Friday, November 26, 2010

Cold Comfort Food

I'm expecting a phone call in about 20 minutes.  It will be the ambulance guys, calling to let me know that my mom is on her way to a board and care facility with hospice services.     With this call, three days of nearly continuous bedside drama will come to an end.

A steady stream of social workers, clergy, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, blood specialists and hospice reps have come through with professional counsel. All of them have urged her to get treatment.   Mom responded by thanking them for coming.   Accepted their prayers and good wishes, seized on scraps of information that suited her, then ignored their advice.   Instead, she regaled them with amusing, proud anecdotes about her grandchildren and her deep admiration for Dr. Oz.   Mentioned that she drank her milk that day and asked for something to help her sleep.    Smiled benevolently and wished them a happy holiday with their families.

A drawing by my niece. My sister's note:  "Mom is on the 5th floor of the hospital, Fiki is near the window meowing to her from your house (the one on the left) - and our house is the one on the right with hope written next to it.   All we can do is hope."
A parade of grieving, confused and frightened relatives descended.   They berated her, prayed with her, cried with her, out and out begged her, listened to her attempts to dispense wisdom (To a niece: I hope you find a good person to take care of you, and that you have beautiful home and a wonderful life).  She relived fond memories of childhood and early days, sighed with regret over things she's not proud of (I could have handled the divorce so much better) and marveled at things that amaze her (how does Hallie Berry look so good all the time?  Her stylist really does a great job!).    Siblings caught flights, her phone rang off the hook.    She reveled in the attention, seemed to thrive on every new face that came around the door.  She beamed.  She teared up.  She asked for some water and maybe a little turkey leftovers?  If it's not too much trouble?  My 90+ year-old great aunt told her in no uncertain terms that she had gotten out of line, and that she (my great aunt) was supposed to go first.

She toyed with the idea of the transfusion.  She seemed to consider it.  She was so grateful for her family.  For the care she was getting.  For everything.   Let me sleep on it, she said.  Let me imagine what it would be like to get well.  I'll do that.  I will.

And then today, she decided.


I drove home through the dark, empty freeways.  I stopped at the store.  I got heavy cream.  I got cheese.  I got bacon*.   I got tonic and limes.

Even piping hot from the oven, it's all cold, cold comfort at this point.  But it felt good going down.

Potato Gratin
from Around my French Table by Dorrie Greenspan
A good dish to have when you've been to hell and back.

Pancetta...not in the original recipe, but required tonight
I break out the mandoline I bought a year ago.  I am an instant convert.  
My perfectly sliced taters are layered with garlic-infused heavy cream, salt and pepper.  
Every other layer gets a little Italian bacon
The book says "dust with the cheese".  I say "blanket with the cheese"
Yes, it is just as tasty as it looks.

I balance out the heart stoppage with a green salad.  I balance out the salad with a heavy dose of gin (not pictured)
* I didn't need to buy potatoes because Mom reminded me last week that they were on special at Ralphs: 10lbs for 99 cents.  I stocked up.


  1. I am so sorry for what you are going through! I went through a similar experience with my father a few years ago and know the sadness and helplessness that you feel. Your mom sounds like an incredible person!

    Your gratin looks delicious. Food truly is therapy.

  2. Sharon, another amazing post. I'm really sorry about your mom. I lost mine in Feb., going through the hospice and dying at home route. Totally sucked, but my mom got her way too. Thank you for sharing and I'm glad there was some small bit if comfort at the end of the day (and the discovery of the mine too). Take care!

  3. How to do things your way. Your mom is amazing. Thank you more than you know for this posting. Sweet thoughts and kindness sent your way.

  4. Awww what a touching post. Im so sorry for this hard time your going through. I know your mom is an amazing woman from the way you desribe her. My MIL went through the same stuff and it's so hard..hang in there and let keep baking all that yummy comfort food...God Bless you.

  5. You and your mom sound amazing. Both so strong. I wish you and your family the best during this difficult time. Treasure all the moments.

    Your gratin looks delicious. The addition of the italian bacon is the way to go. I'll be doing that next time.

  6. Sad and sweet post. I'm touched...

    Your photos make that gratin look like something that could make even the saddest person feel a bit better.

  7. Saw your comment at Michael Procopio's blog and thought I'd drop by yours...

    Wow! As if Thanksgiving dinner and family turmoil isn't enough on ones plate, you've blogged so nicely about the event.
    The brussels sprouts with pancetta looks amazing. I'll have to try it!
    All the best to you and your family...

  8. Dear One,
    If you need more butter or sugar, someone to talk with at any time, someone to mani pedi with, cook with, or take a class with, or just plain old scream with, I'm just a phone call away... anything.
    These darn parents have a mind of their own. It's not right I tell you! It's surreal.
    My best to you, my love to your family, phone call away.