“It’s my daughter, Miriam,” she said as I entered the ward. “Where were you?”
How grateful I felt to be identified by Mom. I sat down in the seat that the nurse was vacating. She’d been feeding Mom her 10:00 snack—applesauce and milky coffee laced with a laxative—and Mom was eager to hug and kiss me. We spoke for a while as Mom told me about getting her hair coiffed; about the seven minutes that she’d waited (I’m not sure for what); how she’d gone shopping but couldn’t find the….thing she was looking for. It didn’t matter that she was talking nonsense, that she hadn’t been out of her ward in months. What did matter was that we were connecting, having a conversation punctuated by songs and laughter, our hands clasped, our heads close together.
I made her stand up by herself using the arms of her chair, and we went for a short walk in the hallways. When we sat down again, Mom complained of pains in her legs. It’s unclear to me how much exercise is good for her. I believe her muscles are atrophying from little use, but I don’t want to overwhelm her with too strenuous a walk.
We read a book together and then Mom began to nod off. I looked around the room and realized that most of the residents had their eyes closed. Mom was only half awake: she kept trying to answer the staff who were talking to each other, all with her eyes closed. I sat with her amiably, taking in the surroundings, trying to imagine myself in a place like this. It wasn’t an unhappy contemplation, just unsympathetic. Eventually, her head lolled onto her chest and I realized she had fallen into a deeper sleep. I said goodbye to the staff and slipped out.
At first, when he heard that I’d left because I didn’t want to wake Mom, Daddy was upset with me, thinking that I hadn’t interacted with her enough. Our visits are meant to engage Mom so that she is actively with us, because it is all too easy to disappear into an Alzheimer’s stupor if she’s left alone for long periods. That’s why the ward hires physiotherapists, social workers, and entertainers. It’s why we walk with her, hold conversations, read, sing, and give her music to listen to. It is miraculous to actually see the light return to Mom’s eyes when she’s listening to music.
Those are the moments I live for, that I string together to create a cohesive picture of Mom’s current state. I know we’re losing her, but at least right now, today, this week, we were able to connect.
It is a melancholy experience to visit Mom in her ward, even when we do connect. No matter how lovely the staff or the facility, it does not have the warmth of a home. I have come to accept this, and to accept that for us, this is the best solution. I know that the next visit might not yield the same light. She might be angry, or speak too incoherently to follow. What I do know is that those moments, when they do occur, give me strength to continue.
The relationship I have with my mom makes me realize how precious the relationship is that I have with my daughter. It’s been two weeks since she went back to the US. And my sense of loss is experienced in surprising ways. This week, I made a lasagna with rose sauce, thanks to her. It’s a dish she made for us while she was here, and even though she thought I wasn’t paying attention to the preparations, I was. The rose sauce adds a layer of creamy delight. Thank you, Liora!
Lasagna with Rose Sauce and Vegetables
This dish was inspired by my daughter. I miss her, so I’m compensating. If you don’t enjoy broccoli, this dish works with about any vegetable you do like, including spinach or squash and carrots.
12 lasagna noodles, uncooked
1 800 gr / 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 580 gr / 20 oz can tomato paste
1 250 gr / 8 oz container cooking cream
1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 head broccoli, diced
1 tsp basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheese
Sauté onions and garlic until onions become translucent. Add broccoli and mushroom, salt and pepper, and cook until broccoli softens, approximately five minutes. Remove from stove top and let cool. In a large bowl, mix crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, and salt and pepper. Stir in cooking cream. Cover bottom of a large baking pan with a thin layer of sauce. Add one layer of noodles. Cover with sauce, making sure to leave enough for the top of the lasagna. Add another layer of noodles. Cover second layer of noodles with vegetables, then a third layer of noodles, the remaining rose sauce, and cheese. (Be sure to add more cheese if you like a cheesy lasagna!) Bake at 350 degrees F / 180 degrees C for 45 minutes or until cheese starts to brown.