Ring Out the Old
We did it! We succeeded in persuading Mom to let us cut off her rings. This may seem like a small thing, but the thought and effort we put into preparing Mom and finding the right people to help was daunting.
I first noticed in December that Mom’s rings were tight on her fingers. I didn’t mean to be oblivious to her plight, but I admit that I avoided taking responsibility for Mom’s personal hygiene. Ingrained in me was the lesson, as we are taught in the Torah, that we should not uncover the nakedness of our parents. How often do we take the time to notice—really notice—the state of someone’s physical condition in an intimate way? Who really wants to wash and dress their parent, cut their nails or assist them in using the toilet?
Mom had not removed the rings in many years and her fingers had shaped themselves around them, growing and fattening until the rings were unable to slide off or even wiggle. Mom has been wearing the same five rings as long as I can remember. The first was her engagement ring. The original diamond had been bought from the store owned by Daddy’s Uncle Abe in London. It was a flawed diamond, which they only found out after purchase. Many years later, my grandmother’s neighbor passed on a diamond to Mom after her death; Mom had the new diamond reset in her engagement ring. The second was her platinum wedding band, patterned and wide, which proved the hardest to remove because platinum is harder than gold and silver. The third was a big jade stone on a gold band that Daddy brought back with him from a trip to Hong Kong. The fourth was a silver ring made by Yemenite jewelers who lived in Ekron, just outside of Rehovot, purchased in 1983, the year my family spent in that city. And the fifth was a wide silver ring from Rhodes, Greece, with a traditional Greek key pattern.
I knew not to attempt to have the rings removed without my dad present. Mom defers to Daddy in all things, even bringing him her empty plate after lunch so that he can confirm that, yes, she should place it in the sink. If I suggest something like, “Here, Mom, you can put your plate in the sink,” she’ll ask Daddy for his approval. In her eyes, he is the sun and the moon and the stars, all-knowing and benevolent.
We had spoken to Mom several times about removing her rings. She would always acquiesce and say, “Yes, of course I’ll come with you to the jewelers.” In the first store we entered, when she realized what we were up to, Mom became hostile. I quietly told the silversmith that Mom had Alzheimer’s but she heard me and called me all manner of foul names for suggesting she was ill. Rather than coerce her, we left the store and did other chores.
As we walked on the high street of Netanya, I suggested to Daddy that we visit a specific jewelry store where we had been previously and where the proprietor was friendly. I told him that I would enter the store first and see if Eva,* the owner, could help us.
When I described the situation and pointed to my parents standing outside the store, she was kind enough to agree to help. She won Mom’s confidence with her gentle manner and friendly voice. She walked us up a small alley to where her silversmith worked then stroked Mom’s palms while the silversmith got his pliers and cut across the shank of each ring. Both Eva and the silversmith tut-tutted at the state of Mom’s tight rings and told us it was good that we’d come.
And then it was done. And I felt joyous. We’d brought Mom through this difficult procedure intact and without incident. Her fingers have large white patches on them where the rings were previously, but their shape is already changing, her fingers breathing and spreading out instead of being confined by the tight rings. We’ll get the rings resized, but for the moment, Mom doesn’t even remember she once wore rings. Her fingers have been laid bare and I—briefly and humbly—avert my gaze.
Artichokes dropped significantly in price recently, according to one of the Israeli newspapers, Yisrael Hayom. That’s more than reason enough to go out and buy a bunch. These strange thistles take a little time to prepare, but once they’re cooked, they are a fun pleasure to eat. Artichokes make me wonder at God's handiwork...and at man's ingenuity. Make sure you have plenty of sauce on hand in which to dip the leaves and shmear on the heart.
I don’t think I ever ate a fresh artichoke before coming to Israel. I learned the rudiments of preparation from a neighbor who was boiling up a pot of them with alluring lemon slices.
½ lemon, sliced
½ lemon, squeezed for juice
Some people use melted butter as a sauce for the leaves. In our house, we like a simple mayo and mustard sauce, though there’s also a garlicky sauce you can try.
Mayonnaise and Mustard Sauce
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Mayonnaise and Garlic Sauce
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut the artichoke stem then cut the point off each outer leaf. As leaves bunch closer together at the top, use a serrated knife to slice off the top of the artichoke. To make more appealing, you can remove one or two layers of the outer leaves. Soak each