Pretzel

The Holidays offer an opportunity for memories in dementia. The scent of pine, baking goodies, a fire burning or songs being sung can stir deep and fond memories.

My grandmother Nati escaped from Hungary in 1956 after The Revolution. She left with her husband and two young daughters and made her way to America where they started a new life. I was raised in the US with Hungarian language, traditions and the smells of Hungarian food.

The Holidays in our home have always been a time of rich tastes and smells. The kitchen is always warm and serves as the hub of the house where the day begins and ends. In my childhood, the Holidays meant we would bake delicious pretzels that we would hang on the tree.

We first noticed that my grandmother Nati had memory loss during the holidays. The pretzel recipe that she had committed to memory turned out wrong one Christmas. By the next Christmas, she had trouble finding the word for pretzel and by the third she had lost the ability to twist the dough into shape.

The memory loss in Alzheimer’s is irrevocable and it persists. By her final Christmas, Nati could not speak or move. Her face had a flat affect.

All the same, we brought her into the kitchen that final Christmas. She sat in her wheelchair next to the table amid the banter and bustle. She rarely communicated anymore but when a lump of pretzel dough was placed in her hand and as the scent of baking dough wafted through the house, her eyes twinkled with the memory of eighty-three Christmases past.

My best,

Thomas

 


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