Sometimes we just blunder into good ideas.
While family members were working on “Remembering Christmas”, holiday cards addressed to my mother were stuffing the 842 post office cubby. She had a box of cards to send in reply, but the greeting card message with the signature Marie W. Fedon seemed empty. So, I took a photo of my mom with her new Golden Retriever Sandy III in front of the Christmas tree. Then I composed an update on kids and grandkids. Still, something was missing. So, I just flat out told everyone she has dementia. Now this was no feat of courage; all the relatives know. But I was leery about being so frank with friends of hers from out of town. The cards were mailed. Life went on.
Then, January arrived, and so did the letters. The first came from Lyn, who explained that she was my mother’s freshman roommate at Slippery Rock when they were students at Penn State. (This is back in the late 1940s when apparently there wasn’t enough housing for freshmen at main campus.) After graduation, Lyn married and moved to Upstate New York. Their friendship survived the distance, with Lyn and her husband visiting my parents and their llamas in State College. Lyn asked my mom and me if she could stop by this June during Penn State’s reunion weekend…yes!
Another letter came from Carole in Boulder, CO. My mother was her art teacher at State College High.
“We called her ‘The Babe’ when she couldn’t hear us–an attractive woman not too much older than we were,” Carole wrote. Partly because of my mother’s encouragement, Carole said she studied art education at Penn State, and has taught watercolor workshops across the country for the past 30 years. Then came the true confession that had my mom and me laughing so hard tears filled our eyes. Carole, probably in 9th grade or so, lived along North Atherton Street not far from my dad’s house. Carole and her friends often spied on “The Babe” walking down to my dad’s “bachelor pad.”
Cousin Ruthie wrote about my mother’s French Silk pie. This was a light and luscious chocolate pie that was as smooth as its name—unless I was making it. In my kitchen, French Silk pie became French Sandpaper pie—yuck! Forget the pie, it was Ruthie’s words that pulled at my heartstrings.
“There’s an Alzheimer’s wisdom that floats in and out of the mind. It helps us weather the sadness of much lost. I went to a couple of lectures on dementia. Alzheimer’s was defined as losing your life’s story. So I think it is a beautiful thing that you can give your mom’s story back to her.”
And beautiful too, that my mother’s friends have given stories back to “The Babe”, and to her children.
Still ‘The Babe’ at 84: My mom went to the bank and was helped by a clean-cut, bespectacled teller. After making the transaction, the young man laced his fingers and said, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“How about a kiss?” my mom replied.
Well, he was mortified. Instead of blushing, he turned pale, and mumbled that it was against the rules.
My mom smiled, turned around, and said to me, “I want to change the world. It’s too serious.”
Always Fashion-Conscious: We had a snowfall the other day and the housekeeper couldn’t make it in to keep my mom company while I was at work. So, my co-worker Sharon and I called to tell her we’d take her to lunch. Later, we were in a meeting that was interrupted with a call from my mom. She wanted to know if she should wear her fur and her new black shoes. I said, “Sure.”
She was waiting for us in the garage, hopped in the back seat, and off we went to a nearby restaurant. When we all got out of the car to go into the restaurant, I looked down at my mom’s feet. She wasn’t wearing her new black shoes…she was wearing my black cross-country ski boots! Après-ski is quite the winter fashion statement.
Craving Crunch: Maybe it was the rich holiday food glut or the kids-away-at-school/mid-winter blahs, but I’ve been craving raw broccoli salad. I bought a pint in the supermarket deli the other day, and then another. I just couldn’t get enough. It was chockfull of sweet dried cranberries, crunchy carrots, broccoli and nuts, with a creamy Waldorf Salad-type dressing. These ready-made salad splurges weren’t economically sustainable, so I bought two heads of broccoli, carrots, celery, red onions, and a jar of sunflower kernels. Later that night, I awoke at midnight and decided a needed some therapeutic chopping, dicing and julienning. An hour or so later, I had a raw salad that was a riot of color and feast for the craving!
No-Shrink-Needed Broccoli Salad
1 red onion, diced
2 heads fresh broccoli, sliced and chopped
3 stalks of celery, julienned
4 large carrots, julienned
½ – ¾ cup dry roasted sunflower kernels (or almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts)
¾ – 1 cup dried cranberries
Toss everything in a large bowl.
In separate bowl, blend the following:
1 cup each of mayonnaise and plain Greek yogurt
2 T lemon curd (gift from my London lady) or you could substitute the juice of one lemon and 2 T sugar. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add dressing to the salad and mix well, coating the vegetables with a thin layer of creaminess. Chill, serve and enjoy.