Saturday, 12 May 2012

Freefalling...Happy Mother's Day

I am sitting in a room, talking with my mother.  I marvel at how beautiful she is, and hang on her every word.  She is well, vibrant and laughing.  I touch her, snuggling in close to smell her sweet "mommy smell".  I take in every moment, relief washing over me as I realize the Alzheimer's journey was just a bad dream...and then, somewhere in the back of my mind I feel it all slipping away, and recognize the all-too-familiar signs that I am dreaming, and know that it will soon end.  I cling to every last second, willing myself to remember everything, to live in the moment, because it is fleeting, and I don't know when the next dream will come.  And then I wake up in a darkened room...heartbroken.

Such is my journey as I walk the path of a Daughter of Alzheimer's.

Every now and then it hits me...I've lost my mother.  Well-meaning people tell me to be grateful that she is still alive, that I can still touch her and visit her.  I smile and bite my tongue because I know they are trying to be kind, trying to find the positive in a negative situation.  But inside I am screaming...."look at my beloved mother, see how this disease has ravaged her, please try to have a conversation with her, and now...tell me again, that I should be grateful."   Like other chronic, fatal diseases, Alzheimer's has no known only presents it's targets and their families with the prospect of a long, heartbreaking goodbye.

So, as my mother progresses into this later, more severe stage of AD, I can only hope that she is no longer aware, that the insight into what was happening to her has faded, and she is finally at peace.  But then again, I am afraid.  In those brief, fleeting moments of lucidity, Mom says things that make me think she is in there, trapped, held prisoner by her dying brain.

Such is my journey as I walk the path of a Daughter of Alzheimer's.

Please don't misunderstand, I am not having a "pity party", I just need to keep this blog real.  I cannot and will not sugarcoat dementia, or the indescribable havoc it wreaks on patients and their families.  I have found a path of healing in recalling my mother's life pre-Alzheimer's, and in sharing the stories through her and my matriarch's recipes, but that does not eliminate the inevitable pain and loss that define this journey.  The stories I share with you are ultimately written so my daughters and niece will have a family history when I am no longer here.  I will not allow our history to die with me.  I have learned from my mother's experience, and am not putting off today what can be done tomorrow...after all, who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Such is my journey as I walk the path of a Daughter of Alzheimer's. is Mother's Day weekend.  I am planning on doing what I enjoy the most, cooking, baking and being with the people I love.  It is still a whirlwind Sunday, Hebrew school, swimming and baseball.  But I will spend the morning with Mom, and then we'll all end up back here for a Mother's Day lunch that I am planning.  I don't stand on ceremony for this special day, and I never have.  All I want is to be with my laugh...and to share the moments that matter.  I want to enjoy every moment that I am blessed with.   I am going to recreate the Sunday brunch of my childhood, the one I described in Kabakle post, minus the sardines!  I have been coming across so many recipes for salads that look unbelievably delicious, and I will pair them with some chelsea bun recipes, olives and cheeses.  Mmm mmm good!

But what about Mom?  What do you give a mother who is severely cognitively and physically impaired?   Let me tell you, this is a tough one! Until recently, Mom was mobile and agile.  She could pick up a speck off the floor, and would do so every chance she got.  She would pull at the photos on Bubbie Lou's photo collage and actually pulled the cord right out of the back of her television set.  Just before this latest AD free-fall, which has necessitated the use of a wheelchair on a virtually full-time basis, the charge nurse asked me to remove all items with "sharp" edges from Mom's room, that way she could not hurt herself.  And then Influenza B outbreak that leads to further, marked decline and advancing paratonia, and ultimately the need for a wheelchair, swallow tests, neurology appointments...

My mother and daughters (2010)

If I can find that silver lining in our most recent cloud, it would be that I can bring the glass vase with silk flowers to Mom's room tomorrow...and I can bring the extra television set to her room tomorrow...2 little things that will brighten her living space and, hopefully, her days.   But what else?  You know I have this uncontrollable urge to fix things with food, so I need to bring a nibble to Joychee (my pet name for Mom for those who haven't read About Mom)...but what?!

I have learned that things fall into place when they are meant to...and the nosh for Mom came to me when we were on our way back from the wheelchair "fitting" appointment last week.  Mildred - bless Mildred, she is my family's saviour, always smiling, kind and professional...taking incredible care of Mom, making her happy and comfortable - Mildred mentioned how Mom loves chips!  Apparently she perks up whenever she hears the rustle of a bag of chips being opened, and can even manage to hold a chip and bring it to her mouth!  Lately she is especially fond of cheesies...

Eureka!!  I will bring her cheesies!  Later that night I dropped Becca to dance and went to Walmart for a few things.  As I walked the aisles (no, my love of grocery shopping has not dissipated) I came to the snacks aisle and there it was - a JUMBO bag of cheesies!  Later that evening when the kids were helping me unpack the groceries, Becca went to put the cheesies away.  I told her to leave them, they were for Bubbie for Mother's Day.  She looked at me as though I had 2 heads, and so I explained what I had learned earlier that day.  When Carlo came home Becca giggled as she told her daddy that we were taking cheesies to Bubbie for Mother's Day.  He was not surprised.  No, he did not know the story, but he told Becca that back in the day, when we used to go to my parents' for Shabbat dinner each week, Mom would go to her nosh stash in the laundry room (see Salty in a Sweet World) and peruse the shelves like a wine connoisseur eyes his collection, choosing just the right bag of chips to satisfy her pre-dinner munchies.  She would come back and put out a huge bowl of chips for nibbling, all the while telling us not to eat too much or we would spoil our dinner.  Right!  She went through different phases, there were ripple chips with French Onion Helluva Good Dip, there was the natcho chip and guacamole period and then, of course, the BBQ chips or cheesies phase.

So tomorrow, I will take Mom flowers, a TV, and cheesies for Mother's Day.  Then I will come home and serve mia familia a beautiful lunch of:
  • hummus and pita
  • weekend breakfast bake (minus the ham) O
  • tomato chickpea pepper salad O
  • nutella swirls O
  • chelsea buns O
  • mango salsa O
  • avocado salad O
  • roasted chickpea salad;
  • spinach salad 
  • Israeli and kalamata olives
  • Selection of cheeses

All the O recipes are linked on the Favourite Recipes and Holiday Recipes.  I will have to let you know how far I actually get in making it all for tomorrow's lunch - too many errands, too little time!  As Carlo always says, I try to stuff 3 days worth of tasks into 1 and am still shocked when I cannot accomplish everything!  

I managed to make all the specialty salads,
a fresh batch of hummus, the breakfast
bake and both sweet breads!

I wish all mothers out there a very happy Mother's Day!  I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!