What a hoot! I spent a glorious day with my dad and brother Simon in Netanya. They had been staying there for a few days’ vacation when I joined them for a day out.
It was thrilling to get up at the crack of dawn, rush out the door and catch the train as I had done so many times in the past when I visited Mom and Daddy on a weekly basis. I arrived after a year’s absence and again felt my love for this dynamic city. Oh, the stores, the ice cream, the calm ocean waves, the view!
All that was absent was my sweet mother.
I cried only once. That was pretty good, I think.
She was with us when we stopped in our favorite coffee shop and bought ice coffee. She was there at the lecture Daddy gave at the AACI, the Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel, that he had once been active in. She was the empty seat at lunch that we ate with her former (and very pregnant) caregiver from the Philippines, Sahlee, and her other stalwart companion, Rachel. She accompanied us as we walked along the boardwalk above the clifftops and watched the sun set, and as we ate ice cream along the pedestrian mall.
We all missed her—not as she is now, but as she was—that vivacious, gentle, happy woman who was always smiling and singing and who made friends easily.
Mom is very different now. And yet, in my mind, she still possesses some of these qualities that make her definable as “Mom.” We discussed that: whether she really is gone or not. Not that it matters. Part of this Alzheimer’s deal is accepting her as she is, in whatever state we find her on any given day. I believe her essence is recognizable in our interactions and I strive to encounter it. We also have an obligation to make sure she is being well cared for.
Simon and I spent a couple of hours at the beach bobbing in waves and walking along the sand as the waves lapped against our feet. We encountered babies experiencing sand for the first time; insufficiently clad women; enormous tattoos down the sides of legs and arms; deformed feet; sail boats; small, illusive fish that bit Simon’s toes; and the glorious blue sky. We heard lots of French and Russian and a smattering of Hebrew. We laughed. We held hands. We gloried in just being.
We’re back in Beer Sheva now. I am so glad Daddy had a vacation—his first in about two years, and certainly since Mom was moved to the closed ward. My husband Jeff and I visited Mom each day he was away. She asked about him but not with the urgency that she did three months ago.
So many ups and downs, waves of joy and sorrow. It was my parents’ anniversary this week; it passed without remark. There are not enough words to express the sadness we feel at Mom’s living demise. And tomorrow is Daddy’s 80th birthday! He’s invited a few new local friends to a party in his home, and I’m excited for him that he is able to begin a new chapter in his life here.
All holidays come to an end, but the tranquility I felt in Netanya will hopefully remain with me for a while longer. And as the holiday of Rosh Hashanah inches closer (it begins on Sunday, September 9), I wish all my readers who will be celebrating a sweet New Year. May you be inscribed in the book of life with good health and may you know the joy of your family’s embrace.
My mind is full of the dishes I’m going to make for the four meals that constitute Rosh Hashanah. Round, sweet challah, sweet and sour meat balls, grilled chicken and vegetables, maybe honey cake. But I also want to try something new. Here’s a recipe for roasted apples and root vegetables that combines the sublime taste of apples, carrots and sweet potato with radishes and onions in a flavorful vinaigrette dressing.
Why do we eat apples on Rosh Hashanah? The Biblical commentator Rashi, when expounding on a verse in Genesis—“Behold, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field that God has blessed” (Genesis 27:27)—explains that the scent that Isaac attributes to his son Jacob is like the scent of an apple field, the scent of the Garden of Eden. We eat apples to remind us of the relationship we have with God.
Roasted Apples and Root Vegetables
This dish is like life itself, both sweet and sharp in the same mouthful. It will definitely take you back to the Garden. (Or at least stimulate your taste buds!)
3 apples, peeled and sliced into wedges
3 carrots, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into thin sticks
2 cups radishes, halved
1 red onion, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
3 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp rosemary or 2 tsp fresh, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 420° F / 210° C. In a large bowl, coat cut vegetables with olive oil. Make sure carrots and sweet potato are cut thin so that they cook in the allotted time. Spread vegetables on a baking tray and cook for 20 minutes. Mix dressing ingredients in a small container and pour over cooled vegetables. Serve warm.
I'll be back in two weeks. Enjoy the holidays!
With a nod to the Michigan Apple website and their recipe on which this is based.