When my son and his family came for the weekend, we were able to visit Mom for about a half hour before Shabbat came in. Roi, who is 2½, remembers his great grandmother, Savta Naomi. He knows she lives in a special home. Each time he is brought there, he visibly shies away from her, but he is also curious about who she is and why there are such nice games to play with.
We did not speak about Mom again during the weekend. Roi developed a fever and was alternately charming and exhausted. It made for a fitful night followed by a frazzled day.
What does Roi really think of his great grandmother? I know that he asks about her occasionally, during the quiet parts of a day. But he is also averse to her presence. I remember having to convince my own young kids to kiss their great grandmother who wanted only to cuddle them with abandon. They were repelled by her advanced age.
There are studies that tout the health benefits for both parties when pairing the elderly with young kids, and it is trendy now to find a kindergarten in a nursing home. It is a win-win situation where youngsters learn from their elders and the seniors feel alive in the presence of children.
Mom enjoyed watching Roi scamper and run around, though she had no concept of their relationship. Nor could she fathom that the little child with long blond hair was actually a boy. It was perhaps more difficult for my son to see his grandmother since he hadn’t seen her in a while, and while his memories of the fun-loving, joyful grandmother are intact, Mom has no recollection of playing with her grandchildren.
We manage well to compartmentalize the whole thing. Mom’s existence is hidden from us because she is in a different space from the one we inhabit. It allows us to continue our own lives with a clear conscience, knowing she is being well cared for, knowing, too, how difficult it would be if we were the ones in charge. When she got up to hug us at the start of our visit, we realized that not only her diaper but her pants were wet, too. Two members of the staff took her to be changed. She emerged a few minutes later in dry clothes overtly expressing her annoyance by substituting the word “bitch” for the lyrics to a song she was singing. It was funny, sort of, and endearing to know she still has emotions to express.
She’s there in bits and pieces, and it is our job to cling to those remnants while seeing her as a whole human being. The most important thing we did was take photos to preserve our interaction, to remind ourselves how deeply we care, that we still harbor love and devotion to our mother/grandmother/wife who is slowly fading away before our very eyes.
Humus is a staple in this country. Made from the unassuming chickpea, humus is rich in copper, manganese, sodium, some calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. It is also rich in vitamins C and B6, E, and K. Beyond the quality of the humus, what’s important is what you eat it with. Our family favorite is humus with sautéed onions and mushroom. Here’s a recipe for mushrooms that is versatile enough to eat on its own, plus my standard humus recipe. Putting this dish together is like visiting my mom: it is taking the pieces and making a whole.
Sautéed Mushrooms with Silan
When we first came to Israel, fresh mushrooms were available once or twice a year. That was it. Today, you can find many varieties of fresh and dried mushrooms in the grocery store, and they are delicious.
2 cups mushrooms, quartered
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp date honey (silan)
¼ cup chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Sauté garlic and onions in oil on medium heat. When onions become translucent, add mushrooms and sauté until tender. Add silan and spices. Remove from stove and toss in chives. Serve warm or cold.
Humus is one of those dishes that take on the personality of the maker. Dress it up with olive oil and paprika, zatar and sesame seeds, fried mushrooms and onions, or tehina. Or be totally Israeli and scoop it up with a pita fresh from the oven.
1 20-oz / 550-gr can pre-cooked chickpeas, drained
½ cup liquid from chickpea can
3 Tbsp raw tehina
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy. If mixture isn’t blending, add a little more liquid. Place humus in a shallow bowl and, using a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the bowl. Drizzle olive oil and paprika into the indentation. Add pine nuts for effect.