A Moving Experience
When my parents moved to Beer Sheva from Netanya in 2017, the transition was very difficult for Mom. She never seemed to settle in their new house. She’d search the rooms and hallway for a hidden staircase, gather books and clothes and bundle them up to take on a journey, constantly seek my dad when he wasn’t with her, and roam the house at night searching for the bathroom. Mom’s emotional state became more brittle, too. The anger flared daily and she lashed out at us physically several times. Deciding eight months into their move that Mom would be better off in a memory care facility was the hardest decision we’d ever made.
We’ve just moved back to our renovated house after eight months of living with Dad. I can’t stop comparing my experience with Mom’s. They are nothing alike and the differences highlight the fragility of an individual’s brain when they have Alzheimer’s.
Our family settled in so well with Dad that now that I’m back in my own house, I keep doing silly things that I’ve become accustomed to from his house; for example, bending down to open the freezer when the freezer is at the top of our fridge.
I feel again the anxiety of settling into a new place. We’re learning what switches control which lights and where we’ve put items in the kitchen cabinets. We’re unpacking and trying to find a place for all our “things.” How difficult it is when everything is new and different. And if those things, those items that have emotional relevance cease to have relevance, then there’s no reason to remember where they are. No wonder Mom had trouble settling in.
In Mom’s mind, she was looking for a more familiar home. She’d ask where her parents were, and even her beloved grandmother. She had retreated to the home that she remembered with pure childhood emotion. More than once she stood in the middle of her living room, surrounded by the furnishings that she’d been living with for decades and declare that she needed to go home. We took to walking out and coming back to the house from a different direction so that she’d think she was going to a different home. Once, she was so convinced that the neighbor’s house was hers that I had to let her go up and try to open the door. Thankfully, they weren’t home. If they had been, I’d have made pleasantries and we’d have been on our way.
I have no doubt that this renovated house is mine. The layout of the back of the house is completely different from what it used to be. It is easy to navigate if you’re functioning well. One traverse is enough to start learning the shape and placement of rooms. For someone stymied by change, it would be a nightmare.
We still have some boxes that need unpacking. It reminds me that for my parents’ move, my brother Simon came to visit. He helped us pack up their old home and within a week of their move, we’d managed to help them fully unpack in their new home, hopeful that that would help with the transition. Needless to say, it didn’t.
And so, with heavy hearts, we moved Mom into her care facility. We were lucky to find this place just a short walk away. She is well cared for and in relatively good health. But Alzheimer’s is doing its damage; Mom is more incoherent these days and less able to walk. Pre-Corona, it was the best set-up we could have imagined. Now, with the pandemic still raging, we are confined to seeing Mom from a distance.
Tomorrow I will visit Mom, my first time seeing her in almost two months. If I can get even a few moments of connectivity, I will be satisfied.
We’ve been eating this amazing, special mango pecan salad all summer, especially after we discovered that it is my dad’s favorite salad ever. I make it every Friday night, usually just after Shabbat starts so it’s been impossible to photograph it. Now, just as mango season seems to be ending, I remembered that I wanted to post this recipe. I made a special effort to make it before Shabbat. Even if you don’t love the photo, you will love this salad.
Mango Pecan Salad
If mangos are out of season, consider using tangerine slices halved and deseeded. Also very yummy.
2 small heads specialty lettuce
1 mango, cubed
½ red onion, sliced thinly
¼ cup candied pecans (or more!)
½ cup oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp date honey
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and slice lettuce leaves and place in serving bowl. Add mango, onion and pecans to bowl. Toss and let sit. In a small container with a lid, mix oil, vinegar, honey, garlic and spices. Dress and toss salad just before serving to keep it fresh and crisp.