The Lost Kitchen:

Reflections and Recipes from an Alzheimer's Caregiver

Questions my Mother Asked,

Answers my Father Gave Her

 

by Miriam Green

 

Where were you last night?

I was here, with you, though you thought I was your father.

Where were you last night?

Out dancing with my imaginary lover who never forgets my name.

 

Where are the children?

They are grown with children of their own. They live in their own homes.

Where are the children?

They are waiting in the silken sky for your goodnight kisses.

 

Do you want a cup of tea?

Not now. I’m busy. You made some an hour ago.

Do you want a cup of tea?

I want many things. I want to stand with you under the canopy and never look forward.

 

How many children did I give birth to?

You cradled them both in your arms, raised them to adulthood.

How many children did I give birth to?

Daughter earth is calling. Go gently to her.

 

Where are my keys?

I told you. Check the back pocket of your bag.

Where are my keys?

We are locked inside this room together.

 

Is it time yet?

We have plenty of time.

Is it time yet?

Yes, it is time.

 

after Mark Strand

It seems like a lifetime ago that I had a mother who was capable of taking care of me, bestowing advice and managing in the kitchen. My mom, Naomi Cohen, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010, at the age of 69. My father, Jack, just a few years older, actually started cooking for the first time in his life. Through the painful realization that we were losing our beloved mom and wife, we found humor in the situation: my father had finally discovered the kitchen!

 

Mom was aware that her memory was failing. More than once, she cried in my arms, unable to comprehend what was happening to her, understandably worried that there were chunks of time in her daily schedule that had become impenetrable blank holes. 

 

There was the day she tried to unlock the front door to her apartment with the wrong key. It didn’t occur to her that she should try another one, or even ask for help. I was waiting patiently on the other side as she jammed that key into the door over and over, swearing in language I had never in my life heard her utter. Daddy rushed from his study thinking she’d hurt herself with all the screams. It took a while to calm her down.

 

The Lost Kitchen: Reflections and Recipes from an Alzheimer’s Caregiver will be published early in 2019. It was born out of my need to write about our family’s journey, how this pernicious disease affected not only Mom but the rest of us as well. It is a compilation of poetry for the soul, stories from the heart, and recipes that feed our longings. There are also chapters that describe aspects of the disease, and give advice on how to manage behaviors that are associated with Alzheimer’s.

 

Adjusting to Mom’s Alzheimer’s took patience, time, love, and sacrifice. With each new phase of the disease the mother I cherished vanished a bit more. I vowed to be her active memory, to ease her way in the darkness created by the illness, to help her find the joy that life could still offer. We continually search for Mom’s spark—her essence—that exists inside her. It is not always easy.

 

An estimated 5.7 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, and the numbers are increasing yearly.* Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.** It begins with memory loss followed by a gradual decline in cognitive and intellectual performance.

 

Throughout our journey, my mom has been my most stalwart teacher of love and kindness. She may not be who she once was, but we continue to receive her transcendent gifts that enrich us beyond measure.

 

I invite you to share our story.

 

Sincerely,

Miriam Green

 

* Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer's Association, 2018.

** Ibid.

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