Time in a Bottle
Last week I visited Mom by myself because my dad was home with a bad cold and cough. Mom and I had a blast talking and laughing together, probably the best visit I’ve had with her in several months.
Despite the reinstating of restrictions due to the Delta variant, we sat close together and held hands, and even hugged each other. Mom gave me so many kisses, mostly on my arm, and I was touched by her effusive love for me. We called my brother Simon in California to say hello. It’s generally tough connecting with him because of the time differences. He speaks to our dad every day, but his conversations with Mom are less frequent.
Mom was surprisingly excited to talk to him. She even brought the phone to her mouth and kissed Simon’s image! We were so engrossed in our friendly three-way conversation that we didn’t notice the time passing. I guess the staff were extra busy, too, because they allowed us almost an hour of intensive interaction.
Out of a full, busy week, I saw Mom for all of 50 minutes. Imagine that. That’s just about the time it takes to watch a show on TV or visit a doctor or chat with a friend or set an hourglass. That’s not enough time to assess how someone is doing though. Add to that the fact that Mom can’t tell me how she’s been or which animals she pet during animal therapy or how many times the accordionist came to play. I can infer from her schedule what she’s been doing, but not how she is or whether she’s been happy or aggressive or just plain bored. Where does her mind go when she sits hour after hour in the community activity room? How is her appetite? Can she still eat basic foods on her own? Does she still enjoy drinking tea? How does one even define "enjoyment" for someone in her condition?
This past year has conditioned us to expect to see Mom infrequently and in short visits. On the one hand, it has been a challenge to adjust to these limitations. On the other, it has been freeing, knowing her care is now quite literally out of my hands.
And yet, there is always this niggling sense at the back of my mind that I just don’t know what’s going on. How is Mom really doing? I‘m not sure that I’ll ever know the true effect of this disease on her. My job now is to accept the situation and bring Mom some periods of joy when I can.
When I was looking for an eggplant salad recipe to make for Shabbat, I reached back into my blog to the year 2015 for one of my old favorite recipes. At the time, I had made a comparison between how difficult it was to persuade Mom to take her pills and the compliance of onions to be chopped on my cutting board. I was both amused and saddened to revisit that post. It reminded me of all I have lost and yet also revealed that this disease was showing its hand so perniciously already at that early stage. On the other hand, it's remarkable that six years later, Mom is still physically healthy and still somewhat cognitively present. I am repeating the recipe below, and the blog is here.
Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Salad
I have not made this salad for at least a year or more, and I can’t remember why. It’s tasty, relatively easy to make, and irresistibly piquant. I hope you enjoy it, too.
1 large eggplant sliced
1½ red peppers halved
1 large tomato chopped
¼ onion diced
¼ cup parsley chopped
2-3 cloves garlic crushed
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp mustard (plus ½ tsp extra for more kick)
1 Tbsp vinegar
¼ tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Brush eggplant slices and pepper halves with olive oil and place on a large baking tray, peppers cut side down. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until pepper skins start to blacken and eggplant can be easily pierced with a knife. Let cool. Peel skins from peppers. Chop tomato, peppers and eggplant and combine with diced onion and garlic. Add parsley. In a small container, whisk dressing ingredients. Combine with vegetables. Serve cold.