You Can't Go Home Again
Updated: Sep 11, 2019
I spent an emotional day in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya on Sunday, reading from my book, The Lost Kitchen, and talking to my mom’s friends. One woman showed me the bracelet Mom had given her for her birthday 15 years ago, still being worn as a reminder of their close friendship. Another proudly told me that she was the first one to invite my parents to dinner after their arrival in 1994. These friends spoke of her beautiful smiles, her enthusiastic greetings, her melodious voice. They clearly loved her.
Perhaps I would have felt more contentment if this had been a memorial service. Perhaps if Mom were not in her current suspended state I could have mourned losing her previous self with a sense of finality.
Nevertheless, I valued hearing others describe the generous, kind woman Mom once was. It has buoyed me for days now—the love she elicited, the love she gave.
One of her friends asked if we were able to sign her out of her care facility, and if so, did we ever take her home.
The sad and simple answer: No.
No, we have never signed her out of the facility. It would be unnecessarily painful to take her home. There is no possibility of turning back the clock.
What is home? Where is home? How would Mom physically get into and out of a car? How would she navigate the house? What would she do there? Would she accept our assistance and follow our instructions? Would we be able to physically handle her in the bathroom?
On and on the questions spill forth as I try to picture bringing Mom into the house occupied by her possessions of many years; she would not remember a single one of them. We would have to be with her constantly. Our emotional exhaustion would be palpable and it would probably make her anxious and upset.
If we were to take her out, this would be the week. My birthday just passed as did the birthday of her oldest grandson. Yesterday was my parent’s anniversary. At week’s end is my dad’s birthday.
None of this matters now to her. We will have to celebrate without her out here in the “real” world, sadly realizing that we are mourning the absence of someone still very much alive. It matters to us, of course, knowing that her world is different now. Other dynamics govern her reality. She cannot be here with us; we must instead be there for her.
If we can meet her in that reality, if we can find the sweet woman whose smiles still light up her face, it doesn’t matter where we are or what surrounds us. We can sing of love and hold hands and enjoy each other’s presence. And we can leave the work of taking care of her physically to the competent staff that is employed to do so. This is a hard trade-off. But having her in a facility allows us to shower her with unfettered love.
P.S. Thank you, Susan, for your lovely review of the book! "I started to read your book the evening after the lecture and ended up staying up until the wee hours to finish it. Literally could not put it down. Thank you for sharing this daunting and emotional journey with us." Click here to read more about The Lost Kitchen.
And some amazing news: Mom is walking again! Though her legs are still wobbly when she walks, it seems that the effects of both any illness she had and the antibiotics she was taking have worn off. To say that we are relieved is an understatement. Mom is regaining her appetite and we are hoping that the extreme rage she displayed is also waning. Today during our visit, I managed to break through to her silly side and we laughed together.
This year, I made a non-chocolate dessert for my birthday. Yes, I surprised even myself. I gathered the alarming number of uneaten cherries that we had in the fridge, pitted them and made a scrumptious pie. I’m guessing it’s a lot easier if you bring home a can of cherry pie filling. But I enjoyed the challenge.
Yes, worth the effort of pitting all those cherries. This pie was just the right amount of sweetness.
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup apple juice (or ¾ cup apple and ¼ cup pomegranate juice)
2 cups fresh pitted cherries
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
2/3 cup softened margarine
5-7 Tbsp iced water
Set oven to 425° F / 200° C. Pit cherries, slice and set aside. (Yes, this will feel like it takes forever, so maybe pace yourself, or do it the day before. But don’t despair, the end will come.) Dissolve cornstarch in juice. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, dissolved cornstarch and juice. Stir constantly until thickened and remove from heat. Fold in cherries and spices. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Slowly add softened margarine and, using a fork, mix until a crumble forms. Gradually add water until dough takes shape. Divide into two unequal parts, approximately ¾ and ¼. Use a 9” / 20 cm pie pan. Roll out the larger dough ball on a floured surface until it is large enough to cover the entire pie pan. Pat the dough into the pan, leaving any edges until later. Pour cherry filling into the pan. Roll out the second ball of dough and cut into 1” / 2.5 cm strips. Using an over-under pattern, lay the strips across the filling, forming a “lattice” crust. Try to connect the strip edges to the bottom crust, then tidy the top by cutting off any excess crust. Bake at 425° F / 200° C for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and bake at 375° F / 190° C for 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Filling may spill over the sides, so place a piece of aluminum foil under the pan.