“We are all capable of dancing,” Mom says as we swing round the room. She’s talking to the other residents who are mostly sitting in chairs, many staring off into some distant place. She wants them to join her in dancing.
The “radio” is playing 50’s music and with the help of the staff, some of the residents wave their arms or rise and step tentatively in a circle.
This dancing is a precursor to our main event—an eye exam with an optometrist who owns a business called OptiCar. She’ll set up her equipment in one of the rooms in the building, and, if Mom complies, check Mom’s eyesight and see how her glasses sit on her face.
We’ve noticed that when we visit, Mom is often not wearing her glasses. She takes them off, and I’m worried they don’t feel comfortable on her face. I’m not sure that her prescription has changed, but I do see red indentations on Mom’s nose where her glasses rest.
I am giddy with relief that Mom is in a good mood. I’m trying not to create that earlier symbiosis I’ve experienced, where her emotional fragility affects mine. I’m trying to be in the moment.
When Nira the Optometrist is all set up, we dance our way to her. Daddy’s here, too. Mom sits in the chair and immediately starts reading the numbers that are projected on the wall. Nira asks if Mom can tell the difference between one lens and another, but this proves too difficult for Mom. Nira reads her current glasses prescription versus a reading of her eyes and comes up with a moderate change in her eye sight. We find a red frame that sits lightly on the nose and has temples with spring hinges. They seem virtually indestructible. I want a pair, too!
I know that new glasses can take getting used to, but I’m hoping that when Mom gets her new pair, she’ll be happy wearing them.
It is still touch and go when we visit Mom, and I feel myself bracing in anticipation of her mood. I’m learning to let her be, to sit with her among the other residents that she seems fondly engaged with. The nurses don’t understand much of her English and we translate when she cheerfully tells them they’re beautiful and she loves them. (No need to translate when she curses and swears at them.)
To be totally honest, we often don’t understand what she’s saying in English either. But there are times when she makes perfect sense. We’re learning to take the good and the bad—the festive dancing and the black moods when she wishes herself dead.
This disease is making us all dance to a different tune, to listen and carefully follow Mom’s emotional rhythms that can change in an instant. We are learning new steps and transposing them into a life-affirming jig. It is my hope that even those few minutes of active joy on any given day will compensate for a world that is becoming increasingly more like a mob scene than a choreographed dance.
Sometimes, the easier a dish, the better. Here’s a summer soup that takes so little effort and produces a creamy taste sensation, all with only three ingredients (if you don’t count the water).—cauliflower, onion and garlic. Serve it cold on hot summer evenings. Or serve it delightfully warm.
Everyone wanted seconds of this soup, so next time, I’m going to use more cauliflower than is called for. This recipe, using two cauliflower heads, is enough for eight servings.
2 heads cauliflower, cleaned and chopped into florets
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté garlic and onions in a large pot until onions become translucent. Add in cauliflower and cover in water. Stir in salt and pepper. (Make sure you add enough salt as cauliflower can be bland.) Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes until cauliflower is soft. Remove water and save in a different container. Using a hand-held blender, blend cauliflower until creamy, adding back water until the soup is the consistency you like, either thick or thin. Serve with chopped scallions and soup nuts.