“Do you think we made Savta happy?” I asked my daughter, Liora, as we were returning from Netanya. (Savta is the Hebrew word for grandmother.) Liora came with me today ostensibly to shop but rain washed out those plans. Instead, she spent time talking with her grandparents.
“It’s hard to say,” she replied. “Savta’s moods change so quickly. One minute she’s singing in the middle of the street—just like the movies. Then she says something that doesn’t make sense or she gets angry for no reason.”
I doubt that Mom understood that Liora was her grandchild. She could not remember the existence of her other three grandchildren. Their names were foreign to her though she enjoyed hearing about their news. (She also introduced me today as her good friend.) I see her world shrinking so noticeably. It is more of a loss for me than for Mom: I am heartbroken to realize our past does not exist for her.
“I think just being with her was the important part,” said Liora wisely.
Grandchildren have an uncanny understanding of their grandparents. I was not surprised that Liora had read the situation so well.
Last week, I attended the funeral of a lovely woman who finally succumbed to Alzheimer’s. In his eulogy, her oldest grandson recounted the times he would spend with her when he was young. His words conjured up lazy nights on the seafront promenade eating ice cream, bowling in the local alley, and a feeling of joy at being spoiled with such love and attention. His grandmother declined rapidly in her last few months, ending her days surrounded by family. At the end of his short speech, he addressed her directly: “I will remember you loving, healthy, happy, and strong.”
The depth of these words has been growing inside me. It takes a conscious effort to remember our loved ones as they were. Each of our mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters, daughters (and of course fathers, husbands, grandfathers, brothers, sons) is irreplaceable. In remembering them, we become the repository of their history. They need us to carry their memories forward as we rely on the next generation to do the same for us. Our progenitors are our testament to our existence.
I know it’s hard for my kids to interact with their Savta these days. She has changed from the woman she used to be. When she arrived for a visit, it was always in a whirlwind of activity and intense interaction with them. Today, it's different. Mom can't do much of anything without assistance. They are old enough to realize that their kindnesses have only a momentary effect but that they are well worth the effort.
Passover is next week! We are looking forward to the Seder with our close family of 17. That includes my parents who will stay with us for at least three nights. Hmm. I have to come up with some easy tasks for Mom to help me with. Pealing eggs might be one. Or rolling hotdogs into strips of matza might be another. These little appetizers, traditionally called dogs (or pigs) in blankets, are known as Moses in a Basket or Moshe B’Teva in Hebrew. They are a fun and fitting dish for Passover given we retell the story of the exodus from Egypt in which Moses has a starring role.
Moses in a Basket
The method of creating foldable matza is from a cookbook called, Matza 101.* The recipes all start with the process of wetting the matza, covering it with a wet paper towel, and letting the water sink in until the matza becomes flexible. Once the matza is soft, you can cut and roll it almost any way you like. These appetizers are always a welcome treat for Passover.
2 matzas softened as per directions
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste
Take each matza and run it under water in the sink. Place on flat surface. Wet two paper towels and lay one on top of each matza for up to 10 minutes. Remove paper towel. Matza should now be soft enough to bend without breaking. In a small bowl, combine oil and spices. Cut each matza into four quarters. Using one quarter matza at a time, brush both sides with oil mixture. Place hotdog at the tip of the matza quarter and roll up diagonally. Hotdog ends should stick out. Place on baking pan lined with baking paper seam side down. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes until tops of matza are browned. Serve with mustard and ketchup. For smaller sized snacks, cut each matza into 8 pieces and each hotdog into halves.
*Jenny Kdoshim and Debbie Bevans, Matza 101: An Innovative Cookbook Containing 101 Creative Recipes Simply Made with Matza!, CA, Alef Judaica, 1997.