What an amazing visit we had with Mom! My dad and I were allowed to visit with her together. I haven’t been with both my parents at the same time in more than a year and I felt such love for them as we talked and sang. We were still distanced and wearing masks, but we used our combined energy to keep Mom joyful.
Actually, after my dad’s experience with her last week, it has become evidently clear that Mom’s initial moods make or break our visits. We rise and fall with the idiosyncrasies of Alzheimer’s; each day brings out different and sometimes opposite emotions in Mom, and we never know what she’ll be like until we’re with her.
Yesterday, Mom was in her element. She spoke clearly and lovingly to us; she remembered words to songs we hadn’t sung in ages; she engaged with us in conversation (albeit nonsensical); and she maintained a steady good mood.
I’m thinking (and hoping) that the reason for our two-person visit was the rapidity with which Israeli citizens have been vaccinated. Dad has had both his shots, and Mom and I get our second shots next week. Israel has somehow become the world’s guinea pigs in testing out this vaccine. Most recent results from a serological study conducted on 102 Israeli hospital workers found that 98 percent who received the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine have developed a high level of antibodies to fight off the virus. Maybe by the end of this month we’ll be able to actually hug and kiss Mom, and even dance around the room.
I feel blessed by the fact that my daughter and youngest son have also received their first shot of the vaccine. Our youngest returned home last week from his Yeshiva as more than five young men had been infected with COVID. Though Hillel was learning in a different cohort, he dutifully went to be tested and entered his room to stay in isolation. When he learned that the test was negative, he came out of his room and joined us for dinner. Then he got another post from a different friend, an apartment mate, saying that he had tested positive. Back Hillel went to the testing site as we waited with baited breath to find out if we’d all been exposed to the virus. Having had our first shot of the vaccine, I knew that the chances of catching the virus had been reduced by up to 33 percent at least. Still, it wasn’t until that second negative test result came in that we sighed with relief.
Six residents from Mom’s facility have died from COVID. There was an intense period of weeks when Mom and all the residents were kept isolated in their rooms in order to prevent further spreading of the virus. To a large extent, the staff were successful. We want to continue to keep Mom safe in these last few weeks before the second vaccine is administered and the 95 percent coverage that it will give us comes into effect.
I know that there are other “things” going on in the world today. Most notably, the US inauguration. My former home of Washington, D.C., is currently a fortress of barriers and national guard patrols to ensure that this induction is carried out peaceably and democratically. Here in Israel, we’re gearing up for our fourth elections within the span of two years. This is extraordinary in the extreme and I can only shake my head sadly at the vying egos who have pushed us here and wasted millions of shekels of public funds without creating a stable, functioning government.
Please God, may this rollercoaster of emotional worry soon be over.
Meanwhile, I lasted one day on my crusade to eat more healthily. I made large, decadent, crunchy delicious cookies, ostensibly for my son. Right. Recipes for chocolate chip pretzel cookies kept popping up in my news feed. A strange combination of sweet and salty, but they work! Here’s the recipe I tweaked from several recipes that came my way.
Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies
This recipe is like a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe but with the extra added sensation of salt from chopped pretzels. If, like me, you don’t use a blender (I mean, who wants to clean extra things!), use your hands to fold in the pretzels and chips. Then make these cookies big! They expand slightly during baking so space them well on your baking sheet. Just yum.
¾ cup oil
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2¼ cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup thick pretzel sticks, chopped
1 cup chocolate chips (or more if desired)
Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C. Blend together oil, sugars, egg and vanilla. Slowly mix in flour, baking soda and salt until a smooth batter forms. Fold in pretzels and chips. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, create large walnut-sized cookies and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes as chocolate chips retain heat and may burn your mouth. Dig in!