The Grey Zone
I am riding on the bus watching the sky lighten incrementally. I’ve been up since dawn getting ready to meet Mom today. And now, when I look again through the window, it is already light, pale sunshine reflecting off the city’s tall buildings.
I am fearful. I have been living too comfortably with the status quo, with the idea that Mom is in an okay place, a holding pattern where she functions within societal norms and can care for herself physically.
I am afraid to lift my head. I am afraid to see that the incremental changes taking place within Mom are building up so fast that they are blinding me to her true state.
We are still far from the direst aspects of this disease. But like the wintery weather that has fogged our roads, we are entering a grey zone. Mom is both able and unable to care for herself, and she fights her loss of independence.
When they went to a friend’s granddaughter’s wedding this week, Daddy told me that Mom was unhappy there. The distance they traveled by car was too long for her. The wedding was noisy and loud. She didn’t remember why she was there. Are we at the point where it is better for Mom to stay home than venture out? If the “now” is her only state, should we more carefully plan her time? Who will provide her with stimulation throughout the day, and at home?
I call to tell them I’m in Tel Aviv and will arrive in another 30 minutes. “What’s she doing in Tel Aviv?” Mom asks. “She’s coming here,” Daddy answers. “What’s she doing in Tel Aviv?” Mom asks. “She’s on her way here,” Daddy replies. “What’s she doing in Tel Aviv?” Mom asks. I can hear Daddy’s impatience. “Tell her I’m just passing through,” I suggest. Mom thinks I live in England. Why should I be surprised she doesn’t remember that I go through Tel Aviv to get to them?
When I arrive, Mom is dressing after her second shower of the morning. No harm done. She just didn’t remember she’d taken one. It is a blustery day. We decide to take a short walk into town to visit the seamstress who does clothing repairs. Daddy has a sweater that is fraying along the neck. Mom is holding it in a bag. She can’t remember what’s in the bag. When we hand it to the seamstress, Mom asks several times whether she’s lost something she just had in her hands.
After a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and salad, Mom and I retreat to the couch. I take out the musical instruments, most of which she once purchased for my kids. We work our way through all the rain songs we know, banging on the tambourine, ringing the bells and rattles. We play clapping games. We sing nursery rhymes. We are both so happy.
On the way home, I sleep, waking to the fog along the highway, above the fields, dipping imperceptibly down on the brown earth. Everything is luminous in the fading light. Visibility is patchy. We are speeding through the grey zone.
Here's a recipe that recalls Mom's cooking days and the wonderful soups she used to make for us.
Kitchen Sink Soup
When the kids ask me what’s in the soup, I reply like Mom taught me: “Everything but the kitchen sink.” I make variations of this soup all the time, depending on what I have in the house. It’s a relatively easy recipe to follow. The basics are a can of crushed tomatoes, a plentiful amount of vegetables, and a cup of lentils. I’ve been known to add cabbage, spinach, broccoli, and peas if I have them in the house. You can also add a ¼ cup barley (or brown rice) towards the end of the cooking process to thicken the soup. Enjoy it on a cold winter night.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
4 cloves garlic crushed
2 carrots diced
3 stalks celery diced (with leaves)
1 cup pumpkin chopped
½ cup fresh parsley chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup green lentils
2-3 bay leaves
6 to 8 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until the onions become translucent. Add vegetables and spices. Cook an additional 5 minutes. Add the lentils and barley (if using). Add water. Bring soup to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat for at least an hour.