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  • Miriam Green

Back in Business


We’re back in business, somewhat. Mom’s Alzheimer’s care facility is once again allowing visitors. We’re stuck with the rules fueled by Corona—wearing masks, keeping our distance, one visitor at a time, only meeting outside—but this interaction is much better than the strangely garbled video chats we’ve been having.

The renewed visits could not have come at a better time. I had watched, sad and helpless, as my dad pleadingly called to Mom to respond to him, to look at the screen, to wave in return. She could do none of these things; he quickly fell into depression over their lack of communication.

Sitting with Mom at 10:00 a.m., under a blaring sun and trying to get her to respond proved difficult for Dad. Mom did acknowledge Dad’s presence, calling to him and chatting animatedly. Then after a few minutes she began to doze. Nothing seemed to wake her, not even her favorite song from My Fair Lady. Nonetheless, a step up.

If this is the situation we’re stuck with for the foreseeable future, we have to do everything we can to make these visits as successful as possible. As an alternative to meeting in the morning, we contacted the head of the care facility to request an afternoon appointment. We had hoped Mom would be livelier once she’d napped and had “tea.” Unfortunately, it seems that we must accept a downturn in Mom’s abilities; she was unable to sustain much attention even in the afternoon.

I have put my own needs on hold for the moment so that Dad can see his beloved. I understand that need. I can’t even think of what life might look like if I didn’t have my amazing husband by my side.

The staff has taken to sending us photos of Mom. Yesterday’s was of her getting her hair cut. She seemed energetic, which was a relief, even if it is with other people (and not her family).

A doctor friend I spoke to today says he thinks we’ve overestimated the effects of the disease.

“Covid-19 is a new variant of the corona family of viruses which have afflicted humans since time immemorial (or at least, since we were able to identify viruses),” he explained. “During our lifetimes, we encounter many viruses, perhaps hundreds, and our immune systems have evolved methods of fighting them more or less successfully. Most of us have a partial immunity to previously-met corona viruses, which may explain why most people exposed to Covid experience a mild illness or even no symptoms at all. This is one component of the ‘herd immunity’ you will have read about.

“The new variant is definitely more virulent than older ones (virulent and virus have the same origin, meaning simply ‘poison’). Our pre-existing defenses have not been very effective; this last spring we saw a rapid spread and a significant mortality rate of around 3-4% of cases.

“With improved understanding of treatment, we are getting much better at managing cases. Of the latest figures, more than 99% of people diagnosed with Covid now recover from it.”

Is he right? It may be that the recovery rate is higher now as the most vulnerable died in the first wave.

Mom’s in the extremely vulnerable category. I know this disease can cause severe symptoms and even kill. But would it really be so bad if we actually were able to hug and kiss her, I wondered.

My daughter’s phone call brought me back to reality. She has now placed herself in isolation because she came into contact with a friend on Sunday who tested positive on Wednesday, a week after he’d been exposed to the virus and three days before she saw him. I am once removed from this chain, but there is the possibility that if my daughter is sick,* I could also become infected. If I had seen Mom, the chain of infection could have unknowingly spread to her facility. A disaster in the making.

We sit tight and pray. We pray for easier days, a world without illness, and loving, easy interactions.

When I don’t feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, I do remember that I have to actually cook food in order to have something to eat. One week after the end of the holidays, I’ve made another carrot cake. This is one of the foods that I associate with the holidays. This moist, sweet confection is one I use almost every year. It gave me comfort to eat it in the Sukkah and also as a sweet, relatively healthy, snack this week.

Spicy Pecan Carrot Cake

This is not really a spicy cake, but the addition of nutmeg and cloves does enhance its flavor. If you’re not a fan of cloves, you can leave it out. And about the egg separation. I rarely use recipes that require me to separate eggs; sometimes, it’s worth it.

2 cups flour

2¼ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

½ tsp cloves

4 eggs, separated

2 cups sugar

½ cup oil

2 cups grated raw carrots

1 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup hot water

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C. Combine flour, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a large bowl. Set aside. In a second bowl, combine sugar and oil. Separate eggs, dropping the yolks into this bowl and saving the whites in a glass mixing bowl. Add carrots and pecans to oil-sugar mixture then slowly blend in dry ingredients and hot water. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into batter. Bake in well-oiled Bundt pan or other pan of your choosing for 40 to 50 minutes or until done. When cooled, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

*She tested negative!

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