Thursday, August 4, 2011

Some Like It Cold

Around the time I began training for my first marathon, Christopher Elbow, the genius chocolatier, opened Glacé, his ice cream concept, a couple blocks south of the Plaza. Brian and I became Saturday evening regulars, and my long run buddies knew they'd be treated to at least a mile or two of my flavors-of-the-week commentary the following Saturday. I was pleased to hear reports back from others who'd overheard my rhapsodizing and decided to try it for themselves. It became a running joke (no pun intended) that if I ever went pro, I should seek Glacé sponsorship.

Three weeks into my NYC training program and three Saturday nights worth of ice cream later, it occurred to me that maybe, joking aside, I SHOULD seek Glacé sponsorship. After all, more people have a very poignant and painful connection to the disease than I'd ever imagined, I've been surprised and overwhelmed by the generosity shown so far, and I'm assuming the decision-making process in a small business would be much more manageable than, say, trying to get sponsored by Chipotle. I wouldn't have anything to lose by writing to Christopher Elbow and asking him for a sponsorship, minus the cost of a stamp. If I succeeded, I could truly say I was "powered by artisan ice cream."

Then it occurred to me - maybe in lieu of a sponsorship check, I should request something a little more ambitious, something that would give more back to his business. Something like, say, an ice cream happy hour, where a certain percentage of all funds raised would be donated to my Alzheimer's Association fund. I could advertise and invite all my friends/family...and instead of feeling vaguely guilty asking people to fork over their hard-earned money as a donation, they could be donating AND getting something that I love in return.

This sounds like a made-up story, but it isn't - after the birthday fiasco, I was terrified to give Mom anything to eat, for fear she'd choke on it, I'd be paralyzed and wouldn't know what to do, and I'd be the one that ended her life. But, as someone who couldn't usually sit through a full meal and tell you she's hungry, it was usually a pretty good bet that she was needing something to eat. So, surveying the refrigerator and trying to decide what I could give her that would be safest to eat, I spotted a pint of Glacé strawberry balsamic ice cream I'd purchased for Dad's birthday a few weeks prior. What could be more choke-proof than something that melts? I grabbed the ice cream and a couple of spoons and led her out onto the back patio. We sat in a couple of adirondack chairs and I brought a spoonful of ice cream to her lips.

At that point, Mom was well beyond pretty much any kind of verbal communication. She would rattle off bursts of speech that sounded like a Dr. Seuss brainstorm, or walk around asking for Michael (Dad), but otherwise, the way she was feeling had to be inferred from her physical responses. Her feelings on things had (and still have) to be mostly inferred from physical cues, and from what we already knew of her likes and dislikes. In turn, communicating with her was usually just as much of a guessing game. For a big talker, like me, and a great listener, like Mom, our gifts had been pretty much reduced to nothing in the wake of her dementia.

But, in merely wanting to give my mother something safe to eat, I'd forgotten that a well-crafted food can speak for itself in a language anyone can understand. After a moment's surprise at the cold sensation in her mouth, Mom's eyes closed, and she smiled. And for a few priceless minutes, we were just a normal mother and daughter, sharing a pint of really great ice cream in the sun.

Keep your fingers crossed my proposal goes over well. In the meantime, I think I'll bring Mom some ice cream this weekend.


  1. What a beautiful story! My eyes are watery now!

  2. Damn dusty room... really need to clean in here.. making my damn eyes water. Fingers crossed for you... and even though I don't eat ice cream, I would show up and buy someone else some.

  3. Thanks for the comments, ladies...and Coleen, what about sorbet? :) They had an EXCELLENT Boulevard Two Jokers Sorbet the other day...

  4. You know I'd be all about an ice cream happy hour! I hope your ice cream proposal is successful! If not, let's go get some anyway. :)

  5. I'll be there too. One word of advice, from someone who has approached a lot of businesses asking for donations (we used to hold an auction for scholarships), talk to the owner in person if possible. Hand deliver your letter. It goes a lot further than one sent in the mail with no face to go along with it.

  6. love this :) i’m sure they will be willing to host a % back day/night/hour etc…share your blog with the owner too!!

  7. Wow, what a great story, Liza. I really do look forward to your blogs, not just because they're so well-crafted, but because they're just amazingly poignant.