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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Beautiful Burden

During my visit today, I interviewed Mom for my daughter’s final 12th grade art project. The multi-media piece will include drawings of Mom from different periods in her life that are partly out of focus, a fog machine that hinders sight, and the interview, looped to distraction.

I asked a series of question over and over. What is your name? How old are you? How many children do you have? Where do you live? The discomfort Mom felt in answering these questions was evident. It meant she had to “confabulate,” a term for the way Alzheimer’s and dementia patients fabricate or misinterpret memories about themselves without the conscious intent to deceive.

After several tries, Mom guessed she was about 45-years-old. Only once did she remember her two children’s names. Grandkids’ names were lost. She did remember her current street address but not the city. She sang many songs, spoke in both French and Yiddish, which she learned as a child, and when asked, easily remembered the town in which had grown up—Stamford Hill in London. Mom pointedly stated that she does not like to be tested.

The interview was hard for me to hear, too, because it painfully showed the difficulty she had in completing sentences, and in processing current information. We cannot ignore the fact that her memory loss is getting worse.

Afterwards, Mom went to lie down, and I followed her into the bedroom. I convinced her to remove her glasses before she fell asleep. Then I lay down on the bed next to her and we giggled like two teenagers over the most innocuous things. Mom’s mood improved and I said goodbye as she drifted off to sleep. I crave that laughter. I think Mom does, too.

When I got home, I found an email from my father.

“I don’t fear for the future for myself (so far so good), but for Mom. She was always vulnerable, especially now. You are a wonderful daughter; I see how you interact with her. I feel much more relaxed about what the future holds now. I can face the future with confidence knowing that you will take care of her.”

Needless-to-say, I cried myself to sleep. What a beautiful burden I carry. I pray I can live up to it.

For some reason, I’ve been making a lot of bean dishes lately. Beans are low in fat, high in fiber and packed with protein. When I went to Oberlin College, I ate in a food co-op. We would occassionaly serve beans and rice and donate the savings from the cheap meal to a specific charity. I decided to make the ful beans—what you might know as broad beans—that have been sitting in my cupboard. Ful is usually served here with humus, tehina, tomato salad, and hard-boiled eggs. Here’s my Israeli version of this Egyptian dish.

Ful Israeli Style

Broad beans, or ful, are a Middle Eastern staple. Dress them up with tomato-pepper salad, hard-boiled eggs, tehina, and lots of lemon juice. Or, for something different, try them with cheese.


2 cups raw ful beans

Water to cover beans

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion

4-5 cloves garlic crushed

½ cup water

2 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste



Tomato and pepper salad

Hard boiled eggs




Soak beans overnight in water. Try to change the water several times. Place beans in pot and cover with fresh water. Cook beans on low heat for up to 3 hours or until they are very soft. Sauté onion and garlic in a large pan. Add cooked beans, spices, and ½ cup of water. Don’t worry about mashing some of the beans. Place warm beans on a bed of humus, top with salad, eggs, tehina and parsley. Squeeze up to two lemons over beans. To make the Tomato and Red Pepper Salad, dice two or three tomatoes and one pepper and toss in a large bowl. Add ¼ cup chopped parsley, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, salt and pepper. Additional option: about ¼ diced onion.

I will be traveling for the next two weeks with little access to the internet. My next blog entry will appear when I return in mid-June.

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