Why Hot Dogs and Marmalade

It all began the summer of 2010.  I stayed with my parents part of each week during that summer in the hope of being a help to them.  My mother has Alzheimer’s.  I wrote a note on Facebook during this time that described it.

I think Rod Serling, the creator of The Twilight Zone, must have had some experience with a person suffering from Alzheimer’s. Some days, here in Cooperstown, that’s all I can think about – The Twilight Zone.

My mother is trapped in a very strange episode of The Twilight Zone. She is time-travelling from decade to decade, and it’s difficult to figure out where she is. She thinks she is 25 years old, but her face in the mirror tells another story. It must be frightening. She thinks she has a date to go to a dance, but her date never shows up. An old man claiming to be her husband does.

When she wakes the next day, she’s in a new place. Her husband is at work (he’s been retired for 11 years, but is at a meeting). The red barn across the street looks just like the barn that was across the street from their house (it is the red barn that is across the street from their house). “Whose car is that in that in the driveway? I need to borrow it,” she says, but it’s my car and I won’t let her.

Two days ago she was very worried about me. I was 6 years old and lost. I’m here with her; I’m not lost; I’m 50. Something doesn’t make sense, but she can’t figure out what it is. We move on.

The only constant in this Twilight Zone episode is orange marmalade. Orange marmalade is served at every meal – on hot dogs, on sandwiches, you name it. Orange marmalade – I really can’t figure it out. But I think I understand now what they’re talking about on the Food Channel when they refer to comfort foods. They’re talking about orange marmalade.

I think it has always been one of my fears that I will be trapped in The Twilight Zone. It was always such a scary show to me, because there would be that twist at the end – like M. Night Shyamalan had in The Sixth Sense. Reality isn’t what we’ve been led to believe that it is. For my mother, the twist doesn’t come at the end; it comes so often that it is dizzying. Another twist and another twist.

I want to cry.

I’ll have some orange marmalade instead.

One day, my mother smeared orange marmalade on her hot dog for lunch.  “There’s the title for my book,” I thought.  However, I probably will never write a book.  I can, however, write a blog.

My mother came to stay with us a few times in 2011 to give my father a much-needed break.  I was reminded repeatedly of the importance of keeping a sense of humor.  So I attempted to find humor in the odd situations that arise with a person suffering from Alzheimer’s.  If I wrote about her attempting to call someone on the television remote or putting orange marmalade on her cereal, I was not laughing at her; I was laughing at the strange situations.  I was laughing to keep from crying.

Now my mother is in a nursing home and the marmalade days are done. I’ve kept up the blog and expanded it from Alzheimer’s to family and faith.

Why Hot Dogs and Marmalade in the first place?  My hope was that this be an encouragement to others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

11 thoughts on “Why Hot Dogs and Marmalade

  1. I found your blog by way of the Blogging A to Z Challenge, and I can only hope to make enough time in my days to read everything you’ve written since 2011. You have a lovely voice that takes the reader with you – like a magic carpet woven from language. Wonderful!

  2. Sally – I have nominated you for the Sunshine Bloggers Award. You continually care for those around you both physically and otherwise. Thank you for all the direct and indirect encouragement. You brighten my days, and I consider that a very sunshiney-trait indeed.

  3. I came across your blog by recommendation from someone in alittlelight.ca. After reading this page, I am just silently sitting because my mom has dementia and every sentence you right came to life before me. Also, are you on Instagram? I want to follow you there!

    • I’m so flattered that someone at alittlelight.ca thought to recommend me! I’m on the east coast of the US, but have family and friends in British Columbia.

      I do have an instagram, but post infrequently on it — mostly pictures of sunrises. My username is something original: sallyzaengle — all one word.

  4. I feel sorry for your mother, Madam! I pray for her well-being along with the that of yours and your family.
    I feel humbled that you visited my blog and liked a post! Thank you so much!!! 🙂

  5. I have an Aunt with Alzheimer’s so can relate to your mums funny situations. I just found your blog today, and I’m following your for more Faith filled posts. I just read your Allegory on Truth. It is actually brilliant, and unfortunately true. Stephen.

  6. My mother had Alzheimer’s and recently passed away. The disease does not get better, but it does crack open now and again to allow a peek at the person inside, the one we remember and love. Your words and memories are comforting. I pray that you and your family find the strength to help your mother, and each other.

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