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  • Miriam Green

The Gift of Giving


I don’t know if it’s only the pandemic that is making my emotions ride the big roller coasters—taking me up and down on the ride of my life—or other aspects of my current situation, but I’m in a dip again trying my best to climb back up the tracks. It’s taking a long time to find equilibrium.

I had an honest and upsetting conversation with the director of Mom’s care facility. I had sent her a message that Daddy had bought Mom a present and would like to give it to her. A simple request made more complicated by Corona. The present in question is a lovely plush stuffed rabbit with silky soft ears and the cutest paws. It would do her good to have a “companion” to stroke. Her last acquisition, Fred the stuffed cat, is a little worn.

Unfortunately, everything that passes through the front doors of the facility must be disinfected. Food, plastic, medicine, clothes—and stuffed animals. Meaning, Daddy can’t just give Mom a present. It must be sanitized first. It’s not something they can just wipe down. To put the rabbit in a washing machine on a very hot setting would probably destroy it. How then would he deliver it to her? He can’t enter the facility. I thought maybe he could take it to them first, have it sterilized and then watch from the front doors as they give it to her. That idea was nixed. Not only would the rabbit suffer, but they can’t make exceptions for one man when there are so many family members who crave the opportunity to be near their loved ones. How disappointing.

My dad and I have a great need to reach out to Mom, to be part of her life, even in infinitesimal ways. Seeing her on video does help, especially when she actually holds a “conversation” with us. To give someone something is a testament of our affection. We get joy out of giving to those we love. At this point, our options to give to Mom are limited.

If not a stuffed rabbit, then what? A photo? A frame could easily be wiped down. More than one photo? Something for the wall? No, that defeats the purpose of having something she can fiddle with or place on the table where she sits most of the day. It cannot be breakable. A small photo album? Then it struck me that I knew the perfect thing to give to Mom. A wooden photo cube that has family photos on all sides that she can handle and turn and put down and pick back up again. This we can do.

The director suggested we make a video of Daddy “presenting” the present to her so that along with receiving the cube from the staff, she can watch the short video. Still very limiting, but we can live with this.

It turns out that the facility staff are tested every week for Corona. That’s how they discovered that the physiotherapist was infected. (And, miraculously, when they tested both staff and residents, everyone tested negative!) I haven’t had one of those tests, but I know that they are quite intrusive. An uncomfortable swab up the nose and another to the back of your throat. I can’t imagine trying to get a facility full of Alzheimer’s patients to submit to such an ordeal.

I am thankful for the extreme measures that the institute is taking to keep Mom safe. I am thankful, too, for the kindness of the director for reaching out to us. It’s just that I miss Mom so much.

Well, if you thought I wasn’t going to bake a dessert for this week’s blog, you were wrong. I’ve turned to my favorites again: chocolate and peanut butter. My book, The Lost Kitchen, contains an amazing recipe for brownies that I received from my brother-in-law Zeev. But it is possible that there are some things you can improve upon. (With apologies, Zeev, and mazal tov on your new grandson!)

Peanut Butter Brownies

These brownies are crunchy along the sides and top and oh-so-gooey in the middle. They are sure to lift your spirits.

Brownies:

1/3 cup oil

8 oz / 230 gr bitter sweet chocolate

2 Tbsp milk or milk substitute

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

¾ cup flour

2 Tbsp cocoa

Pinch salt

Peanut Butter Filling:

¾ cup peanut butter

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 Tbsp milk or milk substitute

½ cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C. Melt in microwave chocolate, oil and milk (or substitute) on high for 30 seconds. Repeat until melted. Add vanilla, sugar and eggs and mix well. Stir in flour, cocoa and salt. Set aside. Combine peanut butter filling ingredients in second bowl and mix well. Consistency of filling may be dense depending on the thickness of the peanut butter used. In an oiled baking pan, pour in half the chocolate brownie batter. If peanut butter filling is thick, place in small, flat chunks atop the chocolate. If peanut butter filling is thin, swirl into chocolate. Cover with remaining brownie batter. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.


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Photo by Liora Green

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