“I’ll be with the dead people.”
“What?” I asked into the phone. “What did you say?”
“I’ll be with the dead people,” repeated Mom.
I wanted to ask what she meant, but I knew Mom couldn’t explain the isolation and abandonment that I sensed she was experiencing.
“Why don’t you have a cup of tea and a biscuit?” I suggested. “We’ll be home in about 20 minutes.
“I can’t open the door and I want to go home,” she cried. “This is not my home. Where’s Jack?”
It is rare that Daddy spends a whole day away from Mom. He knows she gets anxious when he is not with her. In the past, he’s asked me to cover for him. But I couldn’t be there. In fact, Daddy and I were driving to Netanya from Jerusalem where we’d met up in the course of our different schedules. It was Monday, and I figured it was more convenient to get a ride all the way to their door than to schlep to my home in Beer Sheva and back to Netanya the next day.
It took all of my wits to talk Mom out of the despair she was feeling. Mom was so upset at not having Daddy near her that she’d angrily told her caregiver Sahli that she needed to leave to go to her real home. Wisely, Sahli surreptitiously locked the extra lock on the front door to prevent Mom from leaving. We could just imagine Mom tearing away from Sahli and getting lost in the city in the hot afternoon.
By the time we reached Netanaya, Mom was calmer. When we got to their door, she impatiently asked Sahli to unlock it so that she could see her father. (Daddy and I shared that moment with an unspoken shrug: No matter how much we give to Mom, we will often not be recognized by her for who we are. It gives new meaning to acting selflessly.) We realized that Mom was probably thinking of herself as a young girl. She wanted to be home with her parents.
In fact, even after seeing my dad and greeting him effusively, Mom insisted on getting out of the house. I barely had a chance to put my bags down before the two of us were outside in the bright afternoon sun. We walked to the promenade by the sea and sat on a bench in the shade. We watched the passers by, sang a few songs, and generally relaxed.
“I love that tufty soft earth,” Mom said.
“Do you mean the grass?”
“Yes, and the wispy white up there.”
“Yes. And the way the water sparkles in the sun.”
Sometimes the words were there for her, and other times, our conversation was completely disjointed. I was thankful to be able to provide her with words when she needed them.
A half hour later, we went back to the apartment. Wherever Daddy is, Mom is home. I know this is very hard on him—slowly losing his life partner, having limited time to himself—but I admire his commitment to caring for Mom. It’s what they signed up for all those years ago when they married. You can’t predict the shape of your life any more than you can control events. What you can do is face difficulties with love and compassion.
This visit demanded my most creative, considerate self. I entered her world as best I could and gave to her as if she were my precious child. That’s what she needed. Mom is teaching me through her Alzheimer’s the enormity of what it means to honor my parents.
When my husband came home with a huge basket of crisp cherry tomatoes, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. These tomatoes are round in shape, as opposed to grape tomatoes that are slightly oblong. Their skin is a little thinner and they tend to be sweeter than their grape-shaped cousins.
Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes with Basil and Garlic
Tomatoes are bountiful in summer, and this is one recipe that adds elegance to my table. I have to guard them from my son Hillel who loves to pop them in his mouth like candy and delight in their sweetness. He and his friends can demolish a kilo (that’s more than two lbs!) of cherry tomatoes in one sitting. You can’t beat these for a snack.
1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves minced
2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste
In a small pan, heat oil and sauté garlic until fragrant. Add tomatoes and, stirring or shaking constantly, cook tomatoes until their skin starts to crack. Remove from heat and add basil, salt and pepper. Serve warm or cold.