A Toast to Friends
What must it seem like to outsiders—that foul mouth, the anger, the obstinacy? Yes, it’s embarrassing to hear Mom lash out verbally at someone, but my dad and I, while not used to it per se, know the rage is fleeting, and though unpredictable, it repeats itself with increasing frequency.
We had lunch today with Mom and Daddy’s dear friends from England. My dad and Manny were in junior high school together. In fact, Manny was instrumental in setting my parents up on their first date. And here they were, 60 + years later, still in touch.
Jack and Manny met at Cowper St. Central Foundation School for Boys in the East End of London where they excelled in studies, using education as a way to escape the poverty and verisimilitudes of life in the city’s rough neighborhoods. Together with their friends Gaf, Barry, and Kenny, they formed a life-long connection. As they matured, they attended dances for young Jews in a club on Tottenham Court Road where several of them met their future spouses.
Mom recognized both Manny and his wife Florence. They say that old memories are retained the longest, the memories from our formative years—our adolescence, our early adulthood—and that’s how long Mom has known them. (I think she secretly still has a crush on the dashing Manny, though no one can replace her precious Jack.)
When Florence told us she was soon turning 80, Mom retorted: “You’re too young to be that old!”
It was the more difficult interactions that unsettled me, as I’m sure it did them. My efforts to help Mom cut her meal or just pick up her fork where it fell inside the large bowl were all rebuffed. It was like dealing with a recalcitrant child—but without the ability to chastise her.
I am deeply grateful to Manny and Florence, and to all my parent’s other wonderful friends, for making the effort to stay connected despite the discomfort, for overlooking the difficult aspects of Mom’s devolving personality, and for including them in the life of the community.
My dad could go out without Mom. He could start to build a life for himself as a single individual. Yet he recognizes, as I do, that Mom benefits from interacting socially with people. It quickens her mind and gives her joy. One day in the not-too-distant future I will encourage Daddy to begin more independent pursuits. For now, though, they are still the inseparable Jack and Naomi.
I pray that my dad and his friends can gloss over Mom’s coarse language and peculiar behavior and encounter the woman they met all those years ago who is hiding somewhere inside her aging shell. Her outbursts, while uncomfortable, tell us she’s fighting to stay involved in her life.
If you’re looking for an alternative to french fries, try these tasty eggplant fries instead. One large eggplant will produce a good quantity of spicy, crunchy “fries.”
I like eating these with ketchup but my Israeli kids insist they are best with tehina. Or try barbecue sauce instead. You decide.
1 large eggplant, cut into 1” thick strips
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Seasons Salt
1 tsp granulated garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut eggplant into strips and halve them to form the shape of fries. Toss in a large bowl with oil and spices making sure to coat each “fry.” Place in a single layer on a baking tray and bake at 425° for 25 minutes.