To Say Good Bye to Hy

 

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In June of 2013 I wrote a blog about my brother-in-law Hy who had Alzheimer’s and was staying with us at that time, (If you wish to read the blog entry use the following link: tp://wp.me/p13BTS-xh.  His life was in an upheaval; not liking where he was living in assisted living, he called me to come and get him and that he no longer wanted to live in a place he didn’t like.   The days while he was with us passed quickly.  Each morning I arose very early to find Hy somewhere near his room.   Each time I motioned for him to join me in the kitchen.  After making coffee and preparing something for breakfast (pancakes were high on his list of likes!)  he and I sat together chatting.

Often he would tell me tales of his family based on youthful or adult memories.  Almost always, a twinkle formed in his eye as his yarn unfolded and even when I knew the story was slightly different it didn’t matter because the twinkle made me smile.  Not often did we discuss his disease, although at times he acknowledged and shared his worries about having Alzheimer’s.

At the early breakfast table chats I was heavy, as I am now.  With a little prodding and a joke from him I tried to explain my eating patterns.  He was adamant that I needed to change and in the meantime he nicknamed me “Big Boy”, a name that he always remembered.   Regardless of the conversation, soon we would break into singing old songs which seemed to bring the chat all together so that we each had an enjoyable time.  

After his stay with us,  he moved to a very nice apartment in another assisted living apartment building.  After a year and a couple of months  of enjoying his new home, his condition quickly changed and Hy passed away following a stroke.

The change began when he sustained a head injury a few weeks before.   The emergency room nurse told us nothing serious was found and that he was going home that same day.  During the next two to three weeks Hy continued to deteriorate until the day he had the stroke.  He was in the hospital a very short time and discharged to his home with hospice.  M and I saw him two times after he returned from the hospital.

He laid in a small hospital bed in the corner of his bedroom.  A hospice nurse sat in the opposite corner watching him and waiting to see any changes and to give him the regimented dose of morphine.  This first day, even though medicated and unable to speak he was able to let us know he knew us.  Once he tried to speak.  I could tell he was asking me about something.  Finally I realized he was asking what was wrong with him.  I simply told him he had a stroke which his left side paralyzed.   He understood and began to hit the bad leg.  It was clear his was upset and sad at the grave change in his health.  I think he knew that his living was over.

We told him good-bye and  that we would see him the following day.  We left disturbed because he received only tiny dose of Morphine, an amount that  couldn’t even be labeled as a palliative dose.   We feared that with a minimal dose he would linger too long in this state and suffer each hour.

The next day’s visit was different.  The morphine dose was at an acceptable level.  We could tell that he would not last more than another day.  We bid our separate good byes to him and silently left with thoughts of him and his life running through our heads.  The next morning he died around 11:30 a.m.  

Death is not joyful, but at times death is better for the person.   He never wished to linger for death to arrive on some unknown future date and be tormented by a ravaged mind that could not understand it all.   Now it is over and the living must deal with his passing.  

Since we moved to Florida five years ago I have enjoyed having him at our house for small dinners and larger parties.  Years ago when M and I had a dinner party I realized there were two tables of guests that needed attention.  I took one of them to sit at and then put Hy and his wife at the other to make sure those guests were happy.  They were amazing at table talk and the guests enjoyed the attention they gave to them.   In Florida Hy became even more jovial and fun.   As his mind deteriorated Hy continued to enjoy life and be concerned about the people he knew.  So many times he called to find out how I was during the time that I had surgery, broken ribs, chemo, and a host of continuing problems. Yes, I shall miss him and continue to believe that to have been with Hy was to enjoy Life at the fullest.  Understanding that makes saying good-bye easier.

A Saga of Death and Grief

Not long ago my brother-in-law died.  Death can not be escaped, but for him it should have been different.  When a brain tumor came back to haunt him, the family decided that he should be treated by laser surgery, rather than use normal surgical methods.  Surgeons, the family doctor and my spouse saw the laser to bring post surgical problems and we all pleaded to go with the surgeon they had used before.

