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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Can't Smile Without You

I’ve been going every Friday for the past few months to see Mom at her care facility. Perhaps because there’s a relaxed atmosphere pre-Shabbat, the staff often lets me visit for more than the appointed half-hour. That’s lovely as I can stretch out our time together with music, extra laughter, even calls on my phone to loved ones. We’re still sitting at a distance and wearing masks, but the lax supervision allows me to pull my mask down, give short hugs and kisses, and hold Mom’s hands.

All is not rosy in Mom’s life. Her teeth are falling into real decline, mainly because she refuses to brush or let someone else brush her teeth. I fear we are heading towards more rotten teeth that need to be pulled. One of the nurses told me that Mom is in physical pain and her gums bleed when they try to brush her teeth. I’m scrambling for an alternative to brushing that could help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the lack of brushing.

People living with dementia have a high rate of tooth decay and gum disease. Many of the articles on the web about dental care for Alzheimer’s patients suggest talking to the patient, giving them clear instructions or presenting them with an example of how to brush, even using a child’s toothbrush. Sadly, we are way beyond any of these nice ideas. Mom simply won’t give in.

There’s no reason brushing must occur in the morning or at night. We might want to suggest that my dad’s presence could sway Mom to accept a mid-day brush. And perhaps we could sing our favorite toothbrush song, “You’re a Pink Toothbrush,” but I have my doubts that that would work. More likely, Mom will angrily reject our suggestions. There are still a few options to try: swilling with salt water; something called a disposable oral foam swab; mouthwash (though I imagine Mom would drink it); and a sonic mouth cleaner.

Two weeks ago, Mom was in a foul mood when we met for our visit. I sat with her, taking abuse, trying to change her mood with music, when about 45 minutes into our visit, Mom finally gave in and reacted to the songs I’d been playing. We were half way through “Singing in the Rain,” when Mom smiled and told me she loved me.

“I love you, too,” I said, knowing that for just those few seconds our connection was true and real. And perhaps it provided some peace to her—as it did for me—knowing that behind the anger and emptiness was a trove of kisses.

I’ve been forgetting to photograph all the food I’ve made, which doesn’t mean I’m not cooking, just that I’m into eating it all before I take the photos. But today, in honor of having tea with a friend, I made amazing blondies with chocolate candies. I’m not sure who decided that some of the candies should be khaki colored, but hey, they’re tasty!


I love this recipe. It’s my husband Jeff’s famous cookie recipe. But I don’t have the patience to make the cookies. This is the lazy person’s way. I put the dough in individual cup holders, but you can also bake it in a small greased dessert pan.

1 cup margarine or oil

1 cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 ¼ cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

¾ cup chocolate chips

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