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The Bottle Of Rum



Once every few years, we purchase a bottle of hard liquor. When we were entertaining frequently at home, Hubby demanded single malt whiskey that had to be at least 15 years old and purchased in duty-free awaiting departure of one of our international flights. I never drank, so it was purchased for those more-hearty than I.

In my experience, Jews (of which I am one, and proud to be so,) are not big consumers of alcohol. We like a glass of wine with a lovely meal, but it is rare to find us in Alcoholics Anonymous. Our weakness is food, really good food, and entertaining in our homes is part of our culture. Perhaps that is why I have recipes on website. Everything, even dementia, is better with food. Many say that everything is improved with a glass of fine wine or a cocktail.

In that spirit, I splurged last week and purchased a bottle of dark rum. It is not that it was so expensive, but the white rum is cheaper. I have a dynamite recipe for gravlax which is marinated in rum, and it was time to improve the flavor by buying the more flavorful dark variety. If you visit the website, you can treat yourself to something delicious when you have the chance.

Today was Saturday and we had a substitute aide to help with Hubby. All went swimmingly-well until late afternoon (author’s note: Why do we use such silly expressions?)

There is a condition called “sun-downing” in dementia. I truly do not understand it fully, but for many people with memory loss, when the sun goes down (quite literally), their level of anger, delusions, and animosity rises. I was not actually aware of this phenomenon until recently. Tonight, it came to my home in force. Hubby became very confused about whether specific family members were alive or dead. He was muddled about who was his brother and who was his son, and he fully expected me to help him unravel his angst. I did try, really. But when he got more and more angry at me for not understanding what he wanted from me, I knew I needed to extricate myself from the conversation. That upset him even more. I actually said to him “I know you are trying to have a fight with me, but I will not participate. Hubby gets-going, builds up momentum, and cannot stop. He asks me every question which he instinctively knows will cause discord. His favorite subject is our finances, which I have discussed in other chapters before. He accuses me of hiding something from him and tries to bait me. I simply replied: “I am not talking to you.” Then he begins a barrage of questions, demanding answers. I refuse to play the game or enter the fray and ultimately, he gives up the assault, pouting.

I am praying that Violet will come home soon to give a distraction and redirection to the stand-off. Hubby needs to eat dinner. I have put blintzes in the oven for him but am quite sure that if I was to be the one to ask him to eat them, he would refuse. Thus, I need Violet to invite him to eat and he will come to the table as gentle as a puppy. This is one of a thousand reasons why it is critical to have an aide when caring for someone with cognitive decline. One simply cannot handle this complex condition alone.

In the meantime, I found myself in the kitchen, slicing the cured gravlax for my own dinner, and smelling the lovely Rum scent. It came to me like lightning out of the blue – I need to have a Rum and Coke!! When I was in college… some fifty years ago… I loved Rum and Coke, so why not now? You need to understand that this is a momentous occasion. The drink was exactly what I needed. My shoulder muscles have been aching for days. I thought I had pulled a muscle helping Hubby to stand up. Do muscles and tendons actually benefit from the imbibing of alcoholic beverages? I doubt it, but the taut shoulders which are rebelling against the stress of taking care of Hubby, have suddenly relaxed and I feel terrific. It was only one shot of Rum to a full glass of Coke, but I saw the medicinal benefit for me!

A good friend of mine cared for her husband well into his 90’s. She was much younger than he, and I discovered that in the process she became an alcoholic. Now I understand why. Full time care for another human being is really difficult. The men and women whom I advise in different groups express it in terms that are heartbreaking. I try to share it all with a bit of humor when possible. Even though I am fortunate to now have the help of an aide, (although I waited seven years before admitting I could not do it alone) I have still written more than one hundred chapters about the difficulties and exhaustion which we all experience on this journey.

No apologies… I loved my Rum and Coke. I may have another the next time Hubby and “sun-downing” get me down. I tried the alcohol, now you try the rum-cured gravlax!!!!

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Barbara Diamond is a journalist living in Jerusalem, Israel. She has been a political activist on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people for over fifty years, having participated in political and humanitarian missions to Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, China, and Europe to meet with world leaders on matters of concern. She has written over 100 articles for the Jerusalem Post and on her blog at The Times of Israel, hosted an English radio talk show in Jerusalem and continues mentoring others to pass on the torch of responsibility. You can reach her at [email protected] and visit her site at