The Right Path
Sometimes I feel so tired and overwhelmed by the enormity of caring and loving my mom. I try hard not to show it when I’m with her, though there have been occasions when I lean back and let her prattle on, with barely the energy to nod my head at her outrageous conversation. Mostly, though, it is enchanting to sing and smile with her and supply the words she struggles to remember.
It’s Mom’s birthday tomorrow. She’s turning 77. We will of course tell her, and celebrate, but she won’t remember. I wonder how old she thinks she is. Yet I know that age and time are meaningless concepts to her now. I hope she reacts with joyful innocence and excitement at having a birthday.
I don’t want to reflect on the passing of time. I want to remain in the present for as long as possible. I want to engage with Mom in a way that she is also present, that keeps her eyes focused and her mind whirring to remember. It’s when I come home to the quiet of my own house that the full sadness descends. Because I know that this awakening is fleeting. And Mom might be in a muddled, angry mood when I see her next—uncontrollable, unbending—and it will take determination to quiet her inner demons.
Is it terrible to want to rid myself of this burden and yet know that I would never give it up? Perhaps that’s the way with all burdens. They shape us and push us in unwanted directions that can be strangely life-affirming. That’s how it is with me and Mom.
Mom’s birthday falls out on the holiday of Purim, so regardless, we’ll be celebrating. We’ll be at the synagogue laughing over my husband Jeff’s Purim shpiel, the play he writes each year that commemorates Queen Esther’s brave thwarting of the plot in ancient Persia to commit genocide against the Jews.
I imagine myself as Esther with a choice before me: letting events unfold as they may or vanquishing that horrific Alzheimer’s, if even for a few short hours, to save the mom hidden inside that woman’s ailing mind.
I know which path to take. Happy Birthday, Mom.
When all the hullabaloo of Purim is over, we’ll have a nice, small family celebration for Mom’s birthday. Cookies will work just as well as cake. This cookie dough is great for making hamentashen, or oznei Haman as they are called in Israel. We might as well celebrate with two of my favorite treats—chocolate and peanut butter—shaped in triangles for Purim. Mom won’t mind that it’s my favorite and not hers.
Chocolate Oznei Haman with Peanut Butter Filling
I can’t get away from those two things I love most—chocolate and peanut butter. Here’s a Purim recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth.
2/3 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup sugar
½ cup milk or milk substitute (I use almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
½ cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
¾ cup peanut natural butter
¼ cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
Mix oil, sugar and eggs. Beat well. Stir in vanilla and milk substitute. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and mix until a thick dough is formed. Chill for at least 1 hour in refrigerator (or even overnight). In a small bowl, mix peanut butter and sugar. (Note: Natural peanut butter seems to have a higher oily consistency. If you are using processed peanut butter, you might need to add 1 or 2 Tbsp oil.) Set aside. Preheat oven to 375°. Roll dough on a floured surface to a thickness of about 1/8 inches. With a cup or other circular object, approximately 7.5 cm or 3 inches, cut into circles. Rub water around the edge of the circle with your finger. Fill with 1 tsp peanut butter filling and fold into three-sided cookies by pinching together two sides then folding the third side over and pinching those ends together.* Gather all the scraps of dough, roll out and repeat. Bake on a cookie sheet covered in baking paper for 12 minutes. Makes about 20.
*These may crumble when you shape them into triangles. Don’t despair. Most will come out just fine.