Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mom's Goulash and Alzheimer's

I have mentioned on this blog before that my mom, Doris, has Alzheimer's. Many of you may have loved ones who suffer from this "“truly long, long goodbye", as Nancy Reagan described it. Mom now lives across the street from my sister and her husband (I'm so grateful for your care of Mom, you 2!), and she has been having some very difficult days these past few months. Along with the memory loss, she has been having TIAs, or "mini-strokes", and depression, so she hasn't been very coherent lately. She forgets when I call her and had stopped calling me a few weeks ago, not really able to use her cell phone, turn on her tv or even make her own tea. She would talk with me, but she really didn't have much to say and didn't follow our conversations very well.

But 2 days ago, she called me, and she was Mom, upbeat, clear-headed and talkative. She was dressed and ready for the day. We had a nice chat, more like the ones we used to have, and it was such a sweet blessing. And then she called me again today, still upbeat, talked about the weather, (since she moved to WI from AZ, the weather is a big topic for her and I don't blame her!), and I told her I was going to make goulash today. "Oh, goulash! I haven't made that for years!" she said. We chatted about that a little while and said our goodbyes.

Mom made goulash a lot for our family of 5 kids as we grew up on our Iowa farm. It's family comfort food, the kind of meal I fall back on when I need a warm and satisfying meal that doesn't take fancy ingredients and I don't need a recipe. There are many recipes for goulash, and ours is very basic with ingredients often in the pantry. Mom could produce a very large pot of it in no time, using beef we raised, corn and tomatoes she grew in the garden and froze and canned every summer, and beans. (I started out with a big pot and realized the 2 of us didn't need so much, so the picture below is a big pot with a not-so-big recipe!)

Simple, satisfying, and comforting. Mom is more herself right now, and even though that could change as I write this, it is comforting to talk with her and to have my sister tell me that she has been more like herself for a few days now. We are thankful for this gift from God, and thankful even for when it will change, for she is His creation and He loves her even more than we do.

Alzheimer's is not a comforting disease. But for now, God has given me my Mom back, and that is a comfort. So tonight we'll have goulash, and the next time I talk with her on the phone she may have forgotten all about our conversation, but I think I will ask her about goulash again and see what she says. And I bet she could still make it from her long-ago memory.

Goulash: 1. a stew of Hungarian origin, made with beef, veal, lamb or pork and seasoned with paprika. 2. an eclectic and uncoordinated mixture of something

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