My mom is 89 years old.
For the past 10 years, her memory has slowly deteriorated until she had to move into a nursing home. Physically, she is still very fit, but her short term memory is completely nonfunctional, and over time she has lost other memories as well. The really bad part is that she lost it so slowly that we didn't take the time to capture the things she knew... like her favorite recipes, or stories of times before we were born. By the time we realized that it wasn't just a mistake or a bad day, poof... the memories were gone.
Today she was at my house and we talked about her German potato salad. A staple at every picnic, family gathering, or trip to the river bank (alongside hot dogs), everyone loved her potato salad and she would make massive batches so that everyone could take home a bowl. About five years ago when I knew that her memory was failing, I tried to get her to give me the recipe, but she got angry that she couldn't remember and the whole day was a dismal failure. But for some reason, today was different.
Today I got out most of the ingredients that I knew were included and just acted like I was merely giving her a hand. Before you know it, she was slicing and dicing and measuring... and much to my suprise, with no difficulty or indecision, the potato salad was complete.
I have mixed emotions about this... I'm happy to have this memory with my mom, and I'm glad to have the recipe. But why now? And what strange quirk is it that she can now remember how to make potato salad, but still can't remember that her own mother passed away 20 years ago? Despite that, it was good to see her hands once again acting like the determined and strong hands that I remember. The time robbed her of that so slowly, that I had forgotten how capable she was and how quickly she could move- slicing, peeling, and throwing it all together.
So here… for all of you… especially those of you that take the time to send her cards and letters, here is a gift from my mom-the thing that is most precious to her these days-a memory:
Virginia’s German Potato Salad:
3 lbs small red potatoes. Boiled in their “jackets” peeled and sliced when cold
4 hardboiled eggs
1 lb bacon, diced and fried crisp
1/2 green pepper
1/2 red pepper
1 bunch green onions
(add celery too if you want but "It's just filler, I really hate that shit")
mix these is a very large bowl with room to stir without breaking the potatoes
Meanwhile, heat in a skillet:
1/4 cup of bacon drippings
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teas celery seed
salt/pepper to taste
poor warm dressing over potatoes. Will seem too wet at first, but potatoes will soak it up. If it seems dry, make a little more dressing.