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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

A Stiff Uppercut

What lengths should we go to keep our loved ones safe? What are the limits of kindness?

I locked Mom in her house today. This after Mom attacked me. I am still trying to process our physical scuffle.

I thought we were being cruel by administering her anti psychotic meds. It made her drowsy and slow, reduced her gait to a shuffle, and seemed to fuel her delusional ramblings. Now, after reducing the dose to the minimum, I see how much she needs it. Yes, without it she has more stamina to walk, but her desire to “go home” has returned with a vengeance. This is what caused her to fight me.

It started after a trip to the grocery store and a fruitless visit to the hairdresser. Mom was happy to greet the hairdresser, shake his hand, try his comfortable chair, but she was adamant that she could not stay. She told us she had places to be, and that she’d return to have her hair cut some other time. We walked around the block and back but it made no difference. So we headed for home.

Once we were home, Mom said right away she needed to leave. There were people waiting for her, she explained, and she was leaving whether I was ready or not. Sahlee, our caregiver, suggested we lock the door, but I, in my greater wisdom, thought that was cruel, too.

I told Sahlee I would take her for a walk. I figured we could sit on a bench in the sun as we’d done so many times before. I assumed it would be easy to steer her through the paths outside the house and bring her safely home.

The minute Mom got out the door, she turned left and headed straight down one particular path. She would not sit on the bench with me, even when I feigned dizziness. She would not stop to say hello to the kids in the local kindergarten. No, she was determined to walk that straight path to its end. I realized that I could not let her do that, because where the path ended, there was a muddy drop that she could not have navigated.

I stood in front of her and told her we had to turn around. I gave her choices, I raised my voice, I tried to physically turn her. She lashed out at me. She grabbed my arm and dug her fingernails into my skin. I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her as tightly as I could. She screamed for help, for the police, for God to take this evil woman away from her. She punched my chin. Somehow, when I let go, she stormed away from me in the right direction.

When we got back to her house, she almost escaped by unlocking the patio gate when I wasn’t looking. With Sahlee’s help, we got her inside and locked the front door, which she rattled with great intensity but could not open.

Sahlee told her that only my dad had the key. To bide our time, I put on a movie and tried to entice her to sing with me. Thankfully, Daddy came home soon after, I noticed, though, that she was as antsy with him as she had been with me. She again told us she had to leave, but he was able to defuse her mood.

By the time I left, Mom was happily singing with me and even gave me a kiss goodbye. Thank God she has no memory of her actions. It’s bad enough that I have to relive how I treated her in those moments.

Daddy sees this kind of behavior on a regular basis, mostly directed at him. Truthfully, I’d rather he be the bad guy. That’s obviously unreasonable.

We need the anti-psychotic drug. And we need to be prepared to take physical measures to keep Mom safe. It doesn’t help to wish I didn’t have to go through it. What I can do is tell myself that even this is out of love, a love so deep that I will put myself in harm’s way to protect her.

Today is Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year for trees. It is the herald of spring, of planting new trees, of almond blossoms bursting forth. We celebrate by eating the fruits and nuts so plentiful in Israel, and by remembering that Israel is “a land of wheat and barley, vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil producing olives and (date) honey,” the “seven species” mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8. Keeping in the spirit of this holiday, I made a date bar that I cut into rounds. It is particularly easy to make in Israel because you can purchase vacuum-sealed pitted dates in almost every supermarket.

Date Rounds

I'd rather have a round of dates than another round of aggression with my mom.

500 grams pitted dates

1 cup mixed nuts, chopped

Zest of one orange

Juice of one orange

1 tsp cinnamon


Place dates and nuts in a medium-sized bowl. (I used a combination of cashews, pistachio, peanuts, and almonds.) Add zest and juice of one orange and cinnamon. Mix with your hands until nuts, etc., are folded into the date mixture. Set out a layer of baking paper on top of a piece of foil. Using your hands, form the date mixture into a long bar. Wrap and place in freezer for two hours. Remove from freezer, cut and serve.

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