Soon after surgery the problems began.  A laser is no different than chemo or other radiation.  It effects and success are not seen right away and while performing the surgery more tissue may be killed that surrounded the tumor.  Eventually the problems began as his condition deteriorated..    The nursing home (rehab center) he was sent to didn’t begin any kind of therapy for a very long time and good medical care didn’t happen.  Everyday it was sad to hear about the  last disagreement between family members, particularly in deciding what and who should take care of him and insure that proper care was administered.

Days passed, arguments heightened, care never escalated in the nursing home and he began retaining fluid at a high rate  The fluids leaked   outside of his body.  Some degree of medicine was given to him, but not enough to ready him for a trip to another state and on an airline.  The day arrived with each step arduously taken as he needed to move from here to there, step up, step down, move here and then know there is even more steps before it all stops.

At the destination, he needed to repeat all the moves again until he could be in the comfort of a bed.   Finally, he was at the place where he could rest and be loved.  Peace came to him during the early morning hours.

Bitterness, accusations, hate, sorrow, hysteria bloomed that morning for his family.  When I was told of his passing I though it to be a very distasteful joke.  I thought this couldn’t be true, how could this happen to him after all he had been through.  In the bitterness felt in the family everyone blamed each other for his death, but blame does no good.  He has gone away, gone far away and the only way to be with him is through the grace of finding peace and serenity and to understand that life lives in the heart forever.

I shall always remember him.  I shall continue to help the family understand their greif and that it has many steps that can not be escaped. You will experience each one regardless of the depth of your relationship and you will miss that person.  Grief is nasty, grief never really stops.  I know.  I have been there and walked that path.  I still walk it today.

In response I needed to write:

To care, To love, To Reachout?

My brother-in-law is within the middle stages of Alzheimer’s.  He lives with a woman who may not wish to, nor be able to take care of  him throughout his remaining days.  She says she will see how it goes, particularly during this current time when he is in a program to test a new drug.  She says she will see, but I know the process of this disease and I am not sure if she will be able to physically and emotionally deal with all she will need to deal with.  Already she sees changes, as the rest of the family sees changes in him.  I see him as very fragile now.

Many years ago I cared for his Mother while she struggled with Alzheimer’s.  Chaim is now  following her into the same abyss and possibly even my spouse, his brother, may walk the same path.   Even today M. said his brain didn’t seem a part of him or that it just left his head, went somewhere and made him feel funny.  I watch him.  I know he is right.  M. used to hold court on being the best with concepts.  Now, I often have to suggest, or pose a question so that he focuses on the right track.  His brother is far past these telltale signs.  He is much more advanced and for a while the drugs seemed to help greatly, although when he doesn’t take them he is markedly worse.   At times when he is over he must ask where the door is or how does one find a bathroom.  At home he is unable to decide what to wear and never knows how to get to where he wants to go.

Just this past week we had a party, a family reunion for all of Martin’s  siblings.  At the party Chaim took his sisters to the room I said was his.  He wanted them to see it and know it was offered to him.   A couple days after the party, one of the sisters and her husband spent a some time with us.  We chatted and then suddenly she talked about her concern for me.  She knew about my offer to care for Chaim and she was aware that Martin wanted to be tested.    She asked how I could do this so shortly after taking care of my Mother for six years and prior to that of caring for their Mother.  My answer to her was very simple–even though care giving may become tedious, it is a thing in which you wish to provide for family.

Within one of the many Tomorrows on the horizon I will be guided further in knowing when I may be needed.  My hand is already stretched out to Chaim.    Time will only tell me what to do and what I should do.

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Nearly a year ago I first wrote this post and never posted it.  As I read it now I smile because the hands of time turn and turn and with its passage so much happens.  It is still a strange story continuing on.  Martin was tested.  He was told he was fine, although, depressed.  He still will not take antidepressants and still believes he will start showing more signs of mental deterioration within the next few years.

