Happy Birthday to Me
The walk from my house to Mom’s care facility is about 20 minutes. It’s tough in 90° F weather (30+° C), but I’m committed to getting some exercise every day and on the day I visit Mom, this is my exercise. I walk down one long road zig-zagging under trees and buildings that provide some shade, cross the street, walk up a short path, and I’m there.
The nurse escorts me into the visitor’s room and then I hear Mom coming down the corridor. She’s shuffling her feet and yelling something in an angry voice. She’s being held by two staff members; she can barely walk.
I stand outside the doorway waiting for her, waiving my arms to get her attention. “Hi, Mom! How are you?” I call enthusiastically.
“What are you doing here?” she asks.
“I came to visit you,” I answer, hoping that she’ll be happy to see me.
On this occasion, I am rewarded with smiles and hugs and such love that I am momentarily overwhelmed. She knows who I am! She loves me!
We help Mom into the comfortable chair and then she and I are alone. The sweetness continues. We sing and laugh, and I listen, trying to comment on incomprehensible ramblings that never make sense. I don’t think she knows who I am, but she is happy in my presence.
I tell her about work and all the food I’ve been preparing for Shabbat; I show her photos of her great-grandsons; I remind her that Dad came to visit this week, too, when she mentions his name.
No, she doesn’t know me. It was my birthday last week, and though she has professed her love, she’d have known that.
I tell myself I don’t want to end up this way. I tell myself that if this happens to me, I must remember to be kind to those who want to help me.
When it’s time for me to leave, Mom is incapable of saying goodbye. She’s being led away by the staff and her attention is on them. I am thankful that they treat her kindly.
As I walk home, I count each step as a victory that I am still healthy and able. And I say to myself, it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t know me. I know who she is. And I love her.
Dad likes to tell me stories about growing up in the East End of London. They were a poor family and whatever bonuses came their way, they made the best of them, including the weekly chicken that his mum bought at a discount at the local butcher. Chicken, chicken, chicken, always cooked the same way. That’s what he remembers. I make chicken almost every Shabbat for our family and guests. I have a well of recipes but sometimes it’s fun to try something new. This recipe is especially flavorful.
Roasted Chicken with Curry*
We usually skin the chicken before I cook it, but it’s sometimes tempting to leave it on because it’s so good roasted. We compromised with this dish, skinning some and leaving some skin on. It was delicious both ways.
1 chicken, whole or cut
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp cumin
1 Tbsp oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp apricot jam
1 Tbsp French mustard
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C. Using your hands, rub the chicken with the curry mixture, making sure to get it under the skin, too (if your chicken has skin). Place in a large baking dish and set timer for 40 minutes. Remove chicken from oven and using a brush or spoon, cover each piece with the glaze. Return to oven for another 20 minutes or until browned on top.
*You can find this recipe at thespruceeats.com.