This year, I find myself with a new role. I will be hosting both Passover seders for my family and cousins at my (large enough) studio in Coolidge Corner. My sister and I had decided to each host one, but she is renovating and can’t. However, she will be making my mother Evelyn’s recipes for stuffed cabbage, brisket and chicken.
This will be both touching and tragic. My mother passed away a year ago next month. She was 92 but healthy and of completely sound mind. She was, however, blind because of two falls that she had experienced, one on each eye, if that can be believed.
After the first fall, we moved her back to Boston from her home of 22 years in New Hampshire (a townhouse that my parents had enjoyed for many years in the Lakes Region prior to my dad’s passing). And then it happened again.
After that, she had to move to a nursing home where they provided good care for several years. In fact, we will be forever grateful to an aide, Alberte Parent-Daniel, who sat with my mother all night when she contracted COVID-19, making her sip hot water because as a nurse, she knew that the hot water would move the virus to the stomach where it could not survive. Sure enough, my mother survived.
I wrote the Kennedy Center recommending Alberte for their caregiver honors. She has two children, one now a surgeon, the other a lawyer. She and her husband are to be admired.
However, another aide dropped my mother one day while taking her to the shower. We have not yet received the incident reports, which have been withheld. For my mother’s sake and to help prevent this from happening to any other families, we have tried every avenue, but the nursing home has denied responsibility.
My mother went to the hospital and again miraculously recovered. She went back, and it appears that she was dropped once again. From then on it was hospice.
Both of us were too devastated to speak at her funeral. Fortunately, my brother-in-law fulfilled the duty, and my boyfriend, David, lent his constant support. So did our wonderful friends, including cousins from New Hampshire who we don’t see often enough, all there and at a subsequent kosher luncheon that my mother paid for from what she left.
Rabbi Maimon of Temple Isaiah told stories about my mother, such as when she picked me up at 4 a.m. at Ashmont Station in 1972 when as a young teenager, I had attended the infamous (post-Logan Airport hours-long arrest) Rolling Stones concert at Boston Garden. I was allowed to go because my boxer grandfather, Sammy “Ford” Abrams, was the bartender at the Iron Horse bar in the Garden lobby, could get tickets, and conveyed to my parents that it would be safe for me to go.
In the melee, I lost my friend in the crowd, but kept in touch with my parents through pay phones. My father could not be bothered to get out of bed (lol), so my mother went, with the dog in the car. The dog heard people approaching and, ever-protective, started barking loudly. My mother then heard voices saying, “The dame’s got a dog, let’s go.” This is only one story of what my mother would do for us.
I feel that I will never be free of the “what ifs.” What if somehow we had her living with one of us? What if we visited more often than we already did? What if we were more proactive before the falls? We will always live with these unanswered questions.
And the year continued to be tough, with an uninsured contractor causing a flood in my new condo where, waiting for the renovations to finish, I had not yet taken out insurance—lesson learned. One bank account and a long-term, occasionally friction-filled (and constant cleaning-filled as well) stay at my boyfriend’s nearby condo that we still laugh about, my place is reconstructed, to the tune of too much to say (but it’s beautiful!).
Health issues never before experienced also manifested, the doctors deeming it due to 2022 and nothing more. Who knew that stress could have that much power?
And so we move on and find comfort where it also manifests, of course knowing that we are never alone.
My nightly Zoom kaddish with wonderful minyans have helped me, with supportive new friends who understand. And so has finding many new Abrams cousins on my Papa Sam’s side. Even though they were right in J.P. and Brookline, we never knew them well, because my mother was the shy type who was a wonderful person with friends, but was also not the type to reach out actively.
And so I invited this group of cousins to my now gathering-worthy condo for our Chanukah dinner. The 14 of us had a great time.
This is something my mother always did while we were growing up. Our home in Randolph was the center for relatives to celebrate holidays. But as my cousin Jimmy from New Hampshire would always say, “I’m here for the brownies.” My mother was a cook and baker extraordinaire who could have run her own restaurant. Her pies were sky high and never burned, her brisket always succulent (I never got any), her kugels perfect. Her nightly dinners were always made from scratch, even the French fries and pasta sauces.
And so now with both sets of cousins and our own peeps, we will be carrying on her tradition. And this year, we will also have her dishes (maybe I will even get a little brisket this time).
With way too many tissues used while writing this, I wish readers a Chag Sameach. May this Passover be healing, traditional, and only add to our treasured memories.
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