I have been impersonating my mom to pay my parents’ credit card bills, sort out the cable provider, turn down business solicitations, even fix the water bill.
We live in Israel, and as my Hebrew is better than my dad’s, I am tasked with making calls for him to insurance agents, banks, stores, government offices, doctors, you name it. It is so much easier to take on Mom’s persona than explain that I’m the adult daughter making arrangements for them. As most of these interactions are by phone, it is easy to pass myself off as Mom.
When they ask for Mom’s birth date and ID number, I’m ready for them. I have a copy of Mom’s ID card, which contains all her information. And if I fumble over a date, I claim it’s because I am still not used to the European system where the day is listed before the month. Leniency is always given when they hear my thick American accent (despite living in Israel for more than 27 years!).
This blurring of our identities has been going on for years.
The thing is, the last thing I want is to be Mom as she is now. Mom often sits and stares vacuously. Or she speaks nonsensically about red sheep, or needing to go out to the store. Or, if the occupational therapist can get her to focus, she draws letters and lines on a blank form. I would not wish Alzheimer’s on anyone.
I want to embody her as she was—vivacious, friendly, curious, loving.
It’s true that I can sometimes find that woman hidden deep within her current transformation, but it is for seconds at a time.
Perhaps I am the embodiment of Mom. I certainly look like her: we have the same general shape and features. And I’d like to think I share those valued characteristics she personified. I am also the repository of her memories, her link to the past, an eye-witness to much of her life. Perhaps this is the way of all daughters charged with keeping the memory of their mothers alive. I only know that Alzheimer’s has intensified my understanding, and my desire to fan the embers of her existence and share them with the ones I love.
What better way to light up a dull winter evening than with a bright yellow chicken curry dish. This adaptation from I Must Have That Recipe!* is sweet and tangy, all at the same time.
This is a versatile dish. If you have a whole chicken, cut it into serving pieces and use that instead. Or, make curried lentils as an alternative.
2 kilo / 4 lbs chicken breasts, schnitzeled
up to 4 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup onions, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup celery, finely chopped
5 apples, peeled and chopped
1 large squash, finely chopped
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water
In a large pan, sauté chicken in a little oil, browning on both sides, then remove from pan. Add garlic and onion and any remaining oil to pan and sauté until onions turn translucent. Add all other ingredients. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Return chicken to pan and add up to two cups water. Cover and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Serve with rice.
*I Must Have That Recipe: A Unique Collection of Treasured Recipes, ed., Hirschhorn, Hope K., and Katz, Corrine, SPI Books, New York, 1992