As soon as you start measuring good deeds to determine which is greater, which takes priority over the other—you have already entered precarious ground. Your job is to do whatever is sent your way. ~From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Each night from the second night of Passover, we actively count the days until the holiday of Shavuot. This period is known as the Counting of the Omer. These seven weeks are a time of reflection and personal growth, a chance to take note of each precious day and all we are blessed with. The app on my phone that reminds me to count also sends me brief contemplations. The one above seems perfectly suited to my day with Mom.
It was hard getting up at 5:30 to ready myself for my journey. It would be so much easier to stay in bed. By 9:15, I was at my parent’s apartment. The temperature was going above 30° Celsius so we decided to go out early before it got too hot. As Mom put on her sandals, we noticed bright red stains on the bedroom carpet. Somehow, an old lipstick had been crushed underneath her shoes and there was a trail of red everywhere she had stepped. She was so upset to think she’d caused trouble. We managed to wipe everything clean and pacify Mom before she became too weepy. Then we were out the door.
One of our errands was to resize Mom’s ID bracelet. She’d lost it the week before when it got stuck in one of her sleeves as she was undressing. It’s a bracelet that Mom wears in case she gets separated from us so that she can be identified and have someone call us.
With that out of the way, we did a little shopping, then high-tailed it back to their apartment to avoid the heat. That’s when the fun began. I had to figure out how to get Mom to let me cut her toe nails. The pedicurist who had cut her nails and cleaned her feet in March refused to do so again. She was worried about lack of insurance if she cut Mom by accident. Mom’s sense of self is at times so complete that she cannot fathom that she can’t cut her own nails or wash her hair or even close her shoes properly. Therefore, anyone offering to assist her is suspect.
I put on Mom’s favorite concert of Danny Kaye conducting the New York Philharmonic, and somehow got her to give me her feet. She was fine for a while, but when we started gently removing the dead stinking skin from between her toes, she went ballistic. We managed to calm her enough to finish the job, but it is clear that we cannot let this situation continue. We are going to have to find ways of cleaning her feet on a weekly basis. It gives me pause just thinking about it.
I am trying to use the counting of the Omer to be more positive, try new things, and pursue my goals. What I learned over Passover is this: Stability is rare. We are pushed and pulled by so many conflicting needs and wants that often we are out of balance. I want to be there for my parents. And in fact, when I visit them, I am content (for the most part—toe nails aside) to do whatever is needed. When I am sandwiched between my parents and my kids, as I was on Passover, I tilt towards my parents, catering to them, helping them, entertaining them at the expense of my children. My kids tell me I’m tense when we are all together. I know it’s true, though I wish it weren’t. I need to find some way to balance myself better in order to give in a calmer, loving manner. That’s going to take time.
The best gift I received on Passover? When they were cleaning for Passover, Daddy found squirreled away in a filing cabinet a huge bag of recipes Mom had saved over the years. Some of them are in her handwriting, others from the inside of packaged food like Jell-O and salmon cans. I am making my way through them with an archivist’s eye. There are some real gems here.
Meanwhile, it is nice to have all my regular dishes back where they belong after Passover. With access to my recipes—and “forbidden” kitniyot (legumes)—we’re back in business!
Simple, elegant, tasty, and colorful. A real crowd pleaser. Serve with rice.
1 eggplant, cubed
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can 800 gr crushed tomatoes
1 whole chicken, cut into parts
3 bay leaves
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic until onion begins to brown. Add eggplant and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, mushrooms and spices. Add chicken. Bring to boil then cook on low heat for 40 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked.