“What are you doing here?” Mom asked in an excited voice. “I didn't know you were here! How wonderful! When did you get here?” It was 7:00 a.m., and I'd emerged from the spare bedroom in my pajamas. Most people could figure out those clues. Not to mention that we’d spent the previous evening together. It was precious and priceless, and so full of love. Mom’s memory was a blank slate.
I gave Mom a big hug, laughed along at how wonderful it was to see her, then tried to explain that I'd come in last night to accompany her to a doctor’s appointment and that I’d stayed over.
Mom’s appointment was for a mammogram. She’d had a mammography test before, but she didn’t remember what the procedure was or why she had to have one.
Mom was embarrassed about getting undressed. I persuaded her to take off her shirt and her bra and give me her long gold necklace to hold. The technician allowed me to stay inside for each of the four x-rays that were taken, slipping behind the safe barrier when the x-ray was in progress.
“I thought torture ended in the dark ages,” Mom joked angrily when we were waiting for the disc containing her x-rays. “What was the point of that? I’m sorry you had to waste your time being here with me. I’m never doing that again.”
Mom seems angry about everything these days. She is frustrated by not understanding what’s happening around her, and the frustration increases when, once something is explained, she realizes she doesn’t understand. She lashes out, especially when those closest to her lose their cool over her strange antics.
At some point in the afternoon, Mom made tea for me, filling the cup almost to the brim with milk. She was heading my way to put it down for me when Daddy suggested she should take out the tea bag first.
Back she went to the kitchen. How was she going to put the tea bag in the trash without it dripping on the lid of the trash can? With one hand holding the cup, she used the other to take the lid off the trash. Then, of course, she didn’t have a hand free to throw away the tea bag.
I could see what was happening and I jumped up to put the tea bag in the trash. When she replaced the trash can lid, she still could not hand me the cup because she was holding it by the handle, and it was too hot for me to grab. She retraced her steps towards the living room, then turned back to the kitchen where I was standing and finally put the cup on the counter so that I could then pick it up. Whew!
“Why do you make everything so complicated?” Daddy asked.
He’s frustrated, too.
What if I had to answer her questions on a constant repeating basis? Would I begin to crack? I had to explain at least five times how I’d hurt my toe on the way there by falling up the escalator at the train station. Every time I was satisfied that she understood the story, she’d notice the band aid on my toe and ask again what was wrong, how I had hurt myself, whether I was ok.
Here it is in a nutshell. We met our friend Rachel for coffee. “I’ve missed you,” said Rachel, who had been away on vacation. “Where was I?” asked Mom.
Thankfully, Mom is easily distracted. I often change the subject so that she’ll stop asking questions about something she won't understand. Today, Daddy and I discussed living wills and whether he should prepare one now while he is of sound mind. Way beyond her grasp. We sang My Fair Lady instead, hummed some Aaron Copland, laughed over the flimsiest of jokes. I followed her lead and improvised.
Torture? “Ve have vays of making you talk,” I whispered in my best German accent.
I agree. No more mammograms. What’s the use if, ultimately, Alzheimer’s is going to kill you?
I was unable to post a blog last week due to the start of Rosh Hashana. Here’s one of the dishes I made at the request of my daughter for the festive meals we ate together.
This dish is a great alternative to pizza if you are lactose intolerant like my dad. Try it with red peppers and onions, olives, or a combination of vegetables.
1½ cups flour
½ cup canola oil
5 Tbsp cold water
1 tsp salt
1 cup fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 large tomatoes sliced
In a small bowl, mix crust ingredients until they form a dough. Pat dough into a pie pan, making sure to build up the sides. Bake the empty pie crust for 15 minutes at 350°. Remove and let cool. Meanwhile, blend together in a food processor the pesto ingredients. Spoon pesto into the cooled pie pan, top with sliced tomatoes (or other vegetables) and bake an additional 15 minutes at 350°.