It happened unexpectedly, a feeling I did not anticipate, a depression as I walked away from Mom’s residence. For the first time in a long time since Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s more than eight years ago, I felt that she was no longer there.
This goes against my whole outlook on Alzheimer’s. Despite all the hurdles and obstacles, all the anger and unpredictability, the overwhelming sense of loss, I have always made a conscious decision to find joy in Mom’s existence. We sing, we hold hands, we laugh, we dance. These are precious moments in our visits.
But how do you handle the emotional strain of missing the person who is sitting right in front of you?
Most of the time, Mom talks a mile a minute in a kind of word salad that makes no sense grammatically. She’ll substitute words for those she can’t remember. She’ll swear with great gusto. Or she’ll refer to events that have not happened, like telling me she just went shopping. I listen as much as I can, nod my head, laugh when she uses crude language (which makes her laugh, too), and suggest replacement words to use. It is humorous how the words I suggest make their way into her monologue.
Sometimes, Mom seems content to talk to the residents who sit with her in their common room. She often speaks to others while I’m there, unable to make eye contact with me, uninterested in my presence, making me feel superfluous.
Then, suddenly, she’ll speak a full, understandable sentence.
“I imagine I will die soon.”
Where is this sentiment coming from? What does she mean by it? What is her temporal perception of death? I am jarred by her words.
All too soon it is time for me to leave. I grab the moments I can, then scurry back to my own life.
I tell her I’m leaving.
“You’re leaving? Oh, don’t leave,” she implores.
“I have to go make dinner,” I tell her, giving her another kiss on her forehead.
“If you leave, I never want to see you again,” she yells as I step out of the room.
Oh, this is hard. I know she doesn’t mean or even understand what she’s saying. But I understand. And it breaks my heart.
Luckily, Mom can’t get rid of me so easily. I know that she needs me, and that I still need her. She will have forgotten this episode seconds after it happened. And I will be back to coax out my sweet mother who is trapped inside a regressing diseased brain.
Sometimes I like to lose myself in the cooking process. I like to make super easy dishes that require very little thought, just a dedication to wash, chop, slice, marinade, roast, and sample (of course). This roasted squash recipe is just the ticket. Simple, pretty, tasty.
Roasted Squash with Balsamic Vinegar
You really can’t go wrong with this recipe. You don’t even need to think too much. Just what I need.
8-10 medium sized squash, quartered length-wise
1½ Tbsp olive oil
¾ Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 420° F / 220° C. Cut squash lengthwise then in halves to make small “logs.” Mix oil, vinegar and spices in a small container. Dip each piece of squash face down (the inside) into the mixture then place face down on a baking tray covered in baking paper. Spray squash pieces lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes.