Sometimes—like now—I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of taking care of my Mom. What if, when she’s with me, she can’t be reasoned with and I can’t sooth her frayed nerves? What if she storms away from me and I lose her? I know she trusts me, but these thought were with me when we headed out for a musical evening together. Daddy stayed home. He is getting up at 4:00 am to take my aunt Barbara to the airport. I’ll be on duty then too. She's bound to wake up when they prepare to leave. What if Mom's heartache at missing my father becomes a full blown panic attack? How will I cope?
Reasoning with Mom is unproductive. When you have someone who asks you if a computer (for which she can’t remember the word) is something for the hair and then tells you her brain is like a block of ice, you realize you're in an alternative reality.
To report that our “date” this evening was lovely (though we left at intermission because Mom was exhausted) does nothing to diminish my sadness. I tell myself that I am here at this time and place for a reason, that Mom can still enjoy the moment, that her laughter—when it comes—is extraordinary. Yet how painful it is to watch her fumble through her purse or open random cupboards or dress in multiple layers because she’s chasing some elusive thought or object. And how I ache when I can’t help her find the right word to complete her sentences, reducing her speech to incomprehensible prattle.
If you ask the people who saw her at the event, they’ll tell you she looks great. They’ll say she’s got a phenomenal memory for music. They’ll remind you that she held conversations with them. All true. And yet it is a disingenuous truth.
Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between. Perhaps Mom, like many of us, has more than one facet to her personality; perhaps she is still able to
present herself differently to different audiences. Alzheimer’s is robbing her of her connection to reality, but her new reality may be just as absorbing.
I’d like to think that the connected Mom will prevail even as I know the disconnected Mom is gaining ground. All I can do is navigate as best I can, and, along with all of us who care, shower her with attention and love.
Whenever I plan a Shabbat meal, I always start with dessert, especially when I’m feeling down. That way I know I’ll have a bowl full of sweet gooey batter to lick. When I think about Rosh Hashana, I start by remembering my favorite apple cake recipe. Here it is in cupcake form.
Butterfly Apple Cupcakes
When it comes to Rosh Hashana, our family isn't too fond of honey cake. This apple cake recipe is a sweet and simple alternative.
½ cup oil
2 cups sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour
4 apples peeled, cored and chopped
1 apple sliced for decoration
In a large bowl, whisk oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add apples. Distribute batter into 12-14 cupcake holders. To decorate the cupcakes with butterflies, make two slices for wings and one long strip for the body and place on top of each cupcake. Bake at 350° for up to 40 minutes or until apple butterflies brown. (Note: apple butterflies on top may take longer to bake than cupcakes without butterflies.) If you make this as a cake, bake for up to 60 minutes.