His brother Chaim now lives alone, yet his girlfriend still visits him.  She visits now in a caring way but almost in a meddlesome manner.  She also wants to stay in connect to get as much $$ as she can out of him.  The family has had to go through many changes with the two of them and particularly in how to deal with Chaim and secure his future.

And yes, he was to move in with Martin and I, but Chaim is not his Mother.  She was bright, funny and easy to help.  She accepted her life and just moved on into the future by trusting Martin and me.  Her days, the last four years were happy for her.  She enjoyed being part of the family and being with them rather than away from them.  Chaim is argumentative, will not admit he has a problem and always has some family member who he abhors.  It is sad, yet it will always be like it is with him.  Telling him to give up driving and his car was pivotal to him as it should be but it was filled with hate and accusation at all who loved him.  Now he soon will face needing to move again to a new place.  Our house would have been perfect but every one agreed that he would never allow it to be a peaceful arrangement.

Alzcheimer’s isn’t something you would wish on anyone.  My heart goes out to anyone with it.  If Martin is correct that he will worsen in time, then that will be very sad because I strongly believe he will follow his brothers ragged path, rather than journeying onward like his Mother.

To care, To love, To Reachout—Always isn’t so easy with everyone.

 

 

 

 

Remembering You on your Birthday

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It is Momma’s birthday, April 22 and even though she may not be physically here, Momma is with me today to celebrate her life and remember how much she enjoyed the many parties I gave her on her birthday. Even when I was young, Momma loved her day, especially if my sister and I planned something. As a very young boy I used to think for weeks to determine what my Sister and I could do to make the day special for her and then we spent an equal time trying to decide what was a perfect gift, a gift just for our Momma.

There was more than one time our funds were not as abundant as I thought they should be. Momma was always willing to give me a little money. I used to think I was pulling a fast one on her, but as I grew up I realized Momma always knew what I was after.

After Momma and I moved to Arizona, following my father’s death, the real parties began for her. The first big splash was for her seventy-fifth birthday, a day Momma was very nervous about having it arrive. It was the only time Momma didn’t yearn for tomorrow. Earlier in the year all three of her sisters felt she would never make to seventy-five. There Mother died when she was seventy-four and for some ridiculous reason they felt Momma would leave first and follow in her Mother’s footsteps. Sadly, Momma did leave before they did, but they had to wait an additional dozen years for it to happen. I often wondered if they knew how mean they were when they suggested that to her.

In the years following Momma had many wonderful parties and she never was hesitant to have another birthday. Her birthdays were like her tomorrows. They were something that she needed to keep looking forward to rather than dwelling on the past. Even last year, her last birthday with me, was joyfully embraced by her. Momma always adapted and that day her strength was paramount. She had just been in the hospital, very frail and barely could speak loudly, yet she was ready to get dressed, sit on the sofa, rather than stay in bed. It was Momma’s day and the hair, makeup and dress had to be perfect for her. When we sang Happy Birthday I lit candles on a plate of pastel White Chocolate Nips as Momma’s cake. Her swallowing had become very weak and she was not able to eat, yet even those little nips with candles were very special to her.

Momma was and is a very special person. I shall never be able to equal her in humor, wisdom or compassion. She has always been my guiding light and continues to be. Many days I know my Mother’s hand help direct me through what I am doing. I know Momma is here with me now as I write and as I prepared the movie that will help share our special feelings during her memorable birthdays over the last decade.

Please join me in sharing my memories–

One Month Ago……..

 

In just over four more short hours My Sunshine will have left a month ago.  Each day since then I have missed her. No longer is there activity in the house since Momma no longer needs help.  In response I have become very flighty and  start one task and move to the next.  It takes twice as long to get something done.  A friend has told me this is part of the grief process and if it is then I wonder what will I encounter next.

