I was 18-years-old when I left my parents’ house, first living in Israel on kibbutz for a year, then attending college. When I graduated and decided to live in Washington, DC, I’d trek home on weekends with my laundry, loving the feeling of reentering my childhood space and being cared for.
It didn’t matter how far away I went, what state or country I moved to, I knew that my parents were together, preserving the sense of “home” that they had given me as a child, and living their lives in enjoyment and harmony.
Even during those early years of Mom’s Alzheimer’s, life was manageable. I didn’t worry about Mom all the time because I knew she was being protected by those who loved her.
Now that Mom lives in a care facility, now that she can’t take care of herself, I tend to worry about the fact that Mom is no longer in our orbit of care. Neither I nor my father—who still visits her everyday—can know what befalls her during her day. Does she smile and laugh? Does she have someone to talk to? Is she too tired to participate in activities? Does the droning TV bother her? How often is she lost in a funk? Does the staff remember to give her music to listen to on her headphones that are loaded with her favorite songs?
And how did these bruises appear on the back of her hands?
Mom obviously doesn’t remember. The staff tell me they tried to take some blood and she fought them. That’s a reasonable explanation. I’ve seen IVs give terrible bruises to hospitalized patients—and they didn’t fight their nurses!
I wonder if things could be different. We live so close to Mom’s facility. Could we get the staff to call us if they need her cooperation? Would it help if I or my dad were there? Am I deluding myself into thinking there’s any way to ease Mom’s situation?
Sometimes, there is no way to reach Mom. I spent a frustrating afternoon with her recently trying to get her to participate in physiotherapy. I was sitting next to her behind the main circle of activity. But she could not focus or make the prescribed movements.
At one point, I got so frustrated, I took her for a walk. Then we sat some distance away from the activity, and this time I sat facing her chair. I took one of the foam noodles that they were using to exercise their arms and I again tried to make the suggested movements with her. It worked a little better this time, though I was forcing her to move her arms in circles or push on the noodle. She never made the movements by choice.
Nothing I did made an impact. Mom could not understand what was happening and she was incapable of participating. Perhaps I even tried too hard to get her to join in, hoping beyond hope that she could be like the active residents and not the more advanced Alzheimer’s cases. I didn’t want to give up on her, but I decided that I should put aside my own desires and accept that Mom couldn’t participate.
Isn’t that how we should treat everyone we love? We cannot force square pegs into round holes. We cannot force our children to behave in any prescribed way. We cannot merely wish it so that those we love will operate within our approved norms of societal behavior. How much more so for someone with Alzheimer’s.
And so that sense of unease lingers over Mom’s time and how she spends it. My presence does help, but it’s not a magic pill that will make her whole or even help her to overcome the daily hurdles in her new life. And once again, I must reevaluate my reasons for visiting. They must be solely for Mom’s benefit. My desires should be left at the door.
I am sometimes overwhelmingly saddened by the person Mom has become. Then I remember the 5th Commandment. It is an honor to have my mom still close, still alive, still here teaching me to become a better person, a better child.
This Shabbat, we’re celebrating the calling up to the Torah of our dear friends’ son, a young man I’ve known since his birth. This is a tradition for grooms before their wedding. We are crazy excited for them as they mark this joyous milestone. And what better way to celebrate than to make cookies! Gluten free cookies, as per his mom’s request. After all the excitement in my own life (ha ha), I thought that making cookies was a good idea. If I ate a little of the batter along the way, no one would be the wiser. And if those cookies were “healthy” cookies, then I was really ahead of the game. So, here you have my rendition of amazing gluten free tehina chocolate cookies. Chocolate chips not optional.
Gluten Free Tehina Chocolate Cookies
You can feel righteous eating these cookies because not only are they low sugar and filled with good fat (think healthy types of monounsaturated fat), they are also quite tasty. The cookies don’t expand, so however they look on your baking sheet is how they will look when you remove them from the oven. One batch makes approximately 20 to 25 cookies.
½ cup raw tehina paste
½ cup natural peanut butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
½ cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C. In a large bowl, mix sugar and egg. Add tehina paste and peanut butter, cocoa and other ingredients. Stir until the batter thickens. Using your hands, place walnut-sized portions of dough on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet before moving (or eating).