Piece #26

The other kids in my neighborhood loved peanut butter and jam sandwiches and they just couldn’t wait for barbecues. Not me. As a kid I was a very picky eater.

No matter what was on the menu at home, I steadfastly refused to eat anything except corn on the cob and Hungarian palacsinta. I am not one for hot dogs, but, put it this way, if Coney Island ever featured a palacsinta eating contest not only would I agree to enter but I would win.

Please keep in mind we’re not talking blintzes here. We are singing the praises of authentic homemade Hungarian pancakes individually filled with sweet cream cheese, jam or walnuts or any  combination thereof.

A few years ago, when I tried a plastic box of six such palacsinta at Pomengranate, a kosher supermarket in Flatbush, New York, I had to be talked out of calling the police.

The pancakes were so delicious I was convinced they had kidnapped some Hungarian grandmother and kept her making takeout palacsinta in a back room.  There was simply no other way they could be so authentic and taste so good. In addition to being convinced not to call the cops, I also had to be convinced not to buy every package they had on the shelf.

I tell you this to admit there was considerable self-interest involved when I passed on the flowers and brought Mom a dozen palacsinta when she was recovering from a hip replacement at the Jewish General Hospital a few years ago.

Mom sampled one while the lady in the next bed and the nurse had two apiece. That made for a total of five. Mom insisted I take the rest of them home. Who am I to disobey my mother?

Mom who can be great fun at any time was quite the hoot on morphine.

Her rich imagination was obviously running wild. One nurse told me that the previous evening Mom had called the police. She told them there were some Jewish men in the next room who had called hookers to come over to “hev sex.” She said they were so loud and they were making so much noise that she could not sleep.

Was Mom convincing? Put it this way, the cops showed up and the nurse had to tell them that morphine can cause some patients to hallucinate.

Mom told me the same story when I came to visit the following morning. I reassured her that she would be able to have a restful sleep because I had made sure the police arrested the randy noisemakers and put them in jail.

When I went to visit her a week later in rehab at the Catherine Booth hospital, she was in a very good mood.

“This is a very nice place. Guess who came to visit me today?”

“I don’t know. Who came to visit?”

“The owner.”

“What do you mean the owner?”

“Kotrin Boots. She is the owner here and she is very polite. I told her I really liked her place and she was very happy.”

“Mom, I don’t think “Kotrin Boots” came to see you. The hospital is named for Catherine Booth. She was the co-founder of The Salvation Army and I don’t think she came to see you. She died in 1890. “

“Then who came to see me? She looked very important and she sure acted like she owned the place.”

We later ascertained that Mom’s VIP visitor was, in fact, the head nurse.

During the ice storm of 1998, Mom and Dad and Bijou the mad Maltese all moved into my place at the Chateau apartments on Sherbooke Street. I had insisted they do so when I caught my father at their duplex leaning forward, shovel in hand, to clear frozen ice off the front stairs.

Mom wanted her morning coffee which, as you might imagine might not be all that easy to find during an ice storm. Undeterred I climbed down eight flights of stairs, took a cab to the east end where the lights were still on, took a cab back home and climbed  back up the eight flights. Huffing and puffing, I handed her the coffee not expecting any thanks.

I didn’t get any.

“Dis is not hot. Dis is not coffee. Dis is moslek.”

Moslek is the Hungarian word for swill.

Back down the stairs. Back to the east end and back home with a café au lait. This time there was a thank you and Mom didn’t even mention that it was lukewarm instead of piping hot.

One Friday afternoon in 2004. I was strolling with Mom along Westbury Avenue when an SUV pulled up and a bearded rabbi, one of the most respected in the city, stuck his head out the window. He was a longtime family friend.

Looking right at me, he said in Yiddish, “Shemzach nisht? Spatzieren mit a shayna maidele uffen guss?” which means “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, walking with a pretty young girl on the street?”

To say that Mom was delighted at the compliment is an understatement, but the rabbi’s comment turned out to be much more than a mere compliment.

He made the remark some 14 years ago, soon after my dear father had passed away. Every time I see mom in a sad mood, every time she is uncommunicative, I lean in close to her face and repeat it to her. And every time – without fail – her eyes light up and she breaks into a wide smile.

There was a time when it was impossible to get her to smile. She didn’t want to talk. She had told the caregiver that she felt sick. She would vomit in the morning and did not want to eat.

I would go to her apartment to visit and I would be dismayed to see her just slumped over in her chair. She looked very weak and very tired.

She just didn’t seem her usual self so I called Hatzalah, a local volunteer Emergency Medical Service organization. They would examine her vital signs and suggest I should call an ambulance. I would grab her medicare card and a list of all her medications and off we would head to the hospital.

She would spend a day or so in some hallway, a day or so upstairs in a hospital room where they would check her out. There would be a few tests and a few x-rays. I would be told there was nothing wrong and we would head back home.

She would be better for a few days and then it would happen all over again. This continued on a weekly basis for more than a month.

She would be fine and after a few days, she would feel ill again and we would go back to the hospital. She would feel okay for a day or two and then back to the hospital yet again.

At one point, I was so frustrated I said “Why don’t we just have her sit in the corridor of our building? She can be ignored here as well as she can be ignored in the emergency room corridor.”

