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  • Miriam Green

Second Best


I will never be enough for Mom. I am second best at most.

Here’s what happened. My dad went out for an early evening lecture to a retiree group here in Beer Sheva. It was his chance to start meeting some of the local English speakers in the area. He did not bring Mom; it was easier that way.

Mom and Sahli came to my house for a visit. Mom was in great spirits. We danced and sang, we pet the cat, we laughed and giggle, and we read kids’ books. Suddenly, Mom decided she had to go home. I tried distracting her, but she became adamant. I watched them go, suggesting to Sahli that they walk around a bit and come back to my house. When Mom saw me in my doorway, she was happy to say hello, but refused to come in as she was on her way home.

What does “home” mean to Mom? She doesn’t recognize her front door or remember what her house looks like. Is it some mythical home from her childhood? Or has that word become synonymous with the one person who makes her feel whole?

Soon after they left for the second time, I got a call from Sahli that Mom had refused to enter her own home. I saw them from my front door all the way down the lane, past their house, almost to the park. I started walking towards them, and when Sahli pointed me out to Mom, Mom turned back. We met at their door and went inside.

Bad decision.

“This is not my house,” Mom said angrily. “I have to go home.”

Sahli put on a video of the Danny Kaye concert that Mom loves. She swayed to the music, but refused to sit down, telling us she had the same music in her house. We all had a drink of water, made a trip to the bathroom, then headed out again. I assumed it would be ok for Mom and Sahli to wander a bit and then come back again to my house. I said goodbye and went home, turning to see them on their way to the park.

Fifteen minutes later, Sahli called to say that Mom was rushing away from her and would not stop or heed her requests to slow down. They had crossed the main thoroughfare, a huge intersection that generally scares Mom, and were wandering down a street that Sahli had never been to.

When I finally caught up to Mom and Sahli, they were in front of a grocery store. Mom again reacted favourably to my presence. We met by a low wall and I faked exhaustion so that she would sit next to me. My feigned fatigue allowed Mom to comfort me in a motherly way, though she generally no longer remembers she has children. Sahli had managed to reach my dad and he was on his way to rescue us.

Mom said she couldn’t remember what Daddy looked like.

“Is that him?” she asked as strangers passed us by. “He’s not coming. He’s forgotten me.”

If I were Lot’s wife, I would be in real trouble. I cannot walk away from Mom—emotionally or physically—without turning back to check on her. And when I do turn around, I know that whatever I do to calm or care for her will only be temporary until her one true companion shows up. I provide only momentary comfort: Mom is not shy about telling me that. It hurts, though I know it’s the disease talking. I know, too, that my feelings are immaterial; Mom’s safety is paramount.

I won’t stop taking care of Mom just because she often rejects me. My goal is to rise to the challenge and reach her emotionally as often as I can. I won't let my salty tears turn me to stone.

There are days when I have little energy to cook something new. When I can cook something in stages, it allows me to make more complicated dishes without feeling overwhelmed. This is a cheesy gluten free lasagne recipe with several parts that can be cooked ahead of time then assembled right before baking.

Gluten Free Eggplant Roll-Ups

First I roasted the eggplant slices. Then on a different day I sautéed the vegetable stuffing. By cooking different parts of this dish on different days, it made pulling it all together so much easier.

2 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 onion, chopped

1 squash, grated

2 carrots, grated

1 250 gr container cottage cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

½ to 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Sauce:

1 800 gr can crushed tomatoes

1 580 gr can tomato paste

2 Tsp each of basil, oregano, parsley, granulated garlic, salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Slice eggplant lengthwise. Salt slices and let sit for 20 minutes. Pat dry. Place flat on a large cookie sheet and brush with a little olive oil. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes. Store for later use.

  2. Sauté onion and garlic in a large pan. When onion becomes translucent, add grated vegetables, salt and pepper. Stir often and cook until most of the liquid evaporates. When cool, add cottage. Store for later use.

  3. Mix sauce ingredients. You’ll use about half of this mixture (or more, depending on how much sauce you like).

  4. In a large baking pan, pour enough sauce to cover the bottom plus enough to cushion the eggplant rolls.

  5. Place a tablespoon of vegetable mixture at one end of each eggplant slice and roll up. Set each rolled slice in the tomato sauce.

  6. Repeat until all eggplant slices are used.

  7. Sprinkle top with grated cheese.

  8. Bake in preheated oven at 350° for 20 minutes.

*Please note I will be out of the country for the next few weeks with little or no internet access. I'm making the assumption that everyone can manage while I'm away. And my beloved husband Jeff, whom Mom adores, will be on stand-by.

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