Too Much Synagogue
Each time I walk Mom home from synagogue and see her safely to her door, I am tinged with sadness. I know I’m doing the right thing by bringing her there with me. I can visibly see the excitement on Mom’s face when she is with me in synagogue. She radiates joy in her whole demeanor. Why then am I disheartened by it?
During the extended period of the Jewish holidays, I took Mom with me to synagogue as often as I could. Not only did it get Mom out of the house for a little while, but every time I took her out, it gave my dad a break, too.
I’m slowly learning how much prayer is too much, and conversely what Mom enjoys. If I take her too early, she loses interest. I couldn’t help laughing when during the reading of the Torah on Rosh Hashana, Mom leaned over to me and said, “This is so boring.”
If I time it right, Mom participates in the prayers we sing at the end of the service and then, when the service is over, she greets all my friends in her most caring voice. My friends and community are amazing. They treat Mom with affection and interest; they allow her to speak in her rambling incoherent way and then respond kindly; they accept her introducing me to them as her school friend or cousin or sister; they heartily receive her effusive greetings; and they let her bless them in Yiddish or English or Hebrew, whichever language she happens to be speaking.
And yet, I am overwhelmed by loss. I’m wondering if the way I feel has to do with Mom being more present in my life. Whereas before I could visit her once a week and then go home to my own life, I can no longer do that. Mom now inhabits my world and each interaction is a reminder of the impact Alzheimer’s has had on our lives. Perhaps it is seeing her newly through the eyes of others I love and trust. Or perhaps it's embarrassment at Mom's strange outbursts. My mother has been missing for years, and I’m mourning her absence more intensely.
That’s not to say that I can’t see the benefit of our outings. I do see it—readily, greedily—as this is what I’d rather focus on than the devastating loss, the simple child-like personality, and the unstable moods.
And so I come home to the perfect quiet of my house. I turn off for a while so that I can rejuvenate. I focus on my kids and my writing. And I gather my strength so that I can return to Mom with an abundance of positive energy and see her as the beautiful fragile individual she has become.
Meanwhile, amidst all the angst, I cooked and cooked and cooked and enjoyed our company over the holidays. We are privileged to be part of a large group of friends living in Israel who have known each other since college. Now with children of our own, we meet when we can, most regularly on Israel’s Independence Day. This past Shabbat, we celebrated the bat mitzvah of the daughter of one of these college friends. Many of us gathered here in Beer Sheva to celebrate together, bunking together in the same house and eating shared meals. As many in the group are vegetarian—with a few vegans to boot—we made sure to cook appropriate meals. I firmly believe that any Shabbat meal is incomplete without a chocolate cake. Wouldn’t you know, one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes includes no eggs. It is one that I’ve been making for years, even before I knew what vegan meant, and I was thrilled to have an excuse to bake it for Shabbat.
Lianne’s Eggless Chocolate Cake
Eating this cake is like eating chocolate pudding. The baking process actually inverts the consistency of the batter so that there is moist, fudgy chocolate on the bottom and a fluffy cake-like consistency on top. Many thanks to Lianne who shared her recipe with me.
2 cups flour
¼ cup + 3 Tbsp cocoa
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup cream or cream substitute
¼ cup oil
2 tsp vanilla
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup + 2 Tbsp cocoa
1 ¾ cup hot water
Combine dry batter ingredients in a large bowl then gently add liquids. Batter will be thick but moist. Pat into greased baking dish. In a separate bowl, mix topping ingredients and pour on batter. Bake approx. 50 minutes at 325° until the top is firm to the touch. Serve warm.