There's No Place Like Home
When my dad was away in September, in my naiveté, I thought it would be easy to drive Mom and myself and her caregiver Sahlee to my home for Shabbat. Mom expressed joy at going to see her grandchildren, and even coming with me to synagogue. Throughout the two-hour journey, Mom commented on the long straight road that seemed to lead nowhere. But she wasn’t unhappy. We listened to the radio and hummed our own tunes, and the trip seemed, to me at least, short.
Almost from the moment we arrived, Mom told me she needed to go home.
“I have things to do,” she stated. “You are messing up my schedule.”
I tried the trick I’d employed in Netanya when she thought she wasn’t in her own apartment. I took her on a walk around the block. When we saw my friend Gaby, Mom was friendly and chatty. Then we got back to my house.
Mom was the angriest I had ever seen her. She yelled and called me filthy names. She rattled the locked door and raged at being held like a “prisoner.” In desperation, I call my husband Jeff at his office. He came home to help us. He took her out in the car, and when they returned Mom was in a brilliant, sunny mood. She was willing to eat some lunch, but refused to lie down despite her exhaustion. Still, she repeatedly asked to go home.
It was clear that we had no choice but to take Mom back to her own apartment.
After Jeff got home from work, we ate a quick supper, then drove the two hours back to Netanya. As we stepped into the dark apartment, Mom contritely thanked us for bringing her home, then headed straight to bed. We spent a quiet Shabbat keeping her calm, taking long walks, even longer naps, and avoiding the subject of my absent father.
When my dad suggested they come for the holiday of Sukkot, which was last week, I was nervous that Mom would exhibit the same behavior. I tried to do as much cooking as possible in advance, but the day leading up to Sukkot—only one day after the end of Shabbat—was impossibly tense. I think I managed to hide that from them, and with the start of the holiday, I did visibly relax.
Having my dad here to calm Mom made all the difference. He was the ameliorating factor in helping her navigate being away from her own home. Two incidents, however, highlighted for me the precariousness of the situation. After our lovely meal (if I do say so myself) in our Sukkah, Daddy started helping Mom get ready for bed. This was not in itself simple as Mom didn’t remember how to go from her room to the bathroom. Neither did she want to change into pajamas. Finally, as she sat on the edge of the bed, she started putting on her shoes again. She clearly wanted to go home, and it took all of Daddy’s persuasiveness to change her mind. More than words, his physical presence was what soothed her angst; he lay down next to her and she fell asleep.
At some early hour of the morning, Mom woke up to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, she turned the wrong way down the hall and ended up standing silently by my daughter’s bed. It’s not clear how long she stood there, but her staring eventually woke Liora with a start. At about the same time, Daddy realized Mom was no longer in her bed.
“Who is that stupid person?” Mom hissed as Daddy coaxed her back to her room. “What is she doing here? Get her out of here.”
“It’s me, Liora,” Liora tried to explain. Mom had no concept that she was talking to her granddaughter.
All of this leads to a subject that my dad and I are perpetually discussing: When should he and my mom move to their new home which is right down the street from me? The current plan is next fall.
I am advocating for them staying in their current location for longer. After 20 years in the same city, they have built a network of friends. There are many activities that Mom attends on a weekly basis, most importantly the Monday classical music concerts, not to mention her monthly poetry circle. The city is in walking distance and there is much to see and be distracted by. Their doctors’ office is close, and my grandmother, Mom’s mom, is still alive at the age of 101 and lives a short walk away.
Daddy feels that he must move before age makes it more difficult for him. He wants to have the strength to assist Mom in the transition to a new home, a seemingly staggering challenge. What we’re ultimately arguing about is how difficult that transition will be and whether they should wait until Mom is more incapacitated, and thus, my thinking goes, easier to handle.
And so we go round and round. We watch with sadness as Mom’s conversation devolves into nonsense, as her walking slows, as she reverts to a more childish nature. Where will she be in a year’s time? What skills will she still retain? Ultimately, I will acquiesce to Daddy’s decision.
As the weather cools, I automatically start making soups to keep us warm. While I’m happy eating the standard carrot-pumpkin-sweet potato variety, I also like to branch out and try new tastes. This is the mushroom leek soup we served during Sukkot.
Mushroom Leek Soup
The earthy taste of this soup is like a herald of the coming winter. While mushrooms are available all year round, their peak growing season is the fall. Choose mushrooms that are evenly colored and without blemish. Store them for up to three days in the fridge but use them as soon as you wash them.
2 leeks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
2½ containers mushrooms, chopped (8 oz or 225 grams each)
¼ cup red wine
2 bay leaves
1 tsp parsley
4 cups water (or 6 for a thinner soup)
¼ cup cooking cream (or non-dairy rice cream)
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash hot pepper flakes
For garnish: a swirl of cream and chopped chives
In a soup pot, sauté garlic, onions and leeks until onions start to brown. Add mushrooms and spices and sauté for another five minutes. Add water and wine and bring to a boil then simmer for 45 minutes. When soup cools, remove bay leaves and add cream. Blend soup. (I use a hand-held blender right in the pot.) Serve each bowl with a swirl of cream and a few chopped chives.