Mom keeps family photos on her dresser. There’s an engagement photo of me and my brother with our respective spouses the summer we both got engaged. And one of my oldest as a baby—Mom’s first grandson. And a flattering photo of me when I was in college.
“Oh, that’s me,” I say, seeing the photo. I remember my birthday party in London the summer I turned 21 as being special. We’d gone out to celebrate in a posh restaurant with my aunt, uncle and cousins, and some of our oldest family friends. I was about to start my Oberlin-in-London semester abroad, reading and watching plays in London’s theatres, and wandering around my birth city as a single, unencumbered young woman.
“That’s a lovely photo,” Mom replied. “Does your mom have a copy?”
My head swiveled round so quickly, I felt dizzy. Mom was standing next to me, absorbed in the photos. She was calm, unperturbed. She didn’t realize that she’d just erased our shared past.
“Well, yes, she does,” I managed to squeak out.
And there it ended. We moved on to other things, other topics, songs, a walk in the city, coffee, and window-shopping.
Sometimes it hurts so much. I can’t get used to all I’ve lost.
Then reality intercedes and I must become a caregiver not a daughter.
Mom is having a hard time taking her medicines. Each time she is presented with them she utterly denies they’re hers. Yesterday she pulled out almost a whole box of tissues looking for the “other ones” she thought existed. She can’t remember what to do with them when she reluctantly accepts that she must take them. The larger pills are cut in half to aid with swallowing, but it takes almost a full glass of juice to get them down. (Mom won’t drink water; she says it’s tasteless and makes a face when I hand her a glass.)
I was able to get Mom to take her morning pills without too much fuss, but I made the mistake of trying to intercede on Mom’s behalf when she refused to take the evening ones that Daddy held out to her.
It’s not the first time I’ve criticized the way my parents interact. When I was in college (there’s that photo again), my feminist conscience was raised for the first time. I would come home on break and express my frustration at Mom’s domesticity. In my mind, my parents had taken up stereotypical male-female roles. The message they gave me to be the best me and follow my dreams seemed incompatible with their personal examples.
As life is filled with multihued colors and not just black and white, so too my parent’s marriage was more complex than I gave it credit for. Today I know that we can take on many roles within a working marriage, even contradictory ones. It is obvious, clearly obvious, that Daddy is the dominant partner in his relationship with Mom. Mom is not up to the give-and-take of a “normal” relationship. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t express herself, or rebel against Daddy’s guidance. As with every couple, they have serene, loving moments, and they have moments of frustration and anger.
Last night, I gave their heated argument over Mom’s refusal to take her pills an added boost by sticking myself in the middle. We all yelled a little more than we should have, and Mom outdid herself with her colorful curses.
There is no one way to assist, cajole, or sweet-talk someone with Alzheimer’s. You have to try what worked yesterday, and if it doesn’t, you try something else. And if it still doesn’t work, drop the subject. By the time you get back to it, they won’t remember the argument, and you can start again.
Daddy has his own way of dealing with Mom’s intransience. He is the primary caregiver. I must not stand in his way.
I was already on the bus heading home when Daddy sent me a message saying that Mom finally “took her tablets like an angel.”
Case solved, for now.
The thing about cooking is that I don’t have to persuade the onion to jump in my pan, or flatter the eggplant into being sliced. And if I follow the recipe each time, the dish tastes virtually the same as the last time I made it. This is one salad I enjoy eating over and over again, and there’s nothing I would change about it.
Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Salad
Yum! I love adding this salad to my sandwiches or just eating it plain. The dressing gives it a pleasurable piquant taste.
1 large eggplant sliced
1½ red peppers halved
1 large tomato chopped
¼ onion diced
¼ cup parsley chopped
2-3 cloves garlic crushed
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp mustard (plus ½ tsp extra for more kick)
1 Tbsp vinegar
¼ tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Brush eggplant slices and pepper halves with olive oil and place on a large baking tray, peppers cut side down. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until pepper skins start to blacken and eggplant can be easily pierced with a knife. Let cool. Peel skins from peppers. Chop tomato, peppers and eggplant and combine with diced onion and garlic. Add parsley. In a small container, whisk dressing ingredients. Combine with vegetables. Serve cold.