It's Not Over Yet
She knew who I was! She knew me. As I watched Mom being brought to the room where we’d visit, I waved and called to her. She stopped and looked at me and called me Miriam. I hadn’t seen her in more than two months, and I started crying with such relief that Mom was still there, that she hadn’t disappeared completely into the fog of Alzheimer’s. The staff let me lower my mask when I first greeted Mom so that she could recognize my face.
Mom lacked the ability to emote as I did, but when we were together in the room—sitting at opposite ends of a long table—she engaged with me in conversation, sang with me, drummed her fingers on the table with me. We mostly talked a blue streak of nonsense.
Throughout the 40 minutes of our visit, Mom dozed off briefly a few times. The visit started at 12:00 p.m., right before lunch and her afternoon nap. The staff told me she’s not eating well. She readily drinks soup or porridge, depending on the meal, so they try to make what’s in her bowl nutritionally packed. Most of her calories seem to come from the Ensure she drinks during her afternoon coffee break.
At one point during our conversation, Mom referred to me as her “mummy” (the British version of mommy). I didn’t mind. I was open to accepting any moniker that suggested trust and love.
What I felt most keenly was an outpouring of love towards Mom as if she were a wayward child who had come home to me. In those few moments of precious interaction, Mom was present. The “now” held significance. I will carry that feeling of being utterly present with Mom with me in the months to come.
In the news, the senior home that lost 14 residents to COVID 19 last month, the one that is just across the street from Mom’s facility, has reported another resident has tested positive. That means all the residents there are in strict isolation again. I feel deep and personal empathy for the families of the residents who have passed away and those they are prohibited from seeing.
We might think that the easing of restrictions here in Israel means the end to the coronavirus scare, but we’d be wrong. There is as yet no developed vaccine that will protect us from this virus. The fact that it can be transmitted from person to person before any symptoms appear means that we are all vulnerable to catching it. We must therefore continue to protect our most defenseless citizens.
My dad has already had his second visit with Mom, and this one went better than the first. Given the circumstances, I can live with the strange conditions of visiting Mom: sitting far apart (with a staff member accompanying us to enforce the rules), the mask on my face, and the ache I have to hug her. As long as I know she’s still with us, I will do my best to keep her healthy.
This week marks the holiday of Shavuot when we commemorate the giving of the 10 Commandments to the Jewish people. Moses was up on the mountain with God for 40 days. And the numerical equivalent of milk, chalav, is 40. Thus, we eat dairy meals on the holiday to remember Moses’ 40-day sojourn. I’ll take any excuse to eat a lighter meal on a hot summer holiday. My desire to continue trying out new dishes during this difficult time led me to borrow a recipe for scones from my British neighbor Ruth. Ruth is the epitome of a British hostess and her scones are unbearably good. If you’ve ever experienced high tea in England with warm scones, clotted cream, and scrumptious jam, you know what a treat it is. And this homemade version is pretty fantastic, too.
Scones and Clotted Cream
I have vivid memories of sitting in a café along the Thames near my aunt’s house in Maidenhead and being served tea and scones. I also remember the white swans that seemed to beg for pieces of the crumbly treat. I don’t remember sharing. You can make this recipe dairy-free but it lacks that je ne sais quoi. Also, just for the record, my clotted cream came out a bit lumpy.
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
1 cup milk
¼ cup raisins, optional
Preheat oven to 400° F / 200° C. Sift together dry ingredients then add softened butter. Mix until the ingredients resembles breadcrumbs. Don’t overmix. Add milk (and raisins, which are totally optional). Stir gently until a sticky dough is formed. Turn out dough onto a heavily floured surface and roll with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 1 inch / 3 cm. Using a small 2 inch / 5 cm or 1½ inch / 4 cm pastry cutter or other object (I used an empty glass jam jar), shape scones into round circles and place on a baking tray covered in baking paper. Repeat until all the dough is used. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.
2 cups cream (preferably high in fat)
Preheat oven to 170° F / 75° C. Pour cream into an oven proof bowl. Let bake overnight uncovered for 12 hours. A light brown film may appear on top. This is ok. If the cream begins to form a darker brown top, reduce heat. After removing from oven, let cool then cover and place in refrigerator for 8 hours. Remove from fridge. Using a fork, pull away the thick cream from the top of the container and place in a bowl. Smooth mixture with fork. The remaining thin liquid can be used as a milk substitute (perfect for baking scones!).
To eat scones, cut a warm scone and spread a dollop of cream and jam on top. Wow!