Saved by an Accordion
It has been one year since my mom was moved to her Alzheimer’s care facility, one year of searing emotional upheavals and adjusting to a new reality. If I think back to last year, I remember the utter pain and sadness I felt at moving Mom. I cried in an intense primeval howl as I imagined Mom in her new surroundings frightened and bewildered without us. I felt extreme guilt at having abandoned her, as if we had given up our job of protecting her in the world.
The transition was tough on all of us but especially on Mom. It took her a good six months to reconcile herself to her new surroundings, to stop asking to go home and clinging to Daddy when he came to visit.
Even in the midst of her difficult acclimation, we knew that this was the right decision. We couldn't handle Mom's moods and physical needs on our own any more. Daddy had no life outside of his role as Mom's main caregiver. It took a lot out of me to accept that we had decided correctly, especially in the face of Mom’s obvious distress at being there.
The guilt doesn’t go away. But Mom is more even-keeled emotionally these days. She actively interacts with the other residents, and participates in the many activities.
When I visited this week, Mom was sitting at a table with her wonderful tactile activity blanket that my sister-in-law made for her. Sadly, all of the beads have been torn loose, but the other accessories, including a zippered pouch and a Velcro strap, several buttons and a long shoe lace with aglets remain for Mom to touch and twiddle. I managed to convince Mom to stand up and take a walk with me. Once she was up, we danced a bit—more like a slow shuffle but it was sweet.
She is still somewhat aware of her deteriorating condition without realizing that it is Alzheimer’s.
“My body is dying,” she sighed. “It’s a monstrous body.”
I tried to convince her otherwise; she was soon distracted.
As I was trying to direct her to walk the hallway circuit with me, Mom became intently involved in conversing with her favorite staff member, Michael, who like most of the staff, does not understand or speak English. I tried to translate her word salad, but it was enough that Michael smiled at her, nodded and held her hand.
As we walked back towards the common room, Mom again spied Michael, and so we headed towards him. I had wanted to sit quietly with her in a different area, but Mom was determined to be near him. We sat back down at her table and continued to converse. I feel like I act as her foil in our conversations: Mom talks, I listen and offer missing words. If I’m not there, Mom continues talking, but there’s no one to pay her special attention. I like to believe she’s more animated when she has someone with her, so leaving is difficult for me, even though Mom doesn’t seem to mind too much.
Just as I was contemplating wrapping up our visit, the accordion player arrived. He is a small, unsmiling Russian man who plays the same songs each time he’s there. He comes at least twice a week, as far as I can tell, and he’s pretty good at entertaining everyone. Mom is particularly animated when he plays.
My perfect escape. I kissed her forehead, told her I’d see her soon, and slipped out the door to the sounds of lively music.
This week, Shabbat morphs into Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. It is traditional to eat cheese products on Shavuot. There are various reasons for this, one being that the numerical value of the word milk in Hebrew, chalav, is equivalent to 40, the number of days Moses was up on the mountain with God receiving the tablets.
Now that my dad lives near us, he often eats with us on Shabbat and holiday meals. But he’s lactose intolerant, so cheesecake is definitely out. Thankfully, there are other scrumptious options, including this creamy vegan “cheesecake.”
Creamy Vegan Cheesecake
Whatever you do, don’t let this cake melt in the sun. And don’t stand there with a spoon in your hand after it’s melted. You might not be able to stop your spoon from plunging into it again and again, scooping up the creamy batter, and leaving you a little more full than anticipated.
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup margarine, softened
1½ tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1¾ cup non-dairy cream
1½ cups chocolate chips
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup chocolate chips
1 Tbsp water
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and margarine. Add vanilla and non-dairy cream, then slowly mix in flour. Fold in chocolate chips, then press dough into an oiled pan. Dough will be sticky. Place in freezer. Meanwhile, combine topping ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 30 seconds. (Go wild and double the topping!) Stir until smooth then repeat if chocolate has not fully melted. Spread over frozen dough, then return to freezer. Let cake sit out for 10 to 15 minutes to soften before serving.