved him to a feeding table at meals because he has forgotten how to eat, but for weeks afterward, he continues to share second breakfast with me, a feat the attendants tell me borders on the amazing.

In silence we watch the green leaves outside turn bronze and crimson and finally brown.

Then comes the morning his face is rigid with determination, but his hands refuse to move when I cue him to eat. I hold a morsel of fritter to his lips, but they do not open. His eyes fill with tears as he turns his head away from me. “Go!” His voice is fierce. “Get the hell out of here.”

I cannot bear to see him this way. Neither can he bear to be seen.

In five minutes, he will forget this instant ever happened. It will haunt me forever.

Outside a sudden gust of wind rips the last leaves from the branches. Soon snow will fall.

Kay porterfieldKay Marie Porterfield began writing creative nonfiction in third grade after discovering the transforming power of stories, especially her grandmother’s about surviving an alcoholic father’s abandonment and living in an orphanage, stories about first kisses and revenge, stories about living through the Great Depression and stories about the dying. Ms. Porterfield was awarded a Colorado Arts and Humanities Council Fellowship in 2002 for creative non-fiction. Her work has been published in several journals and anthologies including The Sun and Crazy Woman Creek: Women Rewriting the West. She lives in Colorado where she teaches, writes, and shares stories with her grandchildren.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Adam Kuban 2

  2 comments for “Second Breakfast by Kay Marie Porterfield

  1. Wow! So well done. I love how your imagery creates an atmosphere of instant intimacy for the reader.

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