25 January 2009
There are some things I think I can never write about. You can write around them and between them and maybe even through them, but I'll never really write them in the way they happened.
My mom has a brain tumor. Not a little wimpy pea-sized thing, not a meningioma or a cyst, a big, bad, scary cancerous brain tumor. I tried to write an email about it, but I thought if I actually typed the words then all of it would become irreversibly true, that this was no longer one long bad dream, no longer a simple problem a few vitamins could fix. It couldn't be my hands tapping tumor, and doctor, and craniotomy, and chemotherapy, those words staring back at me in harsh black against white tones from my computer.
In a way I was prepared, my uncle has had two brain tumors that I was intimately involved with. But then, I was second tier help, always there to assist but able to go home at the end of the day and sleep. Now, I'm first tier, the one who's there when she wakes up and when she goes to sleep, who fixes meals and adjusts socks and calls nurses. I told my uncle's partner, my uncle's first tier, and told him, "I had no idea." Few people do.
I can write about parts of it now, the tumor, the logistics of hospitals and neurosurgeons, the experience of being 25 years old and having your name placed on your mother's estate, paying property tax before you ever owned property. But the one part I can't write about is mom. I cant write about her because I can't get past how utterly unfair this is. About how this happened to the wrong person, how good my mom is, how hard she's worked in her life. About how it's always been just mom and me, no father, no siblings, of how scared I am of being alone in a very big world.
I made coconut cake this year for Christmas dinner because it's mom's favorite. She was diagnosed the next day. I was so glad to have that leftover cake in the refrigerator, not because either of us had any appetite, but because I had made it for her the day before- that we should capitalize on every good experience possible. It' a lesson I learn more and more each day, each good thought, each laugh, just as sweet as a slice of cake.
My mom insists that I not neglect the blog in her illness, but I hope you'll excuse me if posting is a little slower than usual. And in about 6 weeks I'll be looking for some good recipes to get us through radiation and chemotherapy.
Toasted Coconut Cake
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz) butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 egg whites (1 cup egg whites)
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 drops coconut extract
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease or line two 9" cake pans. Spread all the coconut (3 cups) on two baking sheets and toast until golden (watch carefully that it does not burn). Set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Combine egg whites, milk and vanilla and coconut extracts. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture then add half the milk mixture. Continue to alternate beginning and ending with flour mixture, until mixture is well combined. Working over the bowl, rub half the coconut (1 1/2 cups) between your palms so it is finely crumbled, stir the crumbled toasted coconut into the batter.
3. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake cakes 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
4. In a large bowl, beat ogether the cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until combined. In a nother bowl, beat the cream to stiff peaks, sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat cream to stiff peaks. Fold cream into cream cheese mixture - taste for sweetness, it should be tangy but still slightly sweet.
5. Place bottom cake layer on a platter. Spread with some cream mixture and top with second layer of cake. Spread cream all over the cake, then use your hands to gently press the remaining toasted coconut around the cake. Refrigerate until serving.