Goodbye and Hello
I sometimes worry that I am losing my compassion—or at least my passion—for my mom. Perhaps it’s a function of that adage: out of sight, out of mind.
Upon reflection, I know this isn’t true. When I came back from being overseas for a week, I went as soon as I could to visit Mom. What a relief it was to see her and kiss her forehead, to know that she was still there functioning and alive, to pull her out of her chair and hug her, to feel the weight of her arms around me, the bulk of her belly touching my own.
I can fool myself sometimes that I am receiving her motherly warmth. Her hugs are a kind of loving reaction, though not motherly. That ship sailed long ago.
And so we drop back into routine. We sing, we parade down the hallways, we read books and play ball, we converse.
I also persuade myself that it’s ok to stay away for days on end and not see her, that she can function just fine without me. It’s true, and it’s not true. I know my visits touch her in ways that her dealings with the other residents and staff cannot approach. And I know that when we are together, there is a strong emotional current that runs between us.
On the other hand, for someone who has lost the fundamental concept of time, seeing someone hourly is not necessarily different than seeing them daily or even weekly. This is not only true with those suffering from dementia, it is also evident in deep-seated friendships in which you can immediately pick up where you’ve left off even after an extended separation. As if no time has passed in the interim.
I wonder how many more times I’ll have to visit Mom. For me, though, it’s not a matter of how many goodbyes we have left, but how many hellos, those sparks of recognition that light her up and make us both happy to be interacting. Often, when I do say goodbye, Mom is distracted by the music playing on her earphones. She hardly notices I’m leaving. I prefer it that way. I save the sadness of goodbye for when I’m back home, when I internalize yet again that gnawing realization that she doesn’t really know me as her daughter.
Then I’m back in my own reality, and she’s far away, slightly out of focus as I go about the details of living my life.
After an uncommonly long summer, it is suddenly autumn in Israel. With the light fading so quickly in the day, the darkness brings on renewed sadness. Its times like this that I want to eat chocolate. But I restrain myself (mostly) and cook a healthy meal instead. I opened a new cookbook that my mother-in-law bought me and decided to try a spicy Sephardi soup recipe. I chose it because I’ve wanted to cook black-eyed peas since Rosh Hashanah. In Hebrew, these are called lubiya. What better time than a chilly autumn evening with dark thoughts about Mom heavy on my heart.
Lubiya is the Hebrew name for black-eyed peas. I really enjoyed the turmeric- and cumin-tinted broth that this soup produced. But the best part for me was that it reminded me of the types of dishes that my daughter loves to make, heavy on Sephardi spices with a little kick.
1 cup black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
2 cups water
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
1 parsley root, finely chopped
2 red peppers, chopped
1 hot chili pepper, finely chopped
1 800 gr / 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped and divided
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon
Soak beans overnight, changing water once or twice. Place beans in a small pot covered with water, 1 tsp of baking soda, and cook till soft. Drain and set aside. In a large pot, sauté onion, leek, garlic, parsley root, and peppers. (Be sure to wear gloves when chopping the chili pepper to avoid any burning.) When mostly cooked, add spices (½ cup cilantro, crushed tomatoes and water. Stir in black-eyed peas. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20-30 minutes. Taste to add additional cumin and turmeric if desired. Top each individual bowl with fresh cilantro and a splash of lemon.