Death and Moving
To paraphrase a quote attributed to Ben Franklin, nothing is certain except death and moving.
These past two weeks have been emotionally tumultuous with the celebrations of Holocaust Memorial Day last Sunday, and this week the back-to-back celebrations of Israeli Memorial Day (for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terror) and Independence Day. In between, we attended a stone setting ceremony for my friend’s father, who coincidentally had the same Hebrew name as my father (Ya’akov ben Meir), and whose grave is one row away from our friend Sabrina’s (who would have been 46-years-old this past month).
Standing in the cemetery, I was overcome with thoughts about my parents’ upcoming move from their current home to one just down the street from me. Looking ahead, past the move, past their lives in a new place, I realized this cemetery would be their final resting place. This one, with its stark desert landscape, the blinding sun beating upon beige sands and browned-hued headstones, this confusing patchwork of grave upon grave so tightly packed together there is barely room to walk between the rows. This cemetery that I have visited many times over the years, so close to my home, and to my heart.
Of course, before that finality, my parents will have to adjust to a new home, a new city, new neighborhood, doctors, friends, stores, etc. Their move will change not only their lives, but the life of me and my family. On the one hand, we will have more opportunities to spend time together. They’ll see their grandchildren and great-grandchild with greater frequency. They’ll have a permanent invitation to our Shabbat and holiday meals. They’ll even have in me a personal guide to their new life.
On the other hand, the main reason they are moving is because Mom has Alzheimer’s. There’s that shadow reaching out with its ethereal limbs to disrupt our plans.
There is no way to know how Mom will take to her new home. We can try and plan. Concrete suggestions include keeping the living space open from clutter, creating a comfortable place for Mom to sit, removing rugs to avoid falls, mounting extra bright lights around the rooms to avoid Sundowning, installing an alarm system to alert us to escape attempts, and making an inviting outdoor space.
Ultimately, though, wherever my dad is, that’s Mom’s home.
Yesterday we paid a shiva call to our friend whose mom passed away this past Shabbat at the age of 87. We spoke about how Sally’s mom, Doreen, had lived with her for the last 9 years, how she had been energized by being with her grandchildren, how she had become an integral contributor to their household. Though she had been ill off and on for the past year, Doreen never lost her cognitive abilities. She was present with her family until the very end.
I recognize that my experience with my mom will be very different. But I hope that I can take a page from Sally’s book and open myself to Mom being near me, to having fun with her, to recognizing her centrality in my life.
Four months till their move and counting!
Sometimes cooking an unassuming food in a new way will make it attractive and desirable. I view our preparation for my parents’ move the same way I view this new mushroom dish—a scrumptious dressing up of an old favorite.
Mushrooms and onions enhance many dishes. Sometimes, though, it’s good to appreciate mushrooms on their own terms.
2 packages button mushrooms (approximately 16 oz.)
3-4 shallots, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or other vinegar)
2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped (or use mint for a different flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan. Keeping the flame on medium high, sauté mushrooms in oil, adding salt and pepper, until mushrooms start to brown. Add sliced shallots. When mushrooms are browned, pour vinegar around the side of the pan (not directly on the mushrooms) and stir gently. Turn off flame. Add remaining olive oil and basil. Mix well. Serve hot or cold.