Fear and Loathing
When I presented Mom with her birthday present, I couldn’t get my phone to record her reaction. The present was a big frame with eight photos of our family, and she loved it. So, what did I do? I took back the present, waited about 10 minutes, and gave it to her again. This time I filmed it—the same, wondrous reaction to seeing all her loved ones is now recorded.
I’m both amused and horrified by my use of Mom’s Alzheimer’s to get what I wanted.
What I really want is my mom back. I don’t want the child-like adult who needs constant watching, who can’t remember how to get dressed or brush her teeth, who thinks washing dishes is running them under a stream of water, who is inactive unless someone engages her in conversation, who does whatever I tell her because she trusts me.
If I could only eliminate her confusion, repair her dying brain functions. This week, a friend whose mom also has Alzheimer’s sent me a list of the top ten Israeli medical advances against Alzheimer’s,* each one more impressive than the next in doing just that. They are being tested on people with Mild Cognitive Impairment, the pre-curser disease to Alzheimer’s, and on people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.
They can’t cure it though. They can only potentially restore a little bit of the person’s former mental and physical health. Wouldn’t it be great for Mom to be in a trial with one of these drugs? But to what end, and how long would the affects last? It might be dreadful to get her back for a little while knowing it would just prolong her demise—and ultimate death—from Alzheimer’s.
We’re in a hard transition. She is both present and absent, herself and someone else. It is painful to make the best of it, put on a happy face and care for Mom as if it were not a difficult burden. Sometimes I wish she were more compliant, less ornery, and less needy. Then I feel remorse. The alternative is too awful to contemplate. But it’s coming whether I like it or not. I need to accept and appreciate where she is now for soon she will only be absent.
This week, in order to distract myself and raise my spirits, I made my husband sugar cookies for his birthday. What’s fun about these cookies is the cookie cutters I found—all fun animal shapes, including a moose! Yes, Boris Badenov’s nemeses, “Moose and Squirrel.” Happy birthday, Jeff!
There are many variations of sugar cookies, each with a slightly different set of ingredients. I like this recipe with the added colored sprinkles. You can also decorate the cookies with sugar granules on top.
¾ cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2¼ cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Pre-heat oven to 350°. In a bowl, whisk together oil and eggs. Whisk in sugar and vanilla. Add remaining dry ingredients until a soft dough forms. Using a rolling pin, roll dough on a flat, floured surface until about ¼ inch thick. To add sprinkles, place sprinkles on dough and gently roll them into the dough. Press cookie cutters into dough and wiggle slightly so that the shape detaches from the dough. Lift and place on a cookie sheet. When you cannot make any more cookie shapes, gather remaining dough and roll out again on a floured surface. Repeat process. Bake cookies for 10 minutes at 350°.
*This article is from 2012 and additional breakthroughs are being developed in Israeli laboratories all the time. At our local Ben Gurion University of the Negev, in fact, one researcher is getting close to producing a vaccine to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. Here's a link to the first report of this work: http://aabgu.org/bgu-alzheimers-researcher-demonstrates-specific-immune-response-to-vaccine/.