I See the Moon
We took Simon out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate his impending 50th birthday. We had a laugh-filled evening, despite it being harder and harder to take Mom out to eat. Mom can’t always remember how to use a fork or knife, or eat a sandwich, or she removes parts of the meal from the plate claiming it belongs to someone else. She purses her lips when we try to help and pronounces loudly that she is not a child. We try to placate her as best we can.
My dad, Simon and I reminisced about our growing up, and for the first time that I remember, talked honestly and openly about our family dynamics.
When I asked my dad if they’d ever considered having more kids—and Simon quipped that they’d actually thought about having less though the joke was on him because I’m the oldest—Daddy replied that only now does he realize that one of the things that stopped him from wanting more children was my mom’s nervousness in dealing with just two. I was surprised to hear this.
Yes, I remember Mom as being a nervous individual, a “nervous Nellie,” as she would call herself. Most of it revolved around Simon. Little things set her off—being on time to appointments, having dinner ready when my dad came home from work. And sometimes, it was big things. I remember when visiting Great Falls in Maryland we were young. Simon didn’t heed Mom’s pleas to stay away from the edge of the cliffs. In fact, he willfully tested Mom’s anxiety threshold. Mom was in a panic the whole time we were there. When Simon was older and learning to drive, Mom had to physically lie down on the back seat of the car because she was so scared to drive with him.
Were these perhaps early warning signs of Alzheimer’s?
I mostly remember Mom as a loving, caring, and doting mother.
The three of us talked while Mom listened as if we were telling her a story. She tried to join the conversation at the restaurant. “If I were Simon’s age today,” she declared, “I would be, I would be picking... the right ...thing to put on, the…whatever it is.”
To listen to her fumbling for the right words, to know that she has something she wants to tell us but is incapable of expressing it is so hard.
We are alternately amused and saddened by Mom’s erratic behavior. Simon sees her decline most clearly. The last time he was here was in February, eight months ago. From his perspective, Mom has deteriorated a lot. She rockets through an emotional repertoire that often includes anger. She has lost the ability to comprehend the meaning of words. The other night, when she was in the bathroom, I went to check that she’d flushed and washed her hands.
“I’m just washing my hands,” she said. I found her applying toothpaste to the back of her hand. “Oh,” I said, hiding my surprise, “that’s the wrong soap.”
Mom is susceptible to our emotional energy. One night, as we were driving back to Netanya from a night out, my fears of the road came to the surface (yes, I’m becoming more and more like my mom). I could feel my fear infecting Mom as together from the back seat we watched the car hurtling along the dark highway. Again, she could not quite express herself, but she told Simon, who was driving, to be careful of the lines on the road and the lights that she thought were veering towards us.
We got through it, as we do everything, knowing too, that we have the ability to affect Mom’s moods for the positive. After Simon’s birthday meal, we stopped outside to look at the gorgeous, brilliant super-moon. We sang a few moon songs and took photos of it. We skipped home light-filled and happy.
Eggplants thrive in warm weather. They are available year round in our grocery stores, and the longer I’ve lived in Israel, the more courageous I’ve become in cooking this vegetable. Eggplant is filled with vitamins and minerals, including B1 and B6, K, manganese, niacin, potassium, and folate. They are high in dietary fiber, and, when cooked right, extremely tasty.
Sweet and Sour Eggplant
My nieces Eliana and Tzipporah are impressive cooks who make the most amazing salads. This eggplant dish is based on one that Eliana brought with her the last time she came to visit. I’ve tried to make a healthier version of it by cutting out the frying process. Thanks, also, to my friend Robert for suggesting the ketchup.
1 large eggplant, sliced
1 large onion, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
2 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice eggplants in 1” thick slices. Lay them on a large flat surface and salt each slice individually so as to reduce any bitterness. Leave up to 20 minutes. Dry each slice and place on a cookie sheet covered in baking paper. Brush each slice with olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes at 420°. While eggplant is cooking, fry minced garlic and onion in remaining olive oil until onions are brown. Let cool. When eggplant slices are cool, cut into small pieces, and mix in onions. Combine remaining ingredients to form a sauce and pour over eggplant. Mix and serve.