Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shavuot 5769

I am finding that cleaning out closets and drawers of items unused during the course of the 16 years we have been in this house is very liberating. I have been piling these items onto long tables in the garage while my car gathers tree detritus and pollen out on the driveway. The garage sale ad has been placed in the local papers, so there is no going back now. We are committed! I only hope that there is a person out there for every discarded item.

Wednesday, Adele and Ken both came for lunch with Mom, who was having an unusually good day. She was more alert than usual and was able to stay at the table in her wheelchair for a half hour. I made cheese and veggie omelets for all of us, including Stacey. We really enjoyed the time together. Thursday morning was good for Mom also, but by Thursday evening, she was the worst we have seen so far. Laying in bed, propped up, she was having trouble catching her breath even with the oxygen. We gave her Lorazepam and held her hand until she fell asleep. We tried gently to awaken her to eat dinner, but decided in the end to allow her to continue sleeping.

Laura called Thursday to say that she and Marc would not be able to join us for Shabbat dinner. Her daughter had begged her to babysit Friday evening so that she and her husband could prepare for their daughter Lily’s birthday party this weekend. When we called Jay to find out if he would still be joining us, we found that he would. Laura met us for lunch instead, picking me up so that we could meet Saul after his physical therapy at Pho Thai Nam. She was getting over a bad cold, and a large, steaming bowl of noodle soup made her feel a little better. I started preparing early for dinner because I knew we would be in synagogue all of Friday morning for Shavuot services. I made and Saul filled frozen chocolate mousse crepes in preparation for Yona’s baby-naming. I also made a batch of cheese blintzes, our traditional dairy food for this festival. I prepared a big batch of Israeli salad for dinner as well.

Stacey came early on Friday morning so that we could attend services. All the previous rancor that had occurred seemed to be absent from the sanctuary. I was pleasantly surprised to find the atmosphere as warm and spiritual as usual, perhaps because those who had come to worship have a desire to try to keep it that way and put political differences aside during sacred times. Rabbi Addison’s sermon brought tears to my eyes as he used the story of Ruth and Naomi to illustrate how, in divisive times, strong, understanding, and kind leaders, such as Boaz, can change the tenor of people’s interrelationships and bring about positive changes in society. Boaz, although a very powerful and rich man, treats his farm workers and poorer relatives as respected equals. He and Ruth eventually become the great-grandparents of King David from whose offspring a messiah is expected to emerge who will eventually bring about a peaceful and just world.

After services, we rushed home so that I could prepare the dough for my challah to give it enough time to rise before dinner. Since Pesach, there have been practically no backup loaves in the freezer. Beth and Paul joined us, along with Jay for dinner. Larry called from the road about 6 p.m. to say that he had just landed from Egypt and he wound up joining us for dinner a little late. Paul came late also. After we recited the usual blessing over the wine, I again found myself with tears in my eyes. Jay asked Saul and me to join hands. Then he recited the Eshet Chayil verse (A Woman of Valor) from memory that he would recite for Sandy, of blessed memory, on Friday evenings. I told him that Jessica’s father-in-law, Maury, recites it to his wife, Elaine, every Friday evening as well. For dinner, we had chestnut soup, Israeli salad, guacamole, corn-on-the-cob, cod lamaize, blintzes with sliced strawberries and sour cream, and kippered smoked salmon. As it turned out, we had leftover filling from the blintzes and leftover crepes from the chocolate mousse crepes. The serendipity of the situation caused us to invent a new dessert, chocolate blintzolis, a cross between a blintz and a cannoli. We added chocolate chips and Curaçao to the ricotta filling, rolled it up in the chocolate crepe blintz-style, brushed it with melted butter, and baked it until puffy. Because I wasn’t sure how they would turn out, I also made a batch of Roy’s hot chocolate soufflé in custard cups. We definitely had chocolate overkill for dessert with coffee, because both desserts were irresistible. Larry regaled us with tales of his tours of Egypt and Jordan while Jay reminisced about his journeys there with Sandy. Ari had Shabbat dinner with Jess and Alex in Baltimore. Mom was very testy right before dinner. First, she gave me a hard time because she wanted her breakfast immediately. Then she gave Beth a hard time about coming to the table. She also refused Saul’s attempts to bring her to dinner. Finally, after waiting a few minutes, Beth and I together convinced her to come to the table. She participated in the blessings pleasantly, had a few spoonfuls of soup and within about 15 minutes insisted on going back to bed. She apparently went right to sleep as we were monitoring her from the kitchen. We decided, before we went to bed, that she was sleeping soundly and we did not wake her to take out her teeth as usual.

