There are so many of our body parts that are hidden from public view. I’m not talking about internal organs. I’m talking about our private parts, our knees, the backs of our legs, our spine, even our feet (though in summer, some of these parts are more exposed than usual). As adults, we wash and clothe ourselves in private. We are the only ones who know our bodies so thoroughly through our intimate rituals. Sometimes we notice changes. They can occur slowly or we suddenly become aware that something hurts or doesn’t feel right, or our skin is discolored.
Let’s take feet. You can learn a lot about someone from their feet.
We might notice the shoes someone is wearing, but unless we have occasion to examine their feet, we won’t know if they are flat-footed, or if they have nail fungus, or bunions, or arthritis, or a host of other ailments. Open sores that won’t heal might be a sign of diabetes. Prolonged swelling of the feet might indicate varicose veins or even kidney failure. Toes turn inwards; nails become misshapen.
Reflexologists claim that feet are the windows to the body’s health, with each area and reflex point corresponding to different body organs and systems. Pressing them has a beneficial effect on the organs and person’s general health. For example, the big toe represents different parts of the head. Reflexology works both for its healing benefits and its diagnostic value. I’ve seen my husband, a trained reflexologist, perform small miracles on people suffering from severe sinusitis and Bell’s palsy. He has diagnosed illnesses before they became apparent.
Mostly, we avoid each other’s feet. Or we glance away when it is apparent the feet are deformed or unhealthy.
So, today, as I was cutting Mom’s toe nails—a job I do not relish, a job that requires a degree of intimacy that I am still uncomfortable with—I saw that her big toe nail had fallen off, a casualty of fungus that she wouldn’t let us treat. Then I saw a big red spot on the bottom of her little toe. It wasn’t there the last time I cut her nails. (Oh, and let me tell you, the only way she will allow me to cut her nails is if I distract her. She usually tells me to mind my own business because she can cut them herself. I realized that the fortuitous showing of Fiddler on the Roof on TV was all I needed to draw her attention away from my actions.)
I checked her sandals to see if they had perhaps caused the red mark through friction. I pinched the red area and asked her if it hurt. When I showed my dad, he was just as perplexed as I was. What was it? It looked as if there were dark blood inside it.
I made several phone calls to the health clinic and actually managed to get her an appointment with an orthopedist in the afternoon. I was already traveling home when Daddy texted me to say that it was merely a bruise of unknown origin. Phew.
Taking Mom to the orthopedist to have her foot examined is pretty non-invasive. What happens if we discover other abnormalities? How far do we go before there’s an ethical question of whether her comfort, her dignity, her trust in us, outweighs the information we may obtain from any given procedure? Alzheimer’s is going to make Mom sick, and we have to be prepared.
That weighty question notwithstanding, part of the issue is this: less compliance on Mom’s part means more cognitive reasoning; more compliance equals a downturn in her cognitive abilities. At this point, Mom is not so compliant when it comes to allowing us to assist her in her daily routines. I don’t know if she’s washing herself well, or if she has difficulty using the toilet. What I do know is that she still appears to be functioning at a level of independence, and that makes my heart sing.
Zucchini Dill Soup
I tend to make this soup in the summer because it can be served either hot or cold. Just make sure your new daughter-in-law likes dill before you dole out a big portion to her.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion chopped
3-4 garlic cloves chopped
5-6 large zucchini diced
(or depending on their size about 5 cups cubed)
4-6 cups of water
3 Tbsp fresh dill chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Cream for garnish (optional)
Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until onions start to brown. Add zucchini and sauté until tender. Pour in enough water to cover the zucchini and add spices. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. When soup has cooled, blend with a hand blender. To serve, mix 1 Tbsp cooking cream in each individual bowl, and garnish with dill.