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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Music, Maestro!

How wonderful to find Mom standing by the door waiting for me when I arrived at their apartment. She gave me a big, tight hug and told me how much she’d missed me. Daddy reported later that she’d been waiting by the door since early that morning. That’s the trouble with Alzheimer's patients not understanding time. It seems to bend for Mom rather than flow in a straight line.

I’d brought with me a small gift, a disc of Danny Kaye singing songs from the musical, “Hans Christian Anderson.” When we finally got it to work on the computer, Mom was ecstatic. She sang along to all the songs each time we played them.

I also helped Mom pack for a weekend vacation she and Daddy are taking. We’ve packed for trips before, but this time I was aware that her mental facilities have slipped. She randomly picked clothes from her closet, making no distinction between fancy dresses and jeans skirts, t-shirts and elegant jackets, clothes for summer and clothes for winter. “Why are we packing?” she wanted to know. “I’m going away? Are you coming with me?” She wants desperately to be in control, but the task was too big for her. “Where are we going?” she asked. “Why are we packing?”

When it comes to her limitations, we realize we have to play to Mom’s strengths. Mom often goes to bed early. It might be because she’s tired, but my sense is that she’s bored. With her limited abilities, there’s not much for her to do.

Rather than give in to Mom’s sleepiness, Daddy plays her music each evening in their bedroom. Elgar, Copland, Mozart, Vivaldi. Mom lies in bed and conducts symphonies in her pajamas! If her concept of time fails her, it’s our job to make the time she has left as an engaged, responsive individual as meaningful as possible.

When we were sitting together listening to Danny Kaye, Mom spoke to me as if I were her sister. “Our dad built those cupboards,” she said, pointing to the wall unit. “He’s so talented.”

My grandfather was a cabinet maker. But he did not make that wall unit. I remember when my parents bought it, how the sections fit perfectly along the wall.

“Yes, he was talented,” I replied.

“Is he retired now?” she asked.

I instantly realized my mistake. If I speak about her father in the past, I might have to remind her that he died 17 years ago. That in turn might make her mourn all over again. Sorrow so potent it knows no time.

“Oh, yes, he’s retired now,” I quickly answered.

I don’t feel bad anymore when Mom thinks I’m her sister Barbara. I think instead about what I would give to have my sibling come and spend time with me each week.

When I spoke to her after I’d returned to my own house, Mom thanked me for bringing the children with me to visit. Well, they didn’t come with me, this being a jam-packed summer vacation for them. I’m hoping, instead, to surprise Mom during her vacation weekend with Daddy with a visit from the kids. Even if I arrange it with Daddy, and even if she heard us arrange it, it will be a surprise for Mom when we turn up. Maybe I’ll get another of her wonderful hugs.

One of the easiest and complete nutritional meals Daddy makes is eggs. According to my faorite site about eggs, The Incredible Edible Egg, one egg contains 13 essential vitamins and minerals in varying amounts, high-quality protein and antioxidants, all for 70 calories. Being British, Daddy makes a meal out of baked beans and scrambled egg on toast. As a child, I actually used to eat that. These days, I prefer omelets with onion and mushrooms. We eat them every morning. That started when my youngest, arguably the pickiest eater in the house, refused to take tuna or peanut butter sandwiches to school for lunch. We tried all sorts of options. Grilled cheese, yellow cheese and tomatoes, spreadable cheese and olives (hey, we live in Israel!), “pizza” sandwiches, even the occasional chocolate spread sandwich. And then we hit on the idea of an omelet sandwich. Anything that stuffs so nicely into a pita and can be sent in a lunch bag gets my vote.

Two-Egg Omelet with Onions and Mushrooms

The trick to making a good omelet is working with a good pan. It needs to be a small-ish pan and definitely non-stick. Make sure you also have a spatula that you trust. This dish is so flexible. You can add tomatoes, peppers, chives, cheese, or anything else you like to make a tasty, nutritious meal. Serve with brown bread and a salad.

Two large or medium eggs

1/8 cup onion chopped

3 mushrooms chopped (can use canned)

1 pat butter

Salt and pepper to taste


In a small non-stick pan, melt butter and fry chopped onions and mushrooms on medium heat until onions begin to brown. Beat the eggs in a small glass or other container. Pour into pan right on top of the vegetables. Turn heat to low. When the omelet begins to set, flip to cook on the second side. Fold in half and remove from pan.

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