In Like a Lion
What a month March has been! It came in like a lion with Mom’s birthday on the 1st, the same day that my 90-year-old mother-in-law arrived for her first visit in almost four years. We also have a new granddaughter, born March 13, two days after my husband’s 59th birthday.
An unexpected Birthday Present
Dad and I took a few balloons and a tasty chocolate cake to Mom’s new facility to honor her on her birthday. She seemed happy to see us, and with the candles lit, we called my brother to be part of the party, too. Not that there was any understanding of this being her birthday. But we sang and fed her some cake, and it was a good visit.
As I pushed her wheelchair back into the building (from the porch where we’d been celebrating), Mom turned to me and said, “I love you, Miriam.”
I can’t remember when she last used my name or knew who I was. How extraordinary! We connected for that moment, and I bent down to hug and kiss her and wish her a beautiful birthday.
My other “Mom”
My mother-in-law is amazing. She and her daughter Sharon arrived in the morning after a long flight, and already on that first day she got to see 14 of her 17 Israeli great-grandchildren. She is definitely losing short-term memory, but she can still place herself in time and knows the names of all the kids.
Sharon took great care of “Mom,” cajoling her into a semblance of routine when she was too tired to rise from her bed, and whipping her into shape for her outings and visits. Our daily schedule included making time for long afternoon naps.
Our first order of business was to buy Mom a few pairs of pants that fit her as she’d lost so much weight recently. Our second order of business was to help Mom gain a few pounds. We piled on the Shabbat dishes and restaurant outings and had great fun. Lack of food equals lack of energy, and we wanted to try and change that. As Mom pointed out (several times), growing old is not for sissies.
Overall, it was a successful visit, packed with family gatherings and heated card games. Mom was in her element.
A new granddaughter
Mom had timed her visit to coincide with the birth of great-grandchild no. 17, our oldest son’s third child. Sadly, Mom had to leave before this little girl made her appearance in the world. Happily, the parents and baby are doing great. And what an emotional experience to hear her name: Ayala Naomi. The Sephardi tradition is to name children after living relatives, and our son honored my mom, Naomi, by naming his daughter after one of his beloved grandmothers.
I am over the moon by this gesture. I know my mom would be, too, as is Dad. Judaism is so heavily founded on our shared history, our lineage, and our ancestors, that to suddenly look in the other direction and visualize the future generation is a way of ensuring that this chain won’t end.
March is still not over. We wrap up this amazing month with the bat mitzvah of my great-niece. What I’ve felt over and over again this month is that my family sustains me. May we always cherish the blessings that are right in front of us.
When we celebrated our youngest son’s birthday last month, we went to an amazing restaurant with an all-you-can-eat smoked meat bar. Yes, it was extraordinarily tasty. But what caught my attention were the roasted vegetables. For some reason, though I detest the taste of fresh fennel, I couldn’t get enough of roasted fennel. After a few trials, I realized that it was best to roast it in some form of liquid so that even the outer layer cooks to a soft, plump perfection.
This is an easy and impressive dish to master. The strong licorice sensation is replaced by a mild, yet flavorful tang.
4-5 fennel bulbs, quartered
½ cup water
¼ cup olive oil
3-4 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400° F / 200° C. Cut fennel bulbs into quarters (or sixths if smaller pieces are desired) and place in a single layer in a greased baking dish. Pour liquid over fennel and cook for 20 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and mix fennel. Return to oven for up to 30 more minutes. Remove from oven when fennel is slightly browned and can be pierced with a sharp knife.