She sounded so…normal on the phone.
“We’d love to come visit you!”
Of course, the moment I opened the door to my house to invite my parents inside, Mom looked at me, puzzled, and declared, “I didn’t know you lived here.”
I laughed. I had been feeling anxious about their visit, about all I needed to do, all that could go wrong, the energy I’d need to entertain them. Here we were on the threshold, literally and figuratively, and I had a choice to make. I could continue to run scenarios in my head about how this visit would go or I could be in the moment. I made up my mind to sweep away the dread that had been gathering inside me and, as best I could, enter into her world.
My parents’ visit this week to celebrate the annual holiday of Purim actually went quite well. Mom agreed to wear a witch’s hat as dress-up and proceeded to entertain us with her most scary witches cackle. When we attended our communal meal, I could see she was overwhelmed by the number of people around her, the noise, even the food choices. She didn’t recognize anyone, not even my in-laws who are visiting from the States, but she hid it well and graciously talked to everyone who came by to say hello.
As usual, the fun started when Mom had to get ready for bed. At first, she was frantically looking for something, a specific paper or other imaginary object that she felt was missing. I finally gave her a small piece of paper and a pencil. She wrote a note to herself—with our assistance as she desperately searched for the words to an unknown yet urgent message—which seemed to greatly calm her:
MIRIA’M’S BE’R SHE
Check with JACK
END OF PURIM
I guess this was a message to remind her that she was at my house, her precious husband was with her, and the holiday of Purim was over. As a final touch, as it was a note to herself, she added “Love, Na.” Na is short for Naomi.
Daddy persuaded her to dress for bed. Then she started insisting she needed her shoes so that she could go home. I could hear their voices being raised as Daddy tried to rationally explain that they were staying over for the night. It had been a full, active day, and all I wanted was to go to sleep. I knocked on their door and suggested Mom come sit with me in the living room. My husband Jeff put on some slow melodious torch songs, and we sat and sang along for about 10 minutes. This, too, calmed her, and I was able to lead her happily back to her room. She climbed into bed and easily fell asleep.
There is no magic in finding a path through the maze that is Alzheimer’s. There is only trial and error, tuning into the person you are caring for and finding the best and most positive solution possible. I’m not sure how I find the creativity and patience to be with Mom, but I am content that I am able to contribute in some small way to Mom’s happiness.
Sometimes change is good. When I decided to try a new green bean dish from the one I make most weeks, no one complained. I consider that success.
Green Beans with Maple Vinaigrette
This dish is best with real 100% maple syrup, but pancake syrup will work, too.
1 Tbsp olive oil
800 gr (28 oz) bag of frozen green beans
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup almonds, sliced and toasted
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown onion and garlic in oil. Add green beans and cook until they turn bright green. Pour on vinaigrette and almonds and cook another 5 minutes. To toast almonds: toss almonds into frying pan and sauté on medium flame, stirring occasionally, till they begin to brown.