One day, Mom and I and Jhonas the caregiver were watching a Golden Girls re-run. Just after Bea Arthur gave Betty White her trademark glance of disbelief, an American commercial comes on extolling the virtues of the Exelon patch which can help alleviate some of the symptoms of moderate dementia.

The commercial shows some elderly person smiling at her adoring grandchildren as they list off the side effects which might include a general feeling of illness, weakness, vomiting, drowsiness, fatigue and itchiness on the site of the patch.

The caregiver and I stare at each other in disbelief. Could it be the Exelon patch that is making her sick?

I call the doctor, he agrees to take her off the medication and prescribes another one instead.

Within a day or so, Mom was back to her usual self complaining about the temperature of the café au lait.

This Post Has 35 Comments

  1. People with Integrity should always remember ” Are Mother brought us into this World ” and took care of us and now it is return to do the same. xoxo

  2. You are such a considerate son and good person in all Tommy .

  3. We see that in one way or another still today. Wonderful story, again. I haven’t the words. 🙂

  4. Great stories! You are indeed a wonderful & considerate son.
    My older granddaughter was born during the ice storm. Maybe I should start a blog? LOL……

  5. Love the pages of your mind. I hope that my sons will be as attentive to me as you are to your Mom. Kiss on both cheeks for you.😘

    1. Thank you Deborah

  6. Tommy, your love and compassion, not to mention your amazing creative writing abilities shine through here. Your mom was blessed to have you for a son. The ice storm coffee saga differentiates you from almost everybody. What other son would go to the ends of the city -twice – to make sure his mom had a nice cup of coffee during the ice storm? Amazing!

    1. Thank you Felix

  7. Somehow I feel cheated. I don’t get the attention you gave your mom but I still love my son. Smart rabbi.

    1. Thank you Claire

  8. Tommy there is a special place in heaven for sons like you. Bless you ❤️

    1. thank you Fran

  9. tommy……you just had me laughing out loud again!!… …no one has your particular brand of humour……..’tis yours alone….. and such a devoted son……….my granddaugher erica was in utero during the ice storm…she is 20 today….. i love you…..xo

  10. what can I say, each one of your stories is so well written, love your sense of humor and writing style…you bring me back to the times you write about, I have such memories of the ice storm, too much to write…Your mother is blessed with a son like you…I have one as well…what a blessing…God Bless You…

  11. Good thing you weren’t watching the show from a Personal Recording device. Otherwise, you may have fast forwarded through the commercial and never known.

    1. So true

  12. Yes, as someone said….I want to be in your corner up there. And very true….I feel cheated.
    Great stories…..thank you.

    1. Thank you Annabelle

  13. What a wonderful mother
    Your Great Son
    Wonderful you have Each Other
    Thoroughly enjoyed ‘‘tis episode
    Remember the ice storm well
    We had to move out of our house
    Now await the next chapter😇😇

    1. Thanks Marilynn

  14. I love how much you love your Mom

    1. Thanks Diane

  15. Tommy, so much of your love, compassion, humanity, and tremendous humour comes through, written in your wonderful witty style. You’re a great storyteller!

    1. Thank you Carlo

  16. As soon as I see your name and #__ on my FB feed, it’s like I just found a new non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s flavour! I get very excited. This one, especially, with your mom’s health and the mention of dementia, all the Yiddish, Hatzalah who can walk backward and find my parents house, the Catherine Booth where my father just returned from, all the familiarities and similarities to my life right now, made this #26 my definite favorite. So far. 🙂

    1. Thank you Holly

  17. Good “kids” come from great parents. You and your parents are (were) blessed.

  18. Enjoyable and brings back memories, during the ice storm we had to leave our house for 8 days, 6 days with my sister and 2 with my mother n law.
    We have 3 kids and we all slept on the floor wherever we could and we persevered just like you and your loving mom

  19. Tommy I loved your entry! You truly know how to pull your reader in. Very moving and funny at the same time…you painted pictures with your words that are quite vivid…:) I miss you:'(

    1. thank you Paula

  20. Tommy!
    You must know by now I am a devoted fan of your series of writings. And then I read your Mom’s line, “diz is not coffee, diz is
    moslek”. At first I didn’t recognize the word, guessing I had never seen it in it’s written form. When the penny dropped, hysterical laughter ensued. Moslek, a word I haven’t heard since my Mom used to term for something she didn’t care for. Usually something Canadian, usually sometime I loved and tried to entice my Mom to try. No success on my part since by then she referred to it as “Kanadai moslek”. Writing this, the laughter returns. It’s a laughter of nostalgia, and of love, for those incredible people, our parents, who struggled through the early years of arrival to Kanada to fit in.
    One word, “moslek” your word, actually, bought it all together for me. What can I say other than Koszonom Tomi.

    1. Koszonom Zsolt

  21. Your love for your mother, your sense of humour, your stories keep me both laughing and crying. Keep on writing..

  22. I love the way you start your stories with a memory from your life and morph into a close intimate story of your mother or father. So seamlessly. I am just now reading all 30 stories. Your parents are (were) lucky to have such a devoted son. I hope I am so lucky with my sons.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu