There are boxes stacked neatly in my parents’ apartment, evidence that they are truly going through with their move in two months to Beer Sheva. There’s so much left to pack—a life’s collection—that I suggested that my dad start early and work in short shifts. And with another heat wave gripping Israel, today during my visit, we decided to stay inside and clear out some of the cupboards.
Our rule of thumb: if an item hasn’t been used in more than a year, it should probably not be saved. That goes for the hundreds of music tapes and the assortment of belts and bags and other random objects, some of which my dad can’t part with because they have sentimental value. Mom no longer has an attachment to things; the memories associated with most of her possessions are lost.
Making disorder out of her ordered space, however, is difficult for Mom. I can’t count the number of times she started swearing at me for messing around with her belongings.
Just as we had emptied three cupboards in the spare bedroom, one filled with toys and games my kids used to play with when they were little, Mom decided she needed to go out. So, despite the heat, Mom and I left the air conditioned apartment and walked to the neighboring park. We found a bench in the shade and watched the kids running around. We even swung on a swing together!
As we were heading back, a woman recognized Mom and stopped to say hello. That was exactly what we needed. Mom opened up and became her charming, complimentary self. She even told the woman that the ratty house dress she was wearing had beautiful colors and looked lovely on her.
When we returned to the apartment, Mom was more passive. As we sorted and packed, she gladly joined me in singing some of our standard repertoire.
And then it was time to head home. I am left with a sense of not having done enough with Mom today to lift her above the disease and allow her to connect with the world around her. I only have those few hours with her each week, and I try to engage with her as much as possible. She didn’t smile or laugh enough, though there were certain moments of pure joy. I must be satisfied with what there is. In two more months, with their move next door, our lives will be thrown into confusion. What emerges, and how we spend time together, will change completely. It is a challenge I embrace, even if with trepidation.
I often think that challenges in my day-to-day life are reflected in my kitchen. I love to try new dishes, push myself to make something that is not on our standard menu. This week, for the first time, I made stuffed onions. They are a little patchkied—messy—as my grandmother might say, but worth the effort.
Middle Eastern cooks stuff anything they can get their hands on—tomatoes, squash, artichoke bottoms, even onions. This recipe has several stages, but it is not difficult to pull it all together. The combination of spices and the sweet lemony sauce were a big hit.
1 pound ground beef
3 large onions
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 carrots, grated
1 medium onion, grated
¼ cup parsley, chopped
1½ teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons date honey (silan)
1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce
4 teaspoons lemon juice
5 cloves garlic, chopped
Cut a triangular wedge out of the side of the three large onions. This will allow for easy peeling of the onion’s layers. Blanche by placing in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine ground beef with garlic, grated vegetables and spices.
Carefully peel onion layers from cooled onion. (Notice how they fold in on themselves.)
Using a tablespoon, spoon the ground beef mixture into onion layers, close them and place in a baking dish.
Combine sauce ingredients and pour over stuffed onions.
Cover pan and cook for up to 2 hours at 350° until onions are soft and cooked through.
About the Author: Miriam Green writes a weekly blog at http://www.thelostkichen.org, featuring anecdotes about her mother’s Alzheimer’s and related recipes. Her poetry has appeared in several journals, including Poet Lore, the Prose Poem Project, Ilanot Review, The Barefoot Review and Poetica Magazine. Her poem, “Mercy of a Full Womb,” won the 2014 Jewish Literary Journal’s 1st anniversary competition. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bar Ilan University and a B.A. from Oberlin College. Miriam is a 20+-year resident of Israel and a mother of three.