Multi, Multi Things
We are standing in the middle of the mall and we have a half hour to spend before my father picks us up. Mom is agitated. She wants to be with him already.
“Why are you angry?” I ask. Up until now, we’ve been having a good time window shopping and drinking coffee. It is a rainy day outside, and this is the perfect place to loiter.
I don’t really expect an answer. I ask because I am surprised by her sudden turn in mood and until that moment we are any mother and daughter enjoying an outing.
“Sometimes it comes over me and I feel shitty,” Mom explains in an exasperated voice. “I don’t know. I am resistant to multi, multi things.”
In their disjointed way, Mom’s words remind me of shopping together when I was a young girl. It used to be a painful experience. When I needed clothes, Mom would drag me to the stores and I’d try desperately to find myself in the mainstream fashions. The gawky, frizzy-haired Jewish girl I was would inevitably storm away in tears because nothing I tried on made me feel as if I might finally fit in. My fragile sense of self was easily crushed and Mom's words did not help.
Now I am the one who tries to soothe the moment. We stop by a demonstration of a small steam iron and I can feel Mom pulling away to somewhere else. She cannot stand still. She must find my father.
I take her to the large bay windows on the second floor of the mall, ostensibly to check if it’s still raining. She does not want to sit down.
We walk by the children’s play area. Mom loves children. I expect her to coo at them and make sweet noises to get their attention, as she usually does. She scowls at them and flings horrible words into the air. We move off before someone is offended.
Finally, we walk to the entrance of the building where Daddy will pick us up. I don’t know how long it will take until he arrives. Mom paces the floor, back and forth, back and forth. I explain several times that it may take a while, that we have to wait until he calls, that we have to stay inside because it’s cold and rainy. She has no patience for anything but his arrival.
I watch Mom race towards him as he steps out of the car to wave and signal his arrival. She greets him with such excitement, as if they’ve been parted for eons more than the two hours we’ve spent without him. And then she visibly relaxes.
I do not envy the unique burden Daddy carries. He is her touchstone, the one most important person without whom she cannot live; her map in a world that Alzheimer’s makes difficult to navigate. I understand and accept her overwrought emotions towards him.
I am happy to be dessert to Daddy’s main course. I turn up each week with the aim of being there for both of them—entertaining Mom while Daddy has some time to himself. I had fun today, despite Mom’s anxiety. I know, in some small recess of her being, she had fun, too, even if fleeting and forgotten.
Here’s an elegant chicken recipe deserving of my dad’s main course status.
Tomato Basil Chicken
This dish makes our house smell divine. It starts with the tangy smell of fresh basil and continues as the chicken slowly browns to perfection in the oven. It is one of our favorite chicken recipes. The sauce will cover two whole chickens cut into parts.
2 whole chickens cut into parts
1 cup dressing (see below)
1 cup fresh basil
2 large tomatoes, chopped
5 cloves garlic
5 sun dried tomatoes
(Home made Italian dressing. Never better.)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup white vinegar and
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar (optional--or an additiona 1/4 cup white vinegar)
1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp mustard
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Make dressing by combining all ingredients in a lidded container and shaking well. Place 1 cup of dressing along with other sauce ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a paste is formed. Place chicken in a large baking pan then spread sauce on top, making sure to coat each piece evenly. Cook on 350° for 1¼ hours or until chicken is browned and cooked through.
This recipe is adapted from Susie Fishbein's Kosher by Design: Short on Time (Mesorah 2006, New York)