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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Invisible Handicaps

The day my brother Simon left, Mom threw a temper tantrum when she and my dad were out enjoying an afternoon stroll. She used the foulest of language towards him and refused to walk home with him. Daddy managed to convince her to follow him, but her anger persisted all the way into the apartment.

Was there a connection between Mom’s outbursts and Simon’s departure? There’s no real way to know, but perhaps Mom was telling us how much she misses him as best she can. Not that she remembers Simon was ever here. My guess is that after two weeks of having him in her home, accompanying her each and every day, she feels his absence without being able to verbalize it.

I feel blessed in being able to speak my mind, though sometimes I surprise myself. Our goal yesterday was to buy mom a new purse, one with less pockets and compartments so that it is simpler to open and find things in. Mom doesn’t really need to carry a purse, but it is a comfort item, and it gives her purpose to carry it. If she doesn’t have a purse with something in it—tissues, an empty wallet—she gets upset.

We visited several shops in town, then headed to the mall where Sahlee, our lovely caregiver, knew of a sale. As we approached the entrance to the mall, I started explaining to Mom that she had to give her purse to the security guard for him to check its contents, and that we then had to walk through the metal detector. That was about as easy as petting a wild tiger. The woman in line behind us started asking us to hurry up.

“Nu,” she said, that most Israeli of expressions, “what’s taking so long?”

Without even meaning to, I turned and grabbed her wrist. She was as startled as I was.

“Patience,” I declared, “we’re doing the best we can.”

I turned back to Mom, and somehow we managed to get through the security check with our dignity intact.

Not all handicaps are visible. I want to try and carry that thought with me as I interact with others.

There are two essential aspects to my week, each as central as the other. One is my Tuesday visits to my parents. The other is Shabbat which we celebrate by attending synagogue, eating hearty meals, spending time with the kids, and talking with good friends.

This Shabbat, I was privileged to spend quality time with my 5-month-old grandson Roi. I was enthralled as Roi actively and consciously rolled from his back to his front in order to reach an object on the carpet; as he grabbed a set of toy keys I held out to him and rotated his wrist so that they made noise; as he took pleasure in standing on my lap, tall enough, finally, to look over the couch.

This amazing child has no language. He has no words to express himself or explain movement, motivation, or desire. What is going on in his head? How does he know to do these things? How does he talk to himself?

How strange to think that as fast as Roi’s brain expands, and he learns to communicate, Mom is reversing towards infancy, her brain tangled and shrinking. A cruel irony.

Whole turkeys are sometimes hard to find here in Israel. There is an apocryphal story of the woman who ordered a whole turkey from the butcher emphasizing that she wanted it whole. When she returned to pick it up, she discovered that he’d cut it up to make it easier for her to cook. “But it’s a whole turkey,” he explained, “all the parts are here!”

We usually make turkey on the Shabbat closest to Thanksgiving. Of course, the meal wouldn’t be complete without stuffing. My kids wait all year for this.

Marilyn’s Stuffing

Here’s a savory stuffing recipe that will use up every stale bread crumb in your house. This is my mother-in-law’s recipe. I’ve learned many things from Marilyn, including the art of never staying still. Whenever she’d come for a visit, we were sure to find her painting or wallpapering rooms, washing dishes and clothes, and, when they were younger, playing with the grandkids.

2 Tbsp canola oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 large onion, chopped

4 to 5 stalks celery, chopped

2 red peppers, chopped

1 sliced bread loaf

½ cup fresh dill

2 tsp parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs

1½ -2 cups water

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Lay slices of bread on a large baking pan and toast in oven on 400° until they begin to brown. Using tongs, flip bread slices and toast the second side. Remove from oven and cool. In a frying pan, sauté garlic and onion until onion begins to brown. Add vegetables, dill and spices. Cook until vegetables are soft. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, break the toasted bread into chunks. Stir in vegetable mixture. Mix together water and eggs then stir into bread and vegetables until coated. Add walnuts. Stuff the mixture into the cavity of the turkey or chicken and cook according to the weight of the bird. Place remaining stuffing into a baking dish and bake at 350° until the top of the stuffing starts to brown.

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