My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year. It’s moderate to severe at this point and though there are points where her memory is fairly ok, her ability to manage the day to day routines of life has been seriously impaired.
This is compounded by the fact that she use to be my brother’s primary caretaker as he has Down’s Syndrome. Those roles have reversed and now he’s her caretaker.
Life can be a wild ride.
Currently, my brother, Jose, has a super busy life. He’s gone everyday for at least 8 hours or so. This leaves my mother alone all week, and its not only becoming increasingly dangerous, but they have both gained a lot of weight and are eating a ton of fast food because it’s just convenient.
I’m back here in California now to help in some way with a transition that will serve them both. And I’m finding myself now spending about 4 days a week there with them and then heading back up to Idyllwild for a break, be with Jon a bit and catch up on my writing.
Other than maneuvering the maze of becoming the executor of a Trust and looking for day programs my mother can participate in, food and their meals has become a huge focus for me.
Cooking For Others As A Service
I’ve been cooking for myself and others for over 25 years now. I’ve loved every minute of it and as time passes the depth of its meditative affects on me literally heals and transforms my soul one meal at a time.
Cooking for them has been different. I need to create meals that are tupperware friendly, can keep in the refrigerator for at most 5 days and are all easily microwaveable, which is a completely different mindset than the one I typically have.
The other is the worry. I can’t shake the worry. So much of my focus is on the intention and mindset I have when preparing meals for myself and others. Imbuing food with love and healing is so important to the process and yet, I’m so worried.
What if it’s not enough for the week?
What if she forgets and gets rid of it all thinking it’s old?
What if my brother isn’t there to guide her and she gets in the car in search of other food?
What if they don’t like what I made?
On and on it goes. Making too much, not making enough. The fact that I’m in such a state makes it worse because I try to shift out of it and it’s hard.
I don’t want to be in this state while I prepare their food. All this anxiety is the last thing I want to be giving them with each plate of food I make for them.
The Practice Of Love
This entire process got me thinking about the beautiful ritual we all have of making food for others in need.
The way we make food for a grieving family after a loved one dies, or making soup for a friend or loved one who is sick. Or Doulas that come in and make food for the new mama and partner after the baby is born to allow the family to bond and recover.
Such a beautiful thing we do. It’s a way to nourish, to say, “Here, I know you’re grieving, or tired, or crazy busy and have little energy to take care of yourself fully. Let me help you with that. Here’s food to feed you and keep you going.”
It all stems from love and compassion and a commitment to tribe in it’s many forms.
I had to really work hard last week, and still now, while at the cabin to shift my thinking, to calm the worry and fear. Of course there is enough food. Of course, they’ll like it. Of course, no one will starve in my absence.
They need love. They need sustenance. It’s a service of love to provide that. For that I’m thankful. For that I pray… that rather then worry over it all, I just do it, creating sustenance of love and care for them.
My only mantra right now is Love. It’s the only way I can think of to shift the anxious state I seem to be in all the tim.
Love. Only love.
As a daughter and sister of a disabled mother and brother, who both live with me full time, I hear you on this one. Both the anxiety and the need to assist. I’m rather amazed at some of the similarities of the paths we are walking these days.
The three of us eat out so much because shopping and cooking has become too big of a chore. For me, I need to carve out time and mental space. For them, the tasks are too difficult to manage.
With 2016 rolling in, I’m finding I have a strong desire to get in my kitchen and cook, and to eat food I’ve prepared with my own hands. I like to cook, but only when not stressed. Which means I often don’t cook.
Because of my work schedule the meals will need to be easily microwavable and stored in containers.
I’m following my intuition on this and looking forward to how it unfolds.
My mom cared for her mother for several years after she was diagnosed with dementia, I know how difficult your task is right now. Know I am thinking of you.
Elena Rego says
Denise, thank you so much for sharing this here. I don’t think there is one right way for anyone. I’m finding that more than anything I have to keep forgiving myself and allowing myself to work it out as I can, as I do. Is there a world where we can be at 100% self care, while managing all the things that life offers our way? Sometimes eating out is what has to happen. How fortunate are we all that this is even an option? I think of all the years I poo-poo’d microwaves, but you know? They serve a serious purpose, especially in busy households, or in situations where the people eating can’t cook for themselves. Day by day. Day by day for all of us. Thank you for your words and for being here in this space. It’s very sweet to see you here, friend.
Worry has a good role to play in our lives. The things you are worrying about are completely rational. It’s toxic worry that becomes a problem, worrying about things you have little or no control over. My aunt once suggested doing a worse case scenario visualization. If she throws out the food what will happen. They will eat bad food for a few days? I think as long as you are dealing with the anxiety the love will pass through to the food prep and the anxiety won’t. On a practical note, can you find healthier fast food for them? Sending you extra love.
Elena Rego says
Thank you for this Eli. This makes a lot of sense, and in the worst case scenario… things are actually not that bad at all. the healthier fast food isn’t as much an issue as is the driving around town. She still has a car, but I need to sell that soon. She forgets where she is going and I worry more about her out there searching for food than anything else. Fast food for a day or two isn’t going to kill anyone… at least… I hope!
Atourina Charles says
Thank you for sharing this sister, you may never be able to fathom the amount of support you are offering Nena and Jose by being present and providing them with food. It’s imbued with love, even with the worry in your mind, the love in your heart is unconditional and moves through your arms into your hands and ultimately into the food you prepare.
Elena Rego says
Girl you know… you know more than anyone else. The challenges right now are a constant reminder to come back to love. It has been the most humbling experience of my life so far. Your support… there can never be words for the gratitude I have hold for you. <3
I am crying as I remember preparing food for my Grandmother for days at a time. I was so worried all the time; my mind only knew fear and worry. My Heart had a longing- let this end, make sense, shift, reconfigure. All of that happened. I wish I would have slowed down and sat a little longer with her. A little quieter- but there was so much to be done. The roles will always reverse. What you are doing is bigger than you know. Love comes in so many forms. I know my Grandmother felt loved by me. This is all that matters.
Elena Rego says
Exactly this. “let this end, make sense, shift, reconfigure…” It’s such a confusing and exhausting time. It brings to mind that the food is actually the easiest thing in all this. To that end, the worry in this regard lessens for me because all the rest is so much bigger. Thank you for your continuous support and love. You are a bright light in my life.