With a little trial and error, we seem to have hit on the optimal time to visit Mom, namely 5:15 p.m. The visits are still outside, so if it’s been a sizzling hot day, the temps have dropped a bit by then. There’s ample shade in the covered visiting area and, best of all, Mom is fully awake.
Both my dad and I have been buoyed by Mom’s most recent interactions with us. She talks to us and nods along when we engage her in song. She’s even sung along occasionally. It certainly makes our visits more enjoyable, and it takes away from the sting of what Daddy said when he came home last week from a particularly bleak visit.
“We’ve been replaced. The staff has become Mom’s family now,” he proclaimed.
My dad’s words hit me hard. It’s true that this Coronavirus pandemic has severed our connections with Mom. And it’s true that, in the absence of our touch, the staff is now responsible for doling out affections to Mom. And it’s also true that they are the ones intimately privy to her every mood and move.
We are extremely fortunate that the staff at Mom’s memory care facility are caring, thoughtful individuals. Mom even refers to one male staff member as her “husband,” and he jokingly calls her “Madame,” with a French accent. “You’re beautiful,” the staff tell her as they blow her kisses.
This is all good. It means she’s being well taken care of—which, when all is said and done, is our number one priority. And by no means do we take that for granted. I shudder in horror every time I read about the countless cases of terrifying and inhumane treatment at care facilities around the world.
My thought is that we’ve not been supplanted so much as sidelined. Maybe we’re like the coach standing on the side who is calling out plays to our team. We are the repositories of her past and of her personality. We use that knowledge, that love we hold for her, as the key to our interaction. We are the interpreters of Mom to the staff. She doesn’t remember who we are, but she still enjoys our company. Our visits can only add to Mom’s daily existence.
It ain’t what it used to be, but it is something.
How odd. I kept finding pieces of red plastic on the floor near my closet. I finally figured out where it was coming from. It was the spiral binding of a cookbook Mom had given to me many years ago. I don’t have the front page anymore or the title of this precious reminder of her teaching me to cook. Today, I managed to save this cookbook by taking it to a store to be rebound. They used the same page holes and inserted a new spiral binding. This evening, as I was placing it on the counter, the pages fell open to a light fish recipe perfect for a summer’s eve. It was obvious to me that I should make this fish dish for dinner.
Tuscany Style Baked Fish
This fish dish was easy to make and very tasty. I tweaked the recipe a bit, adding red pepper and more garlic, and changing the cooking time, too. Definitely a good dish for a hot summer’s eve.
4 fillets St. Peter’s (amnon) or tilapia
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, sliced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp thyme
1 cup crushed tomatoes
4 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil, adding salt and pepper, until onions begin to brown. Add sliced peppers and continue to sauté until peppers are cooked. In a small bowl, mix tomatoes, spices and parsley. Lay onions and peppers in bottom of baking dish and sprinkle with thyme. Arrange fish on top in a single layer. Drizzle fish with oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper. Spoon tomato mixture over fish. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily.