Midday Music with Mom
...and a helping of baked salmon.
I hadn’t intended to enjoy myself taking Mom to her weekly concert, but the enthusiasm of the tenor (which made up for his lack of talent) and the fantastic piano accompaniment won me over. The concerts are usually on Mondays, but this week’s was postponed to Tuesday due to Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Mom loves these “Music at Midday” concerts that are organized by She’arim Netanya. Even though she’s now a non-functioning member, she’s still on the board. While in the past Mom prepared the programs’ publicity, today she moves chairs into position, a job which the organizer keeps especially for her so that she’ll feel involved. We sat in the second row of the large room that is used as a club for after-school programs, conversion classes, and social activities for the large Russian population in Netanya. Mom sang along with the music, as did most of the other 30 audience members. The tenor sang songs from movies and some Cole Porter and Gershwin. There were cries of “bravo,” and “wonderful,” and the audience demanded an encore. Mom was so excited by it all.
I knew many in the audience, and as they are aware of Mom’s Alzheimer’s, they didn’t react when she introduced me as her sister Barbara. At some point, I realized it was useless to correct her, especially as she was quite incredulous every time I did. During one quiet moment, she turned to me and asked, “Do you remember how we combed Booba’s hair?” It was a memory from post-war1940s London when her grandmother Miriam, for whom I’m named, lived upstairs from them in the East End.
Many in the audience were there with their care takers, young women mainly from India and the Philippines. Mom has a care taker, too, but as Sahli is as fond of these concerts as I am, I gave her the option to go do her own thing.
Mom gets angry with Sahli for doing things in their house that she feels she can do herself, chores like cooking and washing dishes. Last week she forbade Sahli from opening the refrigerator and yelled obscenities at her. An hour later, her anger spent, Mom couldn’t recall a thing. Sahli, on the other hand, was visibly upset, even though she knew the anger wasn’t directed at her personally.
Mom can’t do these things anymore, at least not without supervision. And it takes a lot of work to make her feel part of the process. I think her anger is that often, when she’s with Sahli, she is not with Daddy. Meaning, Daddy is her primary care taker, and as is the want of Alzheimer’s patients, she clings to him. It’s a phenomenon called “shadowing,” where the patient becomes agitated every time the care taker is out of her sight. Sometimes care takers are even followed into the bathroom.
Mostly, Mom and I do well together. While I’m involved in her life on a daily basis, I only see her once a week. It allows me to find patience I might not otherwise have. So she let me cut her cracked thumb nail, and she was happy to sit next to me in the concert. She even made me tea with milk (that I didn’t ask for or want but drank anyway).
When I got home and started to prepare dinner, I decided to make baked salmon with a side of cauliflower. Brain foods that are rich in omega 3 and anti-oxidants respectively. I don’t know if eating these foods prevents dementia, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
Baked salmon was one of the recipes Daddy mastered early on in his cooking career and it is an elegant and easy dish to make. Once, I forgot to defrost the fish before I cooked it. I spiced the fish as below, then covered it with foil and placed it in the oven for 15 minutes while it slowly defrosted. Afterwards, I baked it uncovered for another 20 minutes, and it was perfect! We try to eat fish at least once a week. Fish contains omega-3 oils that are sometimes prescribed for memory retention.
2 lbs frozen filet of salmon, defrosted
1 Tbsp Canola oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp granulated garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Place salmon in baking pan and pour on oil and lemon juice. Shake spices over fish. Place in oven on 350° and cook for 20 minutes (may need a few more minutes depending on the thickness of the fish). To make sure fish is cooked, part the middle with a knife and check that the color is pink.