Logically I know she has passed away, yet I wander through the house talking to her, sometimes feeling like I have seen her and always needing to let her know where I am going.  The songs she loved so much play through the computer or from the CD.  They have become a salve when the day turns inward and  when “You Are My Sunshine” plays I remember to open my heart to her sunshine.

So many more things should have been said.  I am sure that everyone feels the same if they have experienced this grieving process.  A life time of talking suddenly seems truncated and you begin thinking that every reaction should be repeated again and again and that you should have known to have said these things.  If I did I probably would have caused my Mother to tell me to be quiet, something that she never said.

Momma was a special lady.  So often in the past, Momma saw young people in distress with their families or their parents had passed away.   Regardless of the situation, she befriended the children, guided them through the years until they were able to feel comfortable with their families, or kept in close contact with them as a very caring and interested surrogate Mother.  Momma’s heart was big and my sister and I never noticed any lack of love throughout all of our years.


The clock’s minute hand now nears the time Momma left.


Now the time has  passed that moment.  I placed a lit candle near her head reposed upon the pillow. Through the glow of the candle I see Momma clearly and bid her farewell as I did before.  As the candle glows in the darkened room I am reminded of the many nights I sat in this corner writing while Momma lay sleeping in her bed.  Now she rests for eternity.


One month ago, early in the evening you left,
the clock tolled shortly before five, but to me the time stood still.
Just before you left you rested your head a little closer to mine
and then I knew the Angel had come for you.

One month ago, early in the evening you, my anchor, went away.
Each day I think of you, each day I play your songs and remember.
Memories  now cherished and protected by my heart,
gives me your smile filled with your sunshine and love.

One month ago, early in the evening I will never forget
the moment you went with your Angel, down the path I couldn’t go.
Just down the path, then to cross the Rainbow Bridge and
you would be in Paradise safe from all the woes on earth.

One month ago, early in the evening is such a short time ago,
and  when it was two months before we still had time to love and laugh.
But, time doesn’t stop for us and in the midst of living I didn’t see,
I didn’t hear nor did I want to know the time was nearing.

And now I sit with you in my mind, as I did when I kneeled next to your bed.
and as always tell you of my sadness, my hopes and my wishes.
Once again I see, you, my Momma, with your head next to mine,
listening, remembering, helping me through this plight of mine.

Baruch Habah

Please click the arrow to play Dayenu, a Jewish Holiday song.

https://suntithenai.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/dayenu11.jpg

 

To Diana, The family’s baleboosteh and Mother, as well as, the one who taught me a tepl is a pot, who smiled when I told her a blintz is a crepe and patiently taught me how to make her special food without a recipe!!

May you always be remembered!

PASSOVER

Passover (Pesach). The major Jewish spring holiday (with agricultural aspects) also known as hag hamatzot (festival of unleavened bread) commemorating the Exodus or deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egypt (see Exodus 12-13). The festival lasts eight days, during which Jews refrain from eating all leavened foods and products. A special ritual meal called the Seder is prepared, and a traditional narrative called the Haggadah, supplemented by hymns and songs, marks the event.

The name “Passover” refers to the fact that G-d “passed over” the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt.

Link for Additional Information on Passover

THE HAGGADAH

The Text of the Passover Seder

The text of the Pesach seder is written in a book called the haggadah. The haggadah tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt and explains some of the practices and symbols of the holiday. The content of the seder can be summed up by the following Hebrew rhyme:

Kaddesh, Urechatz
Karpas, Yachatz
Maggid, Rachtzah
Maror, Korekh
Shulchan Orekh
Tzafun, Barekh
Hallel, Nirtzah

Kaddesh: the prayer of Sanctification

Urechatz: Washing the Hands

Karpas: Vegetable (parsley) symbolizes the lowly origins of the Jewish people; the salt water symbolizes the tears shed as a result of our slavery. Parsley is a good vegetable to use for this purpose, because when you shake off the salt water, it looks like tears.

