The Rain's Kindness
How naïve I was to think I could weather this devastation that is Alzheimer’s and maintain my wits. Mom is disintegrating before my very eyes. She is a changed individual. I fear that she will never revert to who she was before her fever two weeks ago. It is the compassion of the rain pouring from the skies that hides my tears.
Today, as follow-up to her doctor’s visit last week, I took Mom for a chest x-ray and blood tests. The doctor could find nothing physically wrong with Mom, but just in case—because we are by nature hopeful—she ordered some tests. It was extremely difficult to get Mom to cooperate because she didn’t understand what was happening.
Chest x-ray: Yes, undress and expose yourself to the technician. Take off your necklaces that you never remove. Hug the machine as if in an embrace so that your body is flush against the cold screen. Closer. Closer. Spew the word “f-ck” as many times as you can, your face clenched in anger. Breathe in deeply and hold that breath while the technician presses a button. Let out your breath. Then redress, a process that has become untenable.
And blood tests: Present your veins to the nurse while she probes them and wraps a tourniquet on your arm. Gaze with shock as the nurse takes up the needle. Look away. Your daughter is making silly faces at you, which is at least more pleasant than seeing the red liquid filling the test tubes. Swear at everyone who passes, say they lied about the pain. Angrily shush the crying child in the next cubicle. Hold the cotton wool against the hole the needle has made and bend your arm up, making it awkward to carry your purse or coat. Then accept with alacrity the nurse’s farewell wishes.
I pray that this is the last time we have to subject Mom to nurses and technicians. But I know the prayer is in vain.
We walked a few blocks to the nearby mall for a cup of coffee, but the short walk tired her out. Mom complained of feeling ill. She couldn’t tell me more than that. No nausea. No dizziness. “Where does it hurt?” I asked. She just doesn’t feel well, she doesn’t feel herself, and she told me she’s sorry I have to put up with her like this. We drank our coffee, then called Daddy to pick us up because not only was the weather outside stormy, but the walk home was much too far for her. This is a walk we’ve done hundreds of times. I am not sure when we will walk it again, if ever.
As I tucked Mom into bed for her afternoon nap, my efforts at keeping her awake were unsuccessful. She needed to sleep, she told me. Then, “I’m so glad I have you. We’re so lucky to have each other, really.”
Yes, I whisper. I’m so glad you had me, too, because there is no place I’d rather be than by your side.
When Mom was asleep, I had a chance to tell Daddy about our morning and cry with him over the sudden changes in Mom’s cognitive and physical abilities. Then it was time to head home. By the time I entered Beer Sheva, the rain that had followed me on my journey gave way to blue skies, the sun’s welcoming light, and fields as green as Ireland. A brief respite from the grey cold of winter.
Note: I will be away for the next two weeks escorting the AACI trip to South Africa. I worry about leaving, even temporarily, but I am looking forward to venturing into a distant summer.
Winter is a time for thick soups and dishes with extra carbohydrates. When I make cholent for Shabbat, I often add a vegetarian kishka as an extra treat. Cholent is a traditional Jewish stew that is simmered overnight for 12 hours or more, and eaten for lunch on Shabbat. Traditionally kishka is stuffed intestine with a filling made from a combination of meat and flour. I do away with the meat and add an array of fresh vegetables instead.
Sarah’s Veggie Kishka
This is a recipe I received many years ago from my fabulous friend, Sarah. I love the piquant taste of the celery. It reminds me to be thankful for every bite of life.
3 large celery stalks with leaves, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup oil
1 cup flour
½ Tbsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°. Chop vegetables roughly then toss in a food processor. Pulse until veggies are minced. Remove to bowl and add oil, flour and spices. Stir until mixed. On a flat surface, lay down a square of foil covered by a smaller square of baking paper. Place about ¼ of the mixture on the edge of the baking paper and roll into a small cylinder. Twist ends of foil closed. Repeat until all the mixture is used up. Place foil rolls in a pan and cook on 350° for 1 hour. If serving with cholent, place baked foil rolls on top of cholent (inside the pot) and cook additionally until served on Shabbat.