“Oh, it’s my mommy,” she said as I entered her house this morning. I was not prepared for this—to be identified as her mom.
On the other hand, I wasn’t shocked by it either. On any given day I might be her daughter, her friend, a school mate, a kind stranger.
“Hi, Mom,” I countered. “It’s great to see you.”
She gave me a big hug and we danced around the room for a while until she started looking for…something, this time by opening each of the small lacquered boxes that sit on the coffee table in the living room. This act of searching for things is called “rummaging.”* It is a coping mechanism for the disorientation of dementia, a way to find reassurance in familiar items. Of course, Alzheimer’s might cause you to forget what you are looking for, thus setting you up to keep looking endlessly for something that eludes your memories.
Mom and I sat down together to investigate the contents of the boxes. Suddenly I realized that Mom had closed her eyes. She wasn’t sleeping, exactly, but she was barely present.
Mom has much less energy these days. She is tired all the time. She is in the throes of a disappearing act worthy of David Copperfield: she is vanishing before my very eyes.
The other night when we walked home from a Purim party we had attended, I held tightly to her arm because she was shuffling along as if she were sleep walking.
It’s hard to say what has precipitated this decline. Is it the disease? Is it an effect of the drugs she’s taking? Maybe it’s simply the exhausting nature of dementia, trying to make sense of the infinite barrage of stimuli of daily living. With her increased bouts of tiredness, Mom’s sparkle seems to be fading.
We must adjust ourselves to Mom’s new physical limitations. We have already stopped walking to and from the local mall. And there may be other activities that we must curtail.
Although I try to remain positive and optimistic, I am overwhelmed by a great sense of loss. I am steeling myself for what’s to come.
Sometimes it’s not what’s in a dish that’s important, but what’s on it. When I have little emotional energy but I still have to creatively make dinner, I start with something that goes with almost everything—sautéed mushrooms and onions. I’ve teamed it up here with a hamburger, but it also works on fish, in quiche, on a salami or a cheese sandwich, basically anything you’re in the mood for. I’ll throw in the hamburger recipe, too, just for fun.
Sautéed Mushrooms and Onions
The trick to making this topping scrumptious is to caramelize the onions before adding the mushrooms.
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 carton button mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onions in olive oil on a low flame, stirring occasionally, until brown in color, approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook until mushrooms soften. Remove from heat.
I learned the art of making hamburgers from my mom. The egg and matza meal are what bind the patties together, preventing them from falling apart.
500 gr ground beef
1 onion, minced
¼ cup ketchup
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup matza meal
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a large bowl. With hands, mix thoroughly and form patties of about 80 to 100 grams each. Fry patties in frying pan on medium flame, flipping when hamburger meat begins to brown.