When I was growing up, my mom was a master in the kitchen. We rarely ever ate out; mom had a nice meal on the table every night and we ate together as a family. She acquired her cooking skills from my grandma, who was an amazing cook. I can still remember staying at grandma's house, baking with her in the kitchen while she listened to Melinda Lee's cooking show on the radio. As a kid, I thought she almost famous when she was featured (and spoke) on Melinda's cooking show. I was proud when I saw her name, picture and recipes in newspapers and magazines, and impressed with her blue ribbon from the Orange County Fair for her original "Avocado Cream Pie".
All that to say, my mom learned from the best. I was always proud to bring friends home and show off mom's home cooking. I'm pretty sure that's why my husband kept coming back night after night while we were dating...he was a bachelor who loved a good home cooked meal.
Over the past few years, her cooking has become less and less. At first, we thought it was just the "empty nest" phase-no kids at home to cook big meals for anymore. But eventually, our Sunday family dinners (which are a big deal in our family) were becoming less thought out, and very repetitive. We started joking around when Sundays would roll around,
"What will it be tonight, spaghetti or tacos?"
Those became the only two things mom would cook.
Another big change was her motivation to cook. Once passionate about cooking, she started losing interest. Her taste for the foods she was once loved were becoming obsolete. She used to always make the Sunday meals; over the past couple of years, mom has been doing less and less hosting of the Sunday meals, and my dad and I have become the coordinators and chefs of our family dinners.
One time, a few months before her diagnosis, we decided it was time to change things up. We told her we wanted her to make her famous crockpot pot roast.
"Pot roast...what is pot roast?"
After a very detailed description of what pot roast is, where you buy it in the supermarket, and how you cook it, mom finally remembered. The next night, at family dinner, we noticed she had put lima beans in the roast. Somebody made a comment about the lima beans,
"It's different, but I kinda like it," I believe was the comment.
"What are you talking about? Are you talking about those green beans? You told me to put in green beans," she replied defensively.
We didn't want to make her feel stupid, so we tried to explain nicely that what she used wasn't green beans, they were lima beans. She was upset and insistent that they "are too" green beans. She pulled the empty can of lima beans out of the trash can and showed them to us.
"See? They are too green beans!"
As she took a closer look at the fine print, she saw the words "lima beans". This upset her even more.
"What are green beans?? I'm so stupid. I don't know why my brain won't work right!"
How had my mom, who once ruled the kitchen, come to this point, where she couldn't tell the difference between a lima bean and a green bean? We tried to calm her down and reassure her that it was okay and that she hadn't ruined the meal.
"It's fine mom, they aren't green beans but they taste good! It's okay...you're not stupid...it was just a mistake...they are green..."
I felt so bad for her. I felt sad that she thought she was stupid. And I felt confused with what was happening to her, that she couldn't even distinguish differences in food anymore.
It was somewhere around this time, that I really began to realize that she was going to need more help in her meal planning and cooking. It wasn't this incident alone, but a series of events that had led up to this conclusion. A big part of this realization came from my dad. It was frustrating for him to go to work all day long (he is a tilesetter, so he is literally "breaking his back" at work all day) and come home to an empty dinner table. Although we knew something was "off" with my mom, we still hadn't gotten a diagnosis by this point and he was becoming increasingly frustrated with her lack of effort to prepare the meals, or do anything else for that matter. Of course, by the time we had received a diagnosis, we began to realize that this was beyond her control and that she would definitely need some extra help in this task.
And....because I am a busy mom, and this is the last week of summer break for my kids...I am going to have to end my post here. The kids are ready to go swimming! Tune in tomorrow for part 2 of this post, which is our solution to the "what is for dinner?" dilemma.