In the morning, as we were preparing to go to synagogue, I went into her room to empty her commode into her toilet. Of all days, the toilet clogged so badly that I was not able to free it with 20 minutes of plunging. Saul finally came to my aid with a plumbing snake and was able to free the smelly clog. By the time Stacey arrived, I was somehow able to hurriedly shower, dress, and down a little breakfast, and we weren’t unusually late for services and yizkor (the communal prayer of remembrance for our loved ones which takes place four times a year).

Rabbi’s sermon on the second day of Shavuot dealt with Moses’ breaking of the Ten Commandments on viewing the sin of the golden calf. In one interpretation, God was pleased with Moses for destroying these most valuable objects because Moses, himself, had made a wise decision about ethical behavior and thereby created a great and memorable example to the people about choosing to act in a responsible and ethical manner. This shocking act roused and sobered the community from their revelry and prepared them for the responsibility of receiving the second set of the Commandments, which enjoins each individual to choose a just and righteous path to create a benevolent society where each individual has certain responsibilities toward the well-being of his fellow man, a reminder, I am sure, to the congregation to act individually in ways that will promote harmony and constructive behavior in these difficult economic times.

We decided not to linger over the lunch provided by the congregation, and when we arrived home around 1:15 p.m., Adele was here with Stacey. We persuaded Mom to be wheeled out for a few minutes to join us and had a lunch of leftovers together. Adele left shortly after that and Saul went to take a nap while I finished cleaning up the kitchen and Stacey sat with Mom. An hour later, Stacey came to find me just as I was dozing off because Mom was so agitated and feeling so terrible. I gave her the Lorazepam and sat with her for a few minutes. After a few minutes, Mom sent me off to take a nap also and Saul woke up and sent Stacey home about 5:15 p.m. Mom asked Saul if he would sit with her, so he put his laptop on her desk. Shortly afterward, when she needed to use the commode, he got up to leave, but she pleaded with him to stay and just look the other way. He heard a crash as she struggled out of bed and ran to catch her as she fell against her night table, doing some further injury to his shoulder. When he asked her to lean forward to get back into bed, she was so out of it that she leaned backward. He was able to get her back into bed unharmed and by then, she had forgotten about using the commode. Around 8 p.m., we went in to see about waking her for dinner, but again, she did not wake up to our gentle calling and we decided to let her sleep. Last night, I removed unused items from my bathroom closet and from under the sink of my bedroom vanity where I had stored things I forgot I ever owned for the garage sale. In cleaning out, I found our “bed buddy,” a years-old bean bag sort of heating pad that is warmed in the microwave. Saul found it invaluable for treating the ache in his shoulder, much better than the standard heating pad he had been using.

This morning, when Saul went into Mom’s room to see if she wanted to join us at breakfast, she was so confused that I heard him on the monitor explaining to her that her daughter Marilyn would be at the table. By the time I dressed and went to wheel her into the kitchen, she was better, but only stayed long enough to down a few bites before requesting to be wheeled back to her bed. When Adele arrived to visit Mom, we put in a call to our brother to discuss hiring another person besides Stacey so that we can have 24/7 coverage for Mom. The long haul we have had caring for Mom (she has been on hospice since September 1) has really begun to take its toll on all of us, including Mom. The cost of caring for her at home with 24/7 help will now probably begin to almost equal the cost of caring for her in a nursing facility, which her social worker Marion tells me is about $8,000 per month. We all feel that we have more control over her care if she remains at home, an option with which she has always been more comfortable as well and the reason that together we built this handicapped-accessible home in the first place.

Today was another bad day for Mom. Stacey was off, and in the afternoon, immediately after Adele left, she began calling for us every five to ten minutes to cover her, to tell us she had a stomach ache, to ask us to put her gloves on her hands which are like a favorite teddy bear is to a child. After an hour, again we had to resort to giving her medication to help her get to sleep and quiet her agitation. Even with all the support, and the fact that there are two of us at home almost full time taking care of her, the job of seeing her through all this is beginning to seem insurmountable. Tomorrow, the task begins of trying to find a suitable person to cover the times when Stacey will be away. Mom keeps asking us, in her bad but lucid moments, “how much longer can I live like this?” We are all really beginning to wonder how long we can keep this up.

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