The Joy of Sukkot
I am profoundly tired. We just celebrated the holiday of Sukkot in a whirlwind, enjoyable, family-oriented 48 hours. There were moments of bright fun and other moments of difficulty.
It began on Sunday as we were preparing for the holiday. In addition to the weird and annoying—like finding a dead pigeon on our back porch (really) or having to clean the oven when the chicken dish bubbled over and letting my dough rise a second time because I forgot to add salt—I spent the entire day trying to balance between cooking and cleaning and taking care of everyone, especially my mom. It is hard to give yourself over completely to someone else, to suppress your own needs for the needs of others. And to make things a bit more complicated, I seem to have developed sinusitis. Joy.
On Sukkot itself, Mom accompanied me to synagogue. We both enjoyed the singing, and I was able to help her keep her place in the prayer book. My friends were gracious in their greetings, and even played along when Mom told them how pleased she was to be visiting her sister (yes, me).
Mom looks great. She still interacts well with people. It's when you spend more than a few minutes with her that you undersand something is wrong.
How is it that some of us can accept Mom’s alternative reality, and some of us have a hard time with it? As they were getting ready for bed, I heard raised voices through the wall. My dad was trying to convince Mom of something. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knocked on their door to see if I could help. Mom was searching for some imaginary thing that was both hot and cold that was supposed to be under her pillow or in the bed. She was anxious that it was missing and would not get into bed without finding it. Daddy was trying to calm her down by telling her there was no such thing. I don’t know where it came from, but I looked at Mom and said, “I know where it is.”
“You do?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, “I put it away in the cupboard.”
“Yes, it’s in the cupboard and we can take it out again tomorrow. It’s safe for now.”
And that was it. Mom’s anxiety was assuaged.
The next morning, despite feeling awful, I managed to help Mom in the shower and even got her to wash her hair. She has become fearful of putting her head under the water. She can’t believe water comes out of the showerhead. (It reminds me of the scene in Disney’s Enchanted when Giselle takes a shower for the first time.) I made breakfast for everyone, and we sat in our Sukkah in the cool morning air enjoying our time together.
My father has come a long way in his understanding of Mom’s alternative reality. How can he not when she constantly exhibits such strange behavior? I understand, too, his frustration in accepting it; for by accepting her reality, he is acknowledging that the woman he loves, the woman he’s spent more than half his life with, is no longer completely there. It means that the past it gone, and the future cannot be planned. There is only the present, and our desire to hold on to her as long as we can.
Sukkot is a holiday of joy. I’d like to think Mom felt joy in our presence. She loved spontaneously dancing with my daughter and me in the living room. She loved the attention from her grandkids. She loved attending synagogue. She loved petting our cats. We kept her engaged and stimulated, and we had a great time with her. Those precious moments are what it's all about.
Sit down to a nutritious breakfast in your Sukkah with home-made muesli. Here’s a recipe that is both gluten free and rich in taste.
There are many versions of muesli, both toasted and raw. I like the recipe below for it's variety and simplicity.
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups quick oats
½ cup raisins
½ dried blueberries
½ cup dried apricots chopped
½ cup walnuts chopped
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 Tbsp cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a closed container and shake to mix. Serve with milk or yoghurt, and fresh fruit.