What a melancholy experience to go through Mom’s closet choosing winter clothes for her. The season has turned, and now Mom needs sweat pants, long sleeved shirts, sweaters, and winter pajamas. My dad and I by-passed all of the clothes that once defined her open, laughing personality—the red and purple sweaters with geometric patterns, skirts with swirls of green and blue—and went for practical, muted garments. I did manage to slip a bright red cardigan into the pile. I hope it adds some color to her life.
The home specifically asked us for large shirts, large sweaters, and extra-large sweat pants with an open leg (no elastic at the bottom) so as to easily dress and undress Mom. No dresses. No skirts.
How fitting an image of what we’ve lost—a row of unworn dresses bursting with personality hanging insensibly in the closet.
Every day we are reminded of Mom’s small, sad existence in a place with little charm. As one of Daddy’s friends said to him after his wife passed away, “I think my situation is easier than yours.” With Alzheimer's, there is a constant slow mourning—for someone still very much present—that seems endless.
What’s making Mom’s situation worse at the moment is the theft of her cordless headphones. They’ve been missing for three days now, and her lifeline to the music that she loves has been temporarily severed. That compilation of show tunes and Klezmer was as effective as any drug in bringing her health and joy. The staff had warned us that things go missing: there are so many people coming in and out of the home on any given day that they cannot keep track of everyone. We’ve ordered new ones, but it will be a while until they arrive.
What can we say when Mom greets us by assertively demanding to get out of “this place?” On the one hand, it reminds us that Mom is still with us, she is conscious of her surroundings, at least to some extent, and knows she is missing something. On the other hand, she would say that and more even when she was living at home. It is hard not to extrapolate from one comment offered on one particular visit on Mom’s whole existence. I must remember that Mom’s moods and comprehension fluctuate. Sometimes, she is happy.
We cannot say that the decision we made to place her in a closed Alzheimer’s ward was the wrong one. Nor can we rid ourselves of the guilt associated with that decision. What I do know is that Mom is being cared for in ways we were unable and unprepared to assume. I must work to see goodness—maybe even joy—in the unlikeliest of places. Today, as I look through a closet of ghost-like clothing and a curtain of tears, it’s a little difficult.
So, it’s Halloween in the US. I guess it’s a good thing that we can dress up as ghouls and goblins and have fun: the real world is a whole lot scarier these days than anything I imagine. In the spirit of fall, pumpkins, colored leaves, a bright chill in the air, I offer a medley of roasted vegetables that will vanish into happy, open mouths before you can say, “Trick or Treat!”
Roasted Pumpkin Medley
Sometimes, depending on my mood, I cook the things that I find the easiest to prepare. No matter how you feel, these vegetables are easy to make and require so little thought that your mind can be on other, weightier matters.
1 lbs pumpkin, cut into ½” sticks
3-4 carrots, cut into ½” sticks
2 large squash, cut into ½” sticks
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 small onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, mined
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 420 degrees F / 210 degrees C. Cut all vegetables into thin sticks and place in a large bowl. Stir in onion and garlic, oil, salt and pepper, until all vegetables are lightly coated. Place on a large baking tray in a single layer (on baking paper). Bake for 20 minutes. Bake for up to an additional 10 minutes if you like them well-done.