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  • Miriam Green

Finding our Mojo


My dad and I go back and forth on whether our visits with Mom are achieving anything. When she saw my dad a few days ago, she called to him and opened her arms for an embrace. He was sad that he couldn’t hug her. Then, within minutes, she fell asleep sitting in the chair at the outside table and they ended their visit early.

Her mood is so unpredictable. When I visited Mom today, she told me to “F..ck off.” Several times! I had to laugh, because, well what else could I do? I tried to change her mood by singing with her, but I was pretty unsuccessful. Once we got through the first rejected song, her mood changed slightly but she nodded off and only the nearby touch of the accompanying staff member could rouse her. Each time she’d open her eyes, I raised my hands and called out to her joyfully. She’d be with me for a few minutes then disappear again, either somewhere internally or by falling asleep. At one point she even told me, “I’m going now,” as her head dipped towards her chest. I watched her sleep which was serene if not joyful.

Another painful aspect of these visits is watching Mom shuffle her way towards the meeting point held up by the support of two staff members, her body leaning awkwardly forward, her legs trembling with exertion. She cannot remember how to stand erect or how to move her feet to walk. Part of it is that she sits all day, allowing her leg muscles to atrophy. But it is also that the disease is slowly ravaging her body and there’s nothing we can do to halt her slow downward slide.

I guess we’re still getting used to the way things are now, trying to renew the relationship with Mom that was suddenly suspended by the outbreak of corona. We are accepting anew that Mom will be in a bad mood when we sit with her and that the circumstances of our meetings make her tired. My dad and I actually conferred together and devised a plan for our visits. We made a list of all the most buoyant songs that she probably still recognizes, hoping that if we sing them, she’ll respond. And we’ve made a commitment to see her once or twice a week—for now, until circumstances change. We desperately want to enjoy more positive visits. It just may take some time to get there.

As she was walking back into the facility, Mom paused to talk to me. “It was nice to see you but I won’t be seeing you again,” she said.

Don’t bet on that, Mom. You can’t get rid of me that easily.

I seem to be on a daily mission of making dinner for our small household. It’s usually me, my husband and my dad, but sometimes we’re also graced by my daughter’s presence. I like the idea of trying new dishes, using my time to creatively cook. And if it’s an easy process, that’s even better. Here’s a really nice and simple recipe for oven roasted sea bream. We call this fish Denis in Israel. I can generally find it fresh at my local grocery store. This fish produces a delicate, flaky white meat and takes little preparation. I will definitely be making this recipe again.

Oven Roasted Sea Bream

I wasn’t overly sure I’d enjoy cooking a whole fresh fish. Those eyes just stare dully out of that small little head. Apart from that silly song about “Fish Heads,” that was released in the late 70s (and played on the Dr. Demento radio show (am I dating myself?)), my worst memory of fish heads was trying to find one several years ago right before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I pushed my way to the front of the lines at the crowded fish counter and convinced a woman buying a whole salmon to give me the head. The fishmonger stuffed it into a bag and handed it to me. I raced back to my car, the dead thing dripping as I hurried to get home and cook it. Uhg.

4 small whole Denis (or one per person)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1-2 lemons, sliced

Juice of 1 lemon

4 sprigs fresh parsley

4 sprigs fresh cilantro

10 cloves garlic, peeled and whole

2 bunches cherry tomatoes on the stem

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 200 C° / 400 F°. Place fish on a large baking tray. Make several slits diagonally on the side of the fish. Rub fish with oil and with salt and pepper. Stuff lemon slices and fresh herbs into body of fish. Pour lemon juice over fish. Place tomatoes and garlic on baking tray alongside fish, making sure to cover in olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes or until fish meat flakes at the point of a knife.

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