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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

You're Only Young Twice

I am writing to you from sunny Kiryat Atta, home to my son and daughter-in-law, and of course, our sweet 8-month-old grandson Roi. My husband Jeff and I are three days into a four-day babysitting gig while the young couple enjoys some alone time abroad.

What a privilege it is to enjoy our grandson's company and see the shape of his young life. But I would be lying if I told you it was easy. Nights are especially tiring as warmed up breast milk (or Materna) is just not the same as the real stuff. The amazing thing is, no matter how much Roi cries and wakes at night, he wakes for the day at about 7:00 with a sunny smile on his face.

Mostly, though, we are doing fine. Once we've dropped Roi off to his caregivers, we are free to enjoy ourselves in adult pursuits. The first day we drove to Haifa to visit museums and the Baha'i Gardens. It was a remarkable day, so clear we could see the snow-covered Mt. Hermon. The sun was out, we were relaxed, we were together. My calf muscles are still hurting from walking down 900 plus steps!

Yesterday, we drove an hour south to Netanya to see my parents. It's what I do every Tuesday. It's what I've been doing for the past seven years.

Mom and I went out for coffee while Jeff stayed back at their apartment with my dad trying to get some work done. We had a lovely time wandering in the city. Ostensibly, we were looking for a new hairbrush for my dad; it was a great excuse to enter stores, talk to passersby, sing as we walked, and generally find happiness in the day.

There's not much difference between an Alzheimer's patient and a baby. Moods and actions can be erratic. It's hard to communicate effectively. Smiles are a premium. Mealtimes are unpredictable. Love is unconditional.

The heartbreak of hearing Roi cry and writhe in my arms and knowing he can't communicate why he's crying, if he's in pain, is angry, or even just gassy, reminds me of dealing with Mom when she becomes intransigent. It is a guessing game, and it takes all my resolve and patience to figure it out.

Babies see the world in simplistic terms. They enjoy picture books with clear, unambiguous images. Reading enhances brain activity in young children. It stimulates developing senses and brings closeness between parent and child. It seems to do the same thing for Alzheimer's patients. Mom and I often read and sing together using a large, colorful book of nursery rhymes. It is not beneath her to enjoy—and remember—these childish rhymes. And it gives us great pleasure to do this together.

It seems I'm not alone in understanding this. A friend sent me a link to a new book for Alzheimer's patients, one with large images and a few lines of print that can stimulate memory and act as a jumping off point for forays into the past, specifically with a Jewish theme. L'Chaim is Eliezer Sobel's 2nd book devoted to Alzheimer's. His first, a general picture book, is Blue Sky, White Clouds. It sounds like a lovely gift for your loving family member with Alzheimer's, one that can be read over and over again. Here's the site for the book.

L'Chaim might help Mom with cues about some of the Jewish rituals that are lost to her now, including lighting candles every week. My parents rely on their non-Jewish Philippine caregiver to set up the Shabbat candles and prepare for Jewish holidays that are approaching.

Meanwhile, tonight is our last night with Roi as his parents return tomorrow. I hope that they've had a great break and are ready to return to the challenges of child-rearing in all its glory while we return to our own normal routines.

Cauliflower is the vegetable that most looks like a human brain. It contains vitamins C, K, B6, protein, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, potassium, and manganese. There are many ways to prepare this healthy vegetable. One way is to serve it whole with a piquant sauce.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

The closest I've come to a real brain is seeing one in formaldehyde. My brother-in-law Zeev used to work with rat brains, but I don't think I want to get that close. I'll stick to the cauliflower variety.

1 whole cauliflower

1 Tbsp olive oil



1/3 cup almonds

3 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp red wine vinegar

¼ cup fresh parsley

½ tsp red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp water (if needed to thin sauce)

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 375°. Place small pot of water on lowest baking shelf (to create steam). Rub cauliflower head with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in baking pan or casserole dish and cook in oven for one hour (and up to two hours) until cauliflower is easily pricked with knife. Drizzle with oil every half hour. Meanwhile, place all sauce ingredients in food processor and blend. To serve, pour sauce on cauliflower.

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