Why did I choose Salmon Salad and Mozart as my blog title? I like to eat. Seriously, I had already purchased the domain name intending to use my website for recipes, stories I have written and other entries – would that be entrées? But when I decided to write about Emma and me in my dementia caregiver’s journal, I liked the metaphor of the title. Still, I do like to eat, and I like to cook, although these days I don’t have much time for the latter. I do have plenty of time to eat, though, because Emma is such a slow eater. I could have eaten three meals and washed four loads of bed linens while she still dawdles over her dinner. Ah, I exaggerate, but not by much, or so it seems to me. I cut up her food in tiny little pieces and arrange it strategically on her plate, placing in the center what is most nutritious for her, because, with her fork she digs a broad swath down the center of her plate, eating that food first – usually – while sometimes inadvertently shoving the rest overboard onto the placemat in the dark night of her mind. At least she eats, and she’s not shredding her paper napkin as much as she used to; although she often does tear it carefully into tiny little squares, about one inch by two inches, maybe a little larger, folds it over, wipes her runny nose with it, and carefully places it on the tablecloth.
Emma was a good cook. She enjoyed cooking and hosting dinner parties for her family and friends. She had a summer home right on the beach on the Jersey shore (Southern New Jersey) where she hosted small groups of overnight guests, prepared three meals a day, made the beds, laundered the linens, cleaned, and saw that her guests’ beach accoutrements were well-appointed. Her friends raved about these events until their dying days. Her grandchildren, who eagerly anticipated escaping their parents in the city and undertaking teenage pursuits down at the shore, remember the fun and how strict Grandmom was.
Emma cooked and prepared gourmet meals until one evening in 2005 when she couldn’t remember how to use the microwave. Many nights she stood at the sink and washed the dishes until the night she fell and didn’t know how it happened. I found her crawling around, trying to get up off the kitchen floor. It was in 2005, too, that she sat at the dining table and said to me, “I think I forgot to pay the mortgage last month.”
I took over the bill paying and while she was still of sound mind, we set me up as her power of attorney.
Emma played piano from her childhood, and before she was married, taught piano. Later, she taught me. My brother and I grew up, in our early years, with a black Steinway baby grand in our house. Both my parents played. When she retired, Emma bought an electronic organ (a computer, really) and took lessons. I think it was one of her greatest joys late in her life to sit and play this organ. Amazingly, Emma could still play until about six months ago. She could sit at the keyboard and read the sheet music. Granted she played much more slowly than the composer intended, and she knew it: “I didn’t do it justice,” she said of one of her final performances.
As compositions go, I lifted the title “Salmon Salad and Mozart” from a chapter title of a romantic interlude in a novel I have been writing. That title came from this great – I think – salmon salad recipe I created; plus, I like listening to Mozart, especially at dinner and when I write. He is good for concentration, flow and relaxation.
I have uploaded my salmon salad recipe here, as you will find in my Recipe category. New to this blogging thing and WordPress, I must say I had a devil of a time getting rid of that recipe off my home or “Hello” page and into its proper category. It just would not go away. I resorted to beating it with a broom and still it kept popping back up like a Florida salt marsh mosquito when you smash it. Ultimately, I found guidance online.
Here, then, the metaphor Salmon Salad and Mozart symbolizes an exquisite mixed-up mess.
–Samantha, May 25, 2011