Wherever You Go, I Will Go
Our lives have been topsy-turvy this past week. We had initial confirmation on Sunday that Mom could be moved into a closed Alzheimer’s ward on Tuesday. Can you imagine having a day and a half to wrap your head around the idea that life as you know it is about to change? We started packing, talking to Mom about going on a vacation, how she’d be staying at a nice hotel, our hearts bursting with grief, wondering who would take care of her and comfort her, persuade her to wash and dress, sing to her, love her unconditionally. But sometime on Monday, the whole process was put on hold. I felt frustrated, but I think I was secretly glad. I would get more time to be with Mom at home.
We did our usual things today—took a walk, sorted buttons, pet Fred the cat (who is a stuffed animal that Mom treats with lively affection), cut nails, sang silly songs—but the end of the morning found us sitting on the couch comparing the size of our hands. Mom’s hands are still bigger than mine. Mom lined up her right hand next to my left and counted “her” fingers (sans thumb). She counted five for herself—including one of mine—and I was only allotted three. I laughed at the craziness of it all.
She called me by name and I snuggled against her shoulder, happy to share my fingers with her, happy, too, to be in the moment, knowing that she loved me. I am holding my sadness at bay: my time with her in this setting is short lived. I’m traveling to the States for vacation next week. And I am distraught at the likelihood that she may be moved while I’m away. If that happens, then I might return to an emptiness that can never be filled. I will also be away when my dad realizes how expansive Mom’s presence has been in his life, and how quiet it can become.
The nature of these facilities is if a place opens up, it must be seized upon quickly.
Life is like that, too. It favors the decisive, those able to make and stand by their decisions, and conversely, those able to move forward in the morass that loss creates, to understand that some circumstances are beyond our control and decisions often cannot be remade.
I know I will be able to be with Mom wherever she is. I just pray that she finds contentment in a new home that will cater to her special needs.
This week marks the culmination of counting the Omer, the days between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. As part of the celebration, we read the Book of Ruth. This hits close to home for me. Mom’s name is Naomi Ruth after the two main women characters in the story. Ruth says to her mother-in-law Naomi: “Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God.” (Our friend Batya Fonda has set this beautifully to music. Listen here.)
I am committed to Mom as Ruth was to her Naomi. The quote has special meaning for me, because sometimes I follow Mom wherever she leads, even to nonsensical places. And, now, as we get ready to move her into a new home, I will make her lodgings mine by familiarizing myself with them and visiting as often as I can.
Honor your father and your mother, the 5th Commandment tells us. What is honor, the Talmud asks? “Feed them, give them to drink, clothe them, cover them, bring them in and take them out (Kiddushin 31b).”
It is my choice to do all these things for my parents with love and a full heart. It is what I strive to do, even as Mom is antagonistic, or when Daddy and I have a difference of opinion. We have an unbreakable bond full of the gratitude I feel at being their creation. I pray that this move will strengthen those bonds.
It is traditional on Shavuot to eat dairy meals. There are various reasons for this, but one that I found intriguing is that the Torah is likened to milk: “Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue (Song of Songs 4:11).” I find comfort in thinking of the teachings of the Torah as part of my very existence. Here’s my version of a dairy mushroom moussaka that is both filling and aromatic.
I made this dish in three stages so as reduce the time I spent in the kitchen. Both the eggplant and the mushroom sauce can be made ahead and stored in the fridge. My inspiration for this dish was the Moosewood Cookbook.*
2 large eggplants, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
2 lbs mushrooms, sliced
3 cups crushed tomatoes
6 Tbsp tomato paste
½ cup red wine
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 bay leaves
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1½ cups Israeli white cheese (gvina levana) or plain yogurt
1 cup parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice eggplant in 1” slices and place on baking tray. Salt eggplant and let sit approx. 15 minutes (to bring out the bitterness). Wipe slices, then brush each slice with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes at 420°. Eggplant should be soft enough to pierce with a knife. Set aside.
In a large pan, sauté garlic and onions until onions begin to brown. Add mushrooms and spices, and continue to cook until mushrooms are soft. Pour wine over mushrooms and mix well. Add tomatoes and paste. Bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes to reduce liquids. When cool, add chopped parsley.
In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add white cheese and ½ cup parmesan. Reserve the other half to sprinkle on top of the moussaka.
To assemble, spread a bit of mushroom sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. Place a layer of eggplant, then the mushroom sauce, then a second layer of eggplant, in the dish. Pour cheese topping on top, then sprinkle remaining parmesan. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes until top begins to brown.
I'll be away for the next few weeks without opportunity to post. Wishing everyone health and happiness.
*Mollie Katzen, Moosewood Cookbook, 1997, Ten Speed Press, Berkley, CA.