Parents Need to Eat Too

Food Is Love: Oatmeal Cookies

Food Is Love: Oatmeal Cookies

It’s excruciating, waiting. S and I have some practice at it, after so many months of waiting for a positive pregnancy test, but nothing compares to what we’re going through now. We’re waiting for S’s father to pass away.

Don has had multiple sclerosis for 42 years. One of the first things S told me about MS, when he and I were newly dating, was that the disease itself wouldn’t kill his father. It would just weaken him and weaken him and weaken him, until something else finally sneaks in and does it. After decades of slow decline, drop by drop, 2005 has been something of a plummet. Multiple infections, and multiple trips to the hospital, until finally the doctors said there was nothing more they could do—“curing” Don was not an option. The best they could offer was to send him home to hospice care, to send him home to die as comfortably as possible. This has been our ongoing family emergency.

Last week Don had a stroke. They’re not sure how big it was—he didn’t want to go back to the hospital for tests, a decision we all supported. But in his condition even a small stroke is a big deal. It wiped out his ability to speak, and over the last few days he’s done little but sleep. We spent two days with him, returning home only when it was apparent that Don didn’t really know we were there. Yesterday we were told he has an infection, so it’s likely a matter of days.

So here we are, jumping every time the phone rings, distracted at work, distracted at home. I watch S closely, searching for signs of depression or despair—lord knows I’m having a hard enough time keeping my own malaise at bay—but so far he seems to be doing OK. He’s been working on a project related to his dad, sorting through family photos and listening to Don’s favorite music. It seems to be helping. As for me, I can’t really make myself focus on anything. I’ve tried reading, I’ve tried watching tv, but I just can’t sit still. The only thing I feel like doing is cooking, or eating.

In an indication of how my mind works when faced with death and despair, I thought about oatmeal cookies all afternoon. I thought about getting home from work and baking a batch for S. The idea of them buoyed me, the comforting softness, the warm cinnamon scent, the smile they’d bring to his face. Oatmeal cookies seem like autumn to me, and I guess thinking ahead is what I need right now. It’s an odd form of therapy, baking, but it works—momentarily, at least.

And it seems to have worked for S, too…

Now, this is not my usual recipe. Part of the distraction came from trying something new, using my brain as much as my body to bake them. They came out pretty good, so I’ll share it with you.

Oatmeal Cookies
Inspired by the LA Times
Makes 5 dozen

¾ cup canola oil
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup Splenda
2 egg whites
¼ cup water
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. baking soda
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup raisins
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat oil, sugar, Splenda, egg whites, water, and vanilla together until creamy. Sift flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda into the bowl and blend. Stir in oats, raisins, pecans, and chocolate chips. Drop teaspoonfuls of the dough onto greased cookie sheets [flatten slightly unless you like a rounder, nugget-type cookie—these don’t spread at all]. Bake 12 to 15 minutes.

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