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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Good and Bad

Like all of us, Mom has good days and bad days. There are times I’ve visited her where she can barely keep her eyes open. Other times, she’s in a happy mood—awake, active, and readily sings along with me from our repertoire of songs.

Today was a good day. But as with all our visits, Mom presented a wide range of emotions, not all of them pleasant. When Daddy and I walked in, Mom was so pleased to see us. She clearly recognized us as dear to her.

“I want to be here with our family,” she said, opening her arms to embrace us. “I feel so lucky.”

We sat together at a table by ourselves and mostly let Mom chatter away. She made up elaborate questions for us, and told us incomprehensible things: “Today we placed it on the bottom of the cup and the French Police came and then didn’t know what to do but she seemed very charming. Do you know why (mumble mumble) came? I looked out the window and I said I wish I was here now. Someday we’ll all be no. 9.”

The report from the staff, whom I’m getting to know, continues to include accounts of her belligerence during morning showers. She doesn’t brush her teeth. She hates having her diaper changed (which is understandable). She often doesn’t want to eat her meals (which may be a result of being on a higher dose of medication). However, they also noted her penchant to give compliments and blessings to everyone. The social worker told us that she and a Russian woman converse each afternoon each in their own language as if they are having an intimate conversation, though neither actually understands the other.

Twice during our visit, Mom felt an urgent desire to find a bathroom. Daddy and I alerted the staff and walked her to the nearest toilet. While Daddy waited outside, she resisted my help and that of two nurses as we tried to get her to pull her pants down and allow us to remove her diaper. She sat on the toilet angrily calling us names, but nothing came out. About half an hour later, we repeated the whole scene. This time, I told the nurses to give her privacy. After a few angry minutes, Mom calmed down, and her body did what it needed to do. It was the first time she allowed me to clean her after a bathroom visit. What a strange “victory” to celebrate.

I have a feeling that Mom has moments of clarity where she is upset at being in her new “home.” I have no way of knowing if the faces she sees every day are familiar from one day to the next, or if she knows one staff member from another. She clearly still possesses a sense of continuity, but I don’t know how extensive it is. On the other hand, she seems genuinely comfortable sitting with the other residents and engaging in their daily activities.

As we were leaving what she referred to as “the humanity place,” Mom called out, “Don’t go.” It breaks our hearts anew each time we leave her. On every occasion I enter the ward, I pray I will find the smiling, vivacious woman who is excited about seeing me. That is the most I can hope for.

The kitchen is a good refuge from the storm of emotions Mom’s situation stirs in me. This salad with its simple ingredients—baby corn, fresh mushrooms, and onion—combines to make up more than its humble parts. The longer it marinates, the stronger the lemon flavour.

Mushroom and Baby Corn Salad

I love this salad. It is easy to make and is packed with flavor. What more could you ask for.

1 can baby corn, drained and cut

1 cup button (or baby portabella) mushrooms, sliced

3-4 chives, sliced or ¼ red onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Place vegetables in a small bowl. Add oil, lemon juice and spices. Toss and let sit in refrigerator for at least one hour for the mushrooms to absorb the flavors. Serve.

My heart goes out to our friends Cliff and Neil Churgin, whose beloved mother, Irene z"l, passed away this week. She will be missed. May her memory be for a blessing.

I will be away next week.

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