My Blog

November 27, 2015

Elderly Mothers and Independence


Breakfast  coming up

Breakfast coming up

“You’re making me so dependent,” Mom said yesterday as I brought her breakfast tray. She wasn’t really complaining. Sort of a backhanded thank you for bringing her meal.

I thought about that for a while. Probably true. And probably not a good idea to do everything for her, considering the fact that she will soon be with Hubby Al in Orlando and having to feed him. No, they don’t own a Florida winter home. They rent a room, on the second floor, in an Indian woman’s home, and use her kitchen.

Al drags in “food” from dumpsters and they make a meal of the bent cans, broken boxes, slightly rotten bananas or containers of vegetables thrown out for having one or two pieces gone bad. Don’t laugh (okay, cringe), lots of people do it. And statistics say over 40% of all fresh vegetables from the big chains get thrown out. It’s good someone is using them, I suppose.

Signs of independence

Signs of independence

Then I thought about Mom’s recent attempts at meals, and her efforts at ‘fixing’ the sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving dinner down at the OC’s. (That’s the Other Caregiver, my sister Sara). I think I’ll continue to feed her while I can.

When Mom is hungry, she roots around in the refrigerator to find something to eat. Out of years of habit with Al, she just grabs whatever she sees, or makes do with whatever she finds. Night before last, when I was late arriving, it was salad—without tomatoes since she had eaten all the cherry tomatoes for breakfast—with Pace Picante Sauce for salad dressing. She didn’t see the perfectly good salad dressing in the door of the fridge. She has also used the Pace for spaghetti sauce before. It’s red, after all.

Individual packets in freezer

Individual packets in freezer

It doesn’t occur to her to look in the freezer where I have laboriously stored dozens of individual packets (snack bags make great individual servings) of beans, rice, macaroni, spaghetti, chicken, and ground beef. And several frozen TV dinners. Come to think of it, how long will those packages last with her gone to Florida?

Preparatory to going down to the OC’s, I had baked four sweet potatoes for over an hour in the oven, mashed them up in the food processor, which Mom won’t use, although she will use her pressure cooker, and spread them into a pan. We had bought marshmallows at the store on one of our forays, and I had put them neatly on top, ready to brown in the oven.

At 4 am yesterday, Mom decided she needed to cook the pan of sweet potatoes. She put them in the oven at 350 degrees and for some reason, actually watched to make sure they didn’t burn. She watched as the marshmallows melted, and crisped and began to run off the sides of the pan. But she was certain the sweet potatoes were not yet cooked.

Panicking, she pulled the pan from the oven. With great care, she slid the now solid cap of gooey, sticky marshmallows off onto a plate. I’m still not sure how she did it without getting goo all over everything. Oh, wait, THAT’s why the door handle on the stove felt sticky this morning. And why the hot pads are suspiciously damp. And why the white towels are now outside on the clothes line.

And it tasted good

And it tasted good

Then she put the sweet potatoes back in the oven to cook for another hour. At last, removing the pan, she replaced the now-chunky marshmallows on top of the thoroughly cooked sweet potatoes, and put the whole thing back in the refrigerator.

She admitted her pecadillos when I arrived at 7, saying that she had ruined the pumpkin pie. I realized she meant the sweet potatoes. To my amazement, when we got them down to the OC’s, the sweet potatoes survived, and they tasted just fine.

So, will Mom also survive—with Al? Of course she will. As she continues to inform me, she has taken care of herself for 96 years. She may not get a balanced meal, but it’s food and she won’t starve.

And who knew Pace Picante had such a variety of uses?

Elderly Mothers, General
About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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