I’ve visited Netanya twice in the past few weeks, helping my dad deal with the renovations to the apartment that they own there. Stepping into that space was a wondrous experience. I was transported back so viscerally to the happy times we spent there with our kids, with my parents, my mom whole and loving and full of life.
There’s the closet space that the kids would hide in when we played hide-and-seek. And the funny bathroom with two doors, one that opened into the small laundry porch. And the rooms! How can they feel both enormous and so much smaller than I remember?
It was impossible to walk around the city without recalling the more recent times I’d been there with Mom, window shopping and stopping to chat with friends, stopping for coffee, and gazing at the azure sea. I remembered everything. I felt as if I was living both in the present and the past at the same time. Two of me, somehow coexisting at once.
Not much has changed with Mom. She is sometimes so present, then absent in a distant, unapproachable place. She is also a compilation of selves, except that it’s hard to know if her coalescence includes the past. What, if anything does she remember? Is it possible that somewhere in the convoluted byways of her brain she does remember things, even when she can’t express them? There is certainly nothing tied to a future existence in her life.
My brother Simon and his family are coming to visit at the end of July. We are so excited to host them here, and as we work on their itinerary, we must already start to plan their visits to Mom. We must schedule everything in advance, request visiting times, number of visitors, and buy rapid antigen tests. We must set everything in motion now so as to make their visits go smoothly.
How will Mom react? Will she gladly embrace Simon? What about my sister-in-law and niece? I guess I’m as worried about their reaction to Mom as Mom’s reaction to them. It’s been a while since they’ve seen each other, and Covid restrictions in the care facility include wearing face masks. Mom won't have a chance to recognize them.
Perhaps it’s all moot. Perhaps there’s no need to worry or plan how or if or what will happen when they see each other. I should take a page out of Mom’s own Alzheimer’s book and be in the moment.
Meanwhile, I’m still arranging for the few visits we’re allowed with Mom and waiting patiently for the director of Mom’s home to get back to me with the ok. One step at a time.
One of my favorite dairy recipes is from a cookbook called, I Must Have that Recipe!, that my mother-in-law gave me years ago. The pages are frayed, and I’ve taped some back so many times, that they permanently jut out. This cannelloni with vegetable filling is attributed to a New York restaurant called Doral Saturnia. I’ve modified it to work in my kitchen.
Cannelloni with Vegetable Filling
Yes, I realize that cannelloni also comes in sheets, but I’ve never seen them in my grocery. Stuffing the cannelloni tubes can be messy. But totally worth it.
1 box cannelloni
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 large zucchini, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
½ lbs / 220 gr cottage cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 28 oz / 800 gr can crushed tomatoes
1 20 oz / 580 gr can tomato paste
2 Tsp each of basil, oregano, parsley, granulated garlic, and salt and pepper
Sauté all vegetables in olive oil until liquid begins to evaporate. Mix in spices. When sauté has reduced in size significantly, remove from heat and let cool. When cooled, add in cottage and Parmesan. In a large mixing bowl, mix together crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Add spices.
Prepare a large baking dish by brushing a thin layer of tomato sauce along the bottom. Using your hands, place one cannelloni tube upright in your palm and, gripping it gently, keep it upright as you use your other hand to stuff the tube with the vegetable filling. Place cannelloni tubes in one layer across the bottom of the tomato sauce-covered dish. When all cannelloni are filled, spread remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake at 350° F / 180° C for 30 minutes.