Let Them Eat Cake
We walked around the mall today for about 3 hours window shopping as the rain fell outside. When we stopped for coffee, we bumped into Mom’s friends who were also in the mall because of the weather. Ray, the husband, was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He and his wife Ellen* were celebrating his 83rd birthday. Ray is a quiet fellow. There is no outward sign of his illness. He responded to our short interaction with alacrity and humor. But Ellen managed to whisper to me that Ray had forgotten how to eat the cake she had ordered for them.
Mom heard us whispering, and as we said goodbye, she insisted I tell her what we had been saying. Cautiously I told her that Ray was having memory problems.
“He has Alzheimer’s,” I told her. “He forgot how to eat cake.”
“How can someone forget something like that?” she asked.
“Alzheimer’s does funny things to a person,” I commented.
“I hope that doesn’t happen to us,” she replied.
Aside from the fact that Mom has no notion of what has happened to her, the chance encounter with Ray made me realize that the way I responded to him—as a competent, social individual—is similar to how Mom’s friends see her. They encounter a well-dressed happy woman who engages with them in simple social banter, and they think, oh, she’s not that bad.
All the good stuff happens when others aren’t around. When we were finally relaxing after lunch back at their apartment, Daddy discovered that the small drain cover in the bathroom floor was missing and the drain was exposed. There was only one possible person in the apartment who could have moved it, and she had no recollection of it (and if we had asked, would have denied it completely). We looked for that drain cover in all the usual places: under her pillow, in the hamper, the trash, even her bag. It was finally found in one of the bathroom cupboards.
Trust me, living with Alzheimer’s is demanding.
I know that Mom does sometimes have insight into her own forgetfulness, but in general, she is oblivious to it. Maybe that’s ok. The struggle of being in such a disconnected state is often frightening. There’s no need to have that in mind all the time. Unfortunately, she forgets the good things, too. Her world is so upside-down, but it is often be filled with love and laughter.
It is still raining here in Israel. For a country that has no rain all summer, every drop that falls in the winter is a blessing. So, no, I won’t even suggest that the rain gets me down. I’ll drink hot apple cider instead.
Hot Apple Cider
This is a perfect drink for a rainy afternoon. Sweet, satisfying, sincere.
for two servings
3 cups apple juice
½ an apple, cut into small pieces
2 cinnamon sticks
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
dash of ginger
Heat juice, apple pieces and spices in a small saucepan. Let it warm gradually. When hot, ladle mixture into mug. Make sure to include a cinnamon stick and plenty of apple pieces in the mug.
*Not their real names.