Signs and Wonders...
and a little chicken....
“I hope you don’t feel I’m a nuisance,” she said lightly as we were sitting in synagogue. I might have grumbled internally at answering the same questions over and over again. I might have inwardly groaned at helping her find her place in the prayer book at the expense of my own prayers. I might even have quietly rebelled against helping her dress for synagogue or supervising her in the kitchen and at the table, but until she said it, I was content to take care of her. Once she’d voiced my own internal dialogue, I was both ashamed of how I felt towards Mom and angry at her for making me feel angry. For really, how can you hold anger towards someone with Alzheimer’s?
In our house, Passover is a complicated affair. We put away our regular dishes and silverware, pots and pans, and use those that are specific to Passover. My parents arrived early Monday morning as we were getting ready for the Seder. That meant a whole afternoon of entertaining Mom. Making tea became a chore as we had to navigate the new kitchen layout. I had saved a few tasks to allow her to be part of the preparations, so Mom washed tons of lettuce leaves and other vegetables.
When it came time for Seder, we walked the short way to my sister-in-law’s house. Among the 20 guests were cousins visiting from the US, and my nieces with their families. I found my place at the table, right next to Mom (surprise!). One of the highlights of a fun and thought-provoking Seder was when Mom sang her haunting tune for “Ha lachma anya (This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt.).” With clarity of pitch and of memory she called forth the song and sang it before us.
The next afternoon when our cousins came to say goodbye, Mom spoke amiably to them but could not remember who they were. I noticed she was wearing two watches, one on each wrist. When I suggested she remove one as they both told the same time, she examined them and declared them different, one set to army time, the other to a different date.
That’s what it’s all about. Time. A time to cherish our present; a time to let the past unravel. A time to make new memories; a time to question the future.
I managed to quell my anger and even enjoyed our visit together. Being with Mom takes up all the available energy; it’s hard to focus on other things when we’re together. Perhaps that is as it should be.
We ate well over the holiday. Sweet and sour meatballs, roast chicken, potato kugel, carrot kugel, and many salads. Here’s a chicken recipe with carrots and onions in a sweet maple syrup sauce that’s great for Passover or during the year.
Chicken and Carrots with Maple Syrup
When making this dish, it helps to have a daughter who has just returned from Montreal with a can of pure maple syrup in her suitcase, but I’ve also substituted imitation maple syrup and it works just fine. You can also cook the chickens whole and cut them after they are roasted.
8-10 carrots sliced thinly
14 chicken pieces with skin
1 onion cut into thick chunks
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup 100% maple syrup
¾ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pan, place chicken pieces in single layer in one part and the carrots and onions in another part. Rub sauce onto chicken pieces and sprinkle remaining sauce over vegetables. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour at 375° or until both chicken and carrots brown on top.