Yachatz: Breaking of the Matza

Maggid: The Story of the Exodus from Egypt and the first Passover.

Rachtzah: Washing of the Hands

Motzi:
Blessing over Grain Products at the table.

Matzah: Blessing over Matza
A blessing specific to matzah is recited, and a bit of matzah is eaten.

Maror: the blessing recited over Bitter Herbs symbolizing the bitterness of slavery.

Korech: The Sandwich of maror and matzah and a little Charoses.

Shulchan Orech: Dinner

Tzafun: The Afikomen a small piece of matzo set aside for desert for children to finnd.

Barech: Grace after Meals

Hallel: Praises by reciting psalms.

Nirtzah: Closing of Seder to wish that Next Year Passover is in Jerusalem

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During my early years, up until I was seventeen, I lived on a small farming community in Iowa. My worldview did not extend much beyond the barnyard! Our education in school was fine, as far as, read’n, writ’n and rithmetic–but it lacked greatly as a guide in introducing its students into the ‘varied ways of the world”. My parents, on the other hand always wanted us to be curious about people and gave us freedom to express ourselves. We had the opportunity to find out what was unknown, yet as isolated as we were in the 50’s and 60’s, it was difficult for them to immerse us in a broad spectrum of cultures. What was available, in our little community, was an abundance of Germans, who were strongly immersed in their heritage, but closed to any other. Fortunately, we were lucky to be the only family which did not uphold these beliefs and particularly different because our Mother was Italian. It took Momma years to become a part of the community because of her heritage and because she was Catholic. Early on my sister and I learned what bias and ethnocentrism is because of the towns reaction to my mother and any one else who was not born into the community.

At eighteen, I moved to the east coast to further my education. At this point, I knew of only one black person, a small girl who attended our school for two days before her family left upon the request of the town fathers. I remember telling my Mother that when I was talking to her, the school bullies tried to tell me not to talk to her. My mother explained to me what was going on and told me I was correct to speak to her, but others felt unfairly different. The next day I chatted with her again and this time, the bullies were not as kind to the little girl. Their treatment was a warning to me, but I knew in my heart they were wrong.

My new school and its location in New Haven, Connecticut provided me with a plethora of ways to expand my worldview. Soon after arriving, I became employed by a Kosher Caterer. Working in many different synagogues, mostly Conservative, contributed to a journey in understanding Judaism that would last a lifetime and provide me with an endless array of wonderful memories.

Until October of 1973, my journey remained at a tourist level! I was aware of many holidays and understood the dietary restrictions of Conservative Jews, although my perception of what it is to be Jewish as compared to what the canons of religious belief was negligible. Then on that October night, I met M and all of that would change.

Day by day, as they accumulated into the past, I realized I was beginning to understand more and more than I ever thought I would. New doors opened and I became curious about every aspect of Judaism I was shown. Trips to the library and book stores allowed me to get books on the Holocaust, as well as becoming fascinated by the Kabballah, a body of mystical teachings of rabbinical origin, or seeking to understand the difference between a bible and the Torah, a scroll of parchment containing the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, used in a synagogue during services. I soon understood what a yarmulke was (a skullcap worn, esp. during prayer and religious study, by Jewish males, esp. those adhering to Orthodox or Conservative tradition) and that treyf meant that a particular food is unfit for Jews to eat or use, according to religious laws.

At first it was M. that explained everything to me and then Diana, his mother, who enlightened me to the Yiddish language and told me the tales of her coming to Canada from Poland, where she had been born, and how she used her brother’s passport. She wove realistic pictures of life in a shetl and introduced me to the grand repertoire of her cooking.

At times she taught me a single word in Yiddish, like tepl for a pot or surprise me when she made an incredible, yet simple cheesecake, unlike any that I had known. It had a light, airy, cake layer on the top, one running through the middle and one at the bottom of the cake. The cheese filling was far superior to any I had made because the Canadian cheese was unpastuerized making it much more flavorful.

I asked Diana to show me how to make the cake. As she began the cake I realized she was not not measuring the ingredients. Quickly I told her this would never do if she really wanted me to learn how to make the cake. Quickly she grabbed the measuring cups and spoons and began measuring her amounts by placing them in a measuring cup for me to record. Next, Diana showed me how to make her Sponge Cake. I had never wanted to make one, but she said I could make one as good as hers. When she was done with the lesson (incuding recorded amounts for the ingredients) she took the cake from the oven. It was tall, golden brown, light as a feather and oh, it melted in our mouth when we ate it. Afterward, I was successful in making a second sponge cake. She was right, although I felt she had performed a miracle on me!!. I was ready to measure the ingredients for another cake and felt she could teach me many things in the kitchen. We were on our way–

Or, so I thought, but then on a visit to Canada I was to prepare a twenty -fifth anniversary party for M’s sister and husband. Diana and I agreed to make the food at her apartment and that she would share in the items to make, but wanted me to write the menu. I was intrigued with Montreal, particularly, the markets with fresh cheeses, fruits and vegetables. I decided we should have an assortment of crepes, some savory and some sweet at the party. I knew from the past Diana made very thin blintz. When I told her what to do I said I wanted her to make the crepes, rather than calling them Blintz. Suddenly Diana became excited and worried because she said she had never made a crepe. I laughed and then realized why she was worried and explained to her that a crepe was a blintz. She responded with a big smile as she said, “Whaaaaa—-t-t-t-t!—–no kidding!!”

Next another obstacle formed when I asked Diana if she had any measuring cups and spoons. I had forgotten mine in the states and I needed them to measure the ingredients for the tiered cake. She smiled and said she would be back…………the minutes passed became an one hour, then two and we began to worry. Just then, Diana opened the door swinging a 1/3 of a cup measure and a tablespoon measure. She had gone through the entire building of residents to see if she could borrow a measuring cup and spoon set! Regardless, we made the cake with the 1/3-cup measure and the measuring spoon!!

As the years passed, Diana developed Alzheimer’s and came to live with us. Family visits, including those for Passover, made the next three years happy for Diana. As the first Seder approached, I wanted to make Gefilte Fish just like Diana’s. Hers, unlike so many other recipes, were extremely light, slightly sweet and were made from a blend of pike, carp and whitefish. Diana offered to show me how to make it and once again, we had our lesson. Diana took a pinch and I put the spoon under her hand to measure it until all the ingredients were ready for mixing in the bowl. Before we had measured, we ground and chopped the fish. I was amazed that she was able to remember how to make them. Later that day, Diana, M. and I enjoyed the first of the warm, Gefilte Fish that would be part of our Seder. They melted in our mouths!

I tried many new recipes for Seder that year and Diana was able to remember more of her dishes. In the end, the Seder was spectacular and I know she enjoyed having all of her family there. The next two years I prepared the Seders myself. I am a very good cook, but without Diana’s tutelage, the Seders that I prepare could not be as good as they are if she had not shown me how to do so much.

In the years following Diana’s death there hasn’t been very many family dinners. Occasionally I will make her wonderful cheesecake, or prepare another of her dishes for M. I do this to please M and to continue to make her recipes so that Diana remains well and happy within our kitchen and in our hearts.

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Our First Seder Dinner

Eggs in Salt Water

Gefilte Fish with Beet and Plain Horseradish

Matzo Ball Chicken Soup garnished with allumettes of Red Pepper and Scallion

Roast Brisket of Beef with Onions and Red Wine

Reduced Aus JusSauce

Savory Scallion tied, Bundles of Haricot Verte with Lemon Sauce

Matzo Farfel Tsimmes

Matzos

Carrot Sponge Cake–Pineapple Orange Frosting

Gan Eden Torte glazed with Dark Chocolate

Passover Brownies

Imberlach

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(If you should like a copy of a recipe please leave your name and email address in a comment to me and I will forward a copy to you.)