We were sitting together, the four of us, our core family: my brother Simon visiting from California, my parents, and me. It gave me the comforting illusion of being whole, at least for a few moments.
Mom has enjoyed these family visits so much, but only during the last one could she name us all or remember who we were. During the other visits, she accepted us as people she trusts but does not know. We dance with her, sing her favorite songs, laughingly engage her in absurd conversations, keep her active with short walks, and play catch with her.
Being together, the four of us, evokes so many memories that are unique to our family. We enumerate Simon’s scars from childhood (he’s got quite a few). The time his pinky got shut in the heavy front door; the time he ran down the stairs and through a glass pane that cut his wrist; the time we couldn’t extricate him from a Civil War canon. Mom can’t remember any of the incidents or even the panic she experienced. We chide him on her behalf and we all laugh, even Mom, caught up in our happy recollections.
When it is time to leave, we sit her back in the main room, give her a book or other object to attract her attention, and most often, she becomes engaged in a new task, often holding intense and inexplicable conversations with the women sitting next to her.
As we walk through the front doors, I am momentarily distracted by the fact that only three of us leave the building. We can see Mom through the window busily turning pages in her book. She is untroubled by our leaving, though I’d like to think that the fun of being together will keep her mood light for a little more time.
I am achingly aware that our core family has become reconfigured to include only three functioning adults. Mom is both here and not here, a corporeal ghost of herself. Her spirit lingers with us, though. Her loving personality, her excellent mothering skills, are still present in our very beings.
And then we go our own way and do other things, the three of us—Simon, Daddy and me. We live our lives with a joy tinged with sadness at what this disease has done.
Last night, we threw a party to launch my book into the world. I was so grateful to be surrounded by family and friends, my supportive community, some of whom knew Mom in her prime. It was a breathtaking experience to read poems and stories from the book. Having Simon in the audience gave me an excuse to read an excerpt about how we used to fight as kids, and how I did everything in my power to blame him for our misadventures. It usually worked, too!
It was sweet, made sweeter by the cakes that were on offer, several from the book, including The Cake. You’ll have to buy the book to get that recipe, but here’s the recipe for the gluten free rice crispy treats I made. What makes them delicious is the combination of peanut butter, dates and chocolate. And you can whip them up in under a half hour. Truly remarkable.
Rice Crispy Bars with Peanut Butter and Dates
This is a hands on recipe—literally—so be prepared to get a little dirty. When you coat the rice cripsies with the thick, tasty combination of peanut butter and dates, use your hands. This is a great recipe to make with kids.
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup compressed dates (without pits)
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp water
5 cups rice crispies
½ cup (or more) chocolate chips
Optional additions: raisins, craisins, chopped almonds or peanuts
Combine peanut butter, dates, salt, vanilla and water. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds on high to soften all ingredients. Mix well. Pour rice crispies into a large bowl with chocolate chips and any other additions. Add the warm peanut butter date mixture, and using your hand, mix until rice crispies are coated. Pat into a baking pan and put in fridge to cool until serving.