Ed has always loved Surf and Turf.  Every year we take him to Red Lobster for his February birthday.  We once tried taking him to a high end restaurant, but that was a disaster.  There have been many disasters in the Red Lobster too, but I get the feeling Red Lobster has disasters daily.  The high end place?  Not so much. We belong in Red Lobster with the rest of the regular folks whose visit to the seafood palace is a splurge and not an economic right.  Those folks go to the nicer place and people like Ed don’t disturb their quiet intake of butter-dipped crustaceans.  The folks at Red Lobster smile at Ed’s disabilities and the antics those disabilities encourage him to enact in public.  They all but salute him like a vet when we wheel his large carcass down the wheelchair- friendly aisle.  

We used to think a table was the best way to go for Ed because there is more room to negotiate, but we were wrong.  Ed is not a man who likes to spend any time in his wheelchair.  He wants out.  He wants out the second he is at his destination….the lounge chair in front of his television, the couch at my house, and the dining chair before a meal.  It would be a lot easier if he would just stay in the chair so we could wheel him up, but that is not an option.  It is like the wheelchair itself makes him disabled.  Once out of it he feels like a regular guy.  But the getting into and out of his chair is not regular guy-ish. 

It is a production and the chances for disaster are highest during these transfers.   At his birthday dinner the good folks dining at Red Lobster stop eating their cheesy biscuits, hold their breath and say a silent prayer that his ass arrives safely in the black-vinyl seat.  The danger involves the heroic role of the table at these times.  The table becomes Ed’s anchor as he pulls/pushes his mass out of the chair into a standing position, twists a quarter turn to aim that ass toward the vinyl chair away from the wheelchair seat, then, holding tightly to the already frightened table, free-falls into the terrified chair watching that sweat-pant-mass hurl its way.  Tables often can’t take the pressure (or the weight) and crumble.  They tilt, they give-way, they let him down…and not gracefully.

This is the first year in many since my sister, Vickie, has attended the celebration.  She lives about three hours away with two summits that are full of snow in February.  At least that has been her excuse.  My husband and I suspect it is because of the ’09 disaster.

Attending the ’09 birthday dinner was my sister, my husband, my mother and Eddie.  My mother was falling quickly through the fog of dementia into the Toon Town of Alzheimer’s.  Vickie had graciously gone to pick up Eddie so I could get my mother.  By the time she arrived with Ed, quite late, she was a mess.  Without going into details that could create Post Traumatic flash backs whenever you think of Red Lobster, I’ll just say Ed had a major hygiene incident Vickie had to attend to before she could bring him to dinner.  Let’s just say she ordered only drinks that night.

We get a table in the main seating area.  Since she was late we missed our usual dining time.  We usually go early so the place isn’t packed and those who are there are older, eating early-bird specials.  They don’t hear as well when Ed laughs.  They don’t notice the wheelchair for many of them have wheelchairs or walkers.  We feel more in the company of kindred spirits.  But in ’09 we were in the midst of prime time Lobster dining.  The place was packed, so when Ed transferred there was an audible inhalation of well-wishers.  He landed gracefully.

I am pretty sure Vic had downed two cocktails before his butt had found its perch.

My mother, on the other hand, was saying things that were raising our anxiety.  These were the days of discovering just how confused she was, and this trip to the Red Lobster seemed to be eliciting depths we had no idea where there.  Between the horror Vic had gone through and Mom the tension was quite high.  It doubled when my mother decided she needed to go to the bathroom, a bathroom mind you that seemed to be several states away from our table…a bathroom even the clear-minded needed a map to navigate the maze of privacy walls and booths…a bathroom that only a year ago would have been an easy go to our quick-witted mother. 

I saw the look on Vickie’s face, that oh-my-god-don’t-make-me-take-her look.  So I jumped up and offered to go with my bewildered mother to the restroom.  It took darn near forever for us to get there, and wait in the line for a stall (I told you the place was packed).  I grew irritable as my mother engaged everyone in line in awkward conversation.  I grew horrified as she tried to hold every baby sitting in high chairs along the route.  By the time I rounded the corner to our table I was feeling a bit of a martyr.

But then I saw Vickie’s face.  It was ashen.  The muscles around her eyes twitched.  I could tell an Eddie disaster had occurred…probably the biggest Eddie disaster ever.  Even my husband, let’s just call him Kevin (because that is his name), who usually found hilarity in the Eddie disasters looked humiliated.

Ed blissfully stuffed his face with stuffed mushrooms.

It seems while I guided my mother around the restaurant Ed had decided, as Ed is apt to do, to stand.  Every once in a while Ed decides he needs a good stand like the rest of us need an arm stretch.  He needs to grab a table and push up into a slow stand.  Once there, he keeps the pressure up and raises his head to the ceiling, his face serine.  It must feel really good.  Then he sits.

The disaster of ’09 began with such a stand, but remember this stand was in the very middle of the largest seating area in Red Lobster.  He stood, and when he did his girth and yogi demeanor commanded the attention of the diners.  He turned his sweet face to the ceiling.  The room silenced.  I believe what happened next occurred in slow motion.  He tilted his head back just a tad further, for Ed is prone to drama and he was not unaware of the focus he had attained.  That slight tilt back unbalance his balance-impaired body and it began to fall, backward.  The Red Lobster fills each inch of floor with tables so that the table behind him was, shall we say, intimately close.  So close in fact that he timbered right into the middle of that table and created a short of splash of moderately priced seafood and over-priced drinks. 

Somehow he was lifted by a throng of strong armed customers back into a stand, but Ed was shaken and he fell into our table creating a similar splash.

By the time my mother and I arrived back at the table, except for a beach of cheesy biscuit crumbs every sign of mishap had vanished from both tables and the floor, but the feel of disaster was palpable.

My husband and I laugh about this often.  Vickie does not.  There are so many falls in Eddie’s life he does not distinguish this one as monumentous.  My mother does not remember it at all.

In 2010 Ed insisted on a booth and we discovered the tables in the booths at Red Lobster are cemented into the ground.  We booth it now. 

This birthday dinner was uneventful.  Vic had only one drink