“And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” –Mark 10:16
The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land. –Psalm 10:16
Whew…what a week! Knock out today like a boss and we enter a much needed weekend. To you 24/7/366 caregivers, I say this not to rub your noses in it. I appreciate you soooooooo much! But, for me in October 2020, I will be off this weekend. And I will exhale.
I was thinking about the many things there are to know about mom as I drove in today and another thing came to mind: My mom’s unique cooking methodology. Mom isn’t what I would call a traditional chef. I mean, she would use some recipes and other things she would prepare were straight from her mind…but she was skilled. However, what she produced was, shall I say, clearly non-traditional. I expect that mom’s cooking style was a product of the Great Depression, an era that predated her by 2 decades. Mom would never, never let a leftover go un-reutilized. Therefore she would sneak things into other dishes to “use them up”. Reflecting back on this, there are some valuable lessons here:
- The good thing sometimes has to be couched into the bad thing– Mom would sneak healthy things into less food in hopes that we wouldn’t notice or perhaps would take one for the team. She cared about our health and it broke her heart to see me struggle with weight. Dementia correlation: Dementia sucks, but at least she has forgotten the bad too…the loss of her best friend, her parents, some of her favorite people; the loss of memories of abuse, of sadness, of stress, and of little, crappy things like politics. Like sticking a pill in a hot dog so your dog will eat it, at least there is some good here in the bad.
- Waste not, want not– I looked up this phrase and its variations and discovered it is extremely old…1570’s old. “Wilful waste makes woeful want” originated in the 1576 R. EDWARDS text “Paradise of Dainty Devices 88″**** (Richard Edwards was a distinguished lyricist and playwright and his works were lost for centuries). Mom hated throwing food out. She could always casserole it in a pinch…and that she did. Fries became mashed potatoes became potato cakes became casserole filler if needed. Her parents were tight and she tried to be too even though she was/is exceedingly generous. Two Dementia correlations: 1. Don’t let worthy memories die! We need to mine the histories of our senior loved ones, dementia or not, because we need that wisdom and because when they are gone it is too…a true double tragedy. 2. Don’t waste time. It is precious. I would give a year’s salary for an hour with the old version of mom, but I cannot. Hug them. Talk to them. Stay close for you never know when your ability to do so will be Shawshanked away.
- Love can be tough– I will admit it, with the deepest respect and love…I wasn’t a huge fan of many of mom’s dishes. Liver and Onions, Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzards and other old school foods don’t exactly Chick-Fil-A off the plate, if you will. However, she made them with love and with good intentions. And, there were some great dishes too. I “discovered” my love for French Toast with peanut butter and homemade syrup from one of mom’s efforts. (See this and this). When you love someone, you take the good and the bad. None of us are perfect.
- It takes the whole fridge sometimes to make a full meal– We always had food on the table growing up. Was it ideal? I mean, did every meal taste as if it came from Pat’s Pizza or Q39 BBQ in KC? Not exactly. However, they were all filling and nutritious and served the purpose well. Dementia correlation: You need a fridge full of folks to make up your care team. Some will be helpful potatoes and others may be more like a chicken liver stuck in for protein…but accept help and build a team. You, nor I, can go it alone in taking care of someone with dementia. Even Shawshanked like mom is now, it takes a team. Hospice, siblings, nurses, praying friends…lots of folks helping these days to be sure mom is doing as well as she can be.
- Humility helps– This is a side-issue, story wise, but a gem nevertheless. My dad went my mom’s folks’ house for dinner pre-marriage. Green Grandma wasn’t quite the cook that Grandma Applegate was, but she, like mom, cooked with love. Regardless, she served a fruitcake for semi-dessert and my dad mistakenly thought it was meatloaf…and he asked for catsup. He, to the horror of those around, lathered some Brooks catsup on his. Just before his first bit, someone asked, bravely, “Do you always put catsup on your fruitcake??” My dad said, with humility and an iron will/stomach, “Uhhh…yes…yes I do.” and ate it like a soldier. Both mom and dad have long since remarried to wonderful folks, but that story still sticks in my mind as a show of love that would exemplify our childhood years. Dementia correlation: Be humble. Accept help. If a friend is willing to help, but only help in a certain area…take the help. Don’t brag. Don’t correct your loved one with dementia…it isn’t worth the argument. Humility is a lost art…one that I need work on as well. But in the world of dementia, it is sorely needed.
- Looks can be deceiving– I want to end on this note: Cliché warning…cliché warning. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Looks can be deceiving. Who knows…that odd dish may be great, but you wont know until you try it. And in dementia…don’t give up. Being blunt: Does it seem like it will be impossible to see them when things get hard? It may seem that way. You will be sad…BUT, you will also find that your relationship, while changed, can still flourish. When I was still able to visit mom most days, it was hard, but we developed all sorts of loving ways to bond and share life with each other. Was it the same? Nope. But it was great…and I miss it dearly. 🙁 Don’t give up. Redirect. Break out the pictures…the songs…the old shows. Don’t fixate on what is gone, fixate on what is left. What is left, whether in life or in a casserole, has a world of good possibilities too. Lastly, we can also continue to learn every day too. My family grimaces at my putting salsa or mustard on my salads, but I retort that they should try it before they judge. It may be catsup on your fruitcake…or it just may be peanut butter on your French Toast.
Update: The nursing home forgot my call this week and I am trying to get back in line again. It may be next Wednesday to bet another video call with her. I hear all is fine and that she was actually laughing and cutting up a few days ago. I hate this mess for her and am so proud that she has lived a life of making lemonade out of the sometimes brussels’ sprouts of life.
**** Here is an Easter poem from the above document. Amazing…and would have been lost without a professor (Hyder Edward Rollins) who undertook transcribing it before it was gone forever…: If you are not an Old English type, just use your imagination. 😉
[10.] Easter day. A LI mortall men this day reioyce, In Christ that you redeemed hath: By death, with death sing we with voyce, 5 To him that hath appesed Gods wrath. Due vnto man for sinfull path, Wherein before he went astray: Geue thankes to him with perfect faith, That for mankind hath made this glorious day, 10 This day he rose from tombe againe, Wherin his precious corse was laide: Whom cruelly the lewes had slaine, With blooddy woundes full ill araide. Man be nowe no more dismaide, 15 If thou hencefoorth from sinne doo stay, Of death thou needest not be afraide, Christ conquered death for this his glorious day. His death preuayled had no whit, As Paul the Apostle well doth write, 20 Except he had vprysen yet. From death to life by Godlike might. With most triumphant glittering light. This day his glory shined I say, And made vs bright as sunne this glorious day. 25 man aryse with Christe therefore, Since he from sinne hath made thee free: Beware thou fall in sinne no more, But ryse as Christe dyd ryse for thee. So mayst thou him in glory see, 30 When he at day of doome shal say: Come thou my childe and dwell with me, God Graunt vs all, to see that glorious day. Finis. by Jasper Heywood. & ill.