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  • Miriam Green

Inured to Alzheimer's


I finally saw Mom last week after a long period of separation. Because the care facility only assigns one weekly family visit per resident, we’ve given preference to my dad so that he can see his spouse. I’m not complaining. Last week, though, the director allowed both of us to visit (but not at the same time).

I was so excited to see her! They wheeled her out in a wheelchair and brought her to one side of a long table. I couldn’t sit still. I got up and waved my arms, called her name, sung to her, danced and sung some more. I kept her attention for nearly 20 minutes before we both succumbed to fatigue.

Nothing earthshattering occurred. No amazing insights or extra special moments. It was just me interacting with Mom, me remembering who she was and trying to work with who she is now. Mom visibly reacted to the songs I chose and she even sang along to one of them. I was relieved and happy to see her so responsive to me. It gave me a sense of confidence that I could still reach her.

When I left the institution, I expected a deep wave of depression to roll over me. After all, this version of Mom is not who I really want to interact with. I want the mom who knows me and my children, who cares how my day went and what I’ve been doing in my life, who remembers our shared past.

Strangely, though, I didn’t feel it. Perhaps I was simply elated to have finally seen her, to have brought her to some semblance of “now” in our interaction. Maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder. Or I’ve become inured to the whole Corona situation and a visit was a welcome relief. Or perhaps I’ve become inured to the damage Alzheimer’s has wrought on us.

When the wife of an old, revered friend died suddenly, in addition to mourning with his family, I realized that when Mom does eventually leave us forever, we will have had more than ten years to prepare for her death. That’s the curse of Alzheimer’s, the sense of ambiguous loss, a constant mourning that never ends.

And so, I relished my time with Mom. She smiled and conversed with me. She sang with me and wished me well. And perhaps that was enough.

My daughter has influenced our Shabbat eating habits. All this long, hot, isolated summer, we’ve been eating a round of amazing salads as a first course. Now that the weather is turning, we may add soup back onto the menu but certainly not at the expense of the salads! Here’s one that I particularly like: Black Eyed Pea Salad.

Black Eyed Pea Salad

I first made this salad for Rosh Hashanah as black eyed peas are one of the word-play foods we like to eat (rubiya). And then I kept making it.

1 cup black eyed peas

1 tsp baking soda

1 cucumber, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 tomato, diced

½ red onion, diced

Dressing:

¼ – ½ tsp zest from lemon

¼ cup lemon juice

½ cup olive oil

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp date honey

3 (or more) drops of hot sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Soak peas for at least two hours then place in pan and cover with water and 1 tsp baking soda. Bring to boil then simmer until peas soften. Cut all vegetables and place in a large bowl. When peas are cooked, drain and add to bowl. In a small closed container, mix dressing ingredients then pour over bowl of peas and vegetables. Toss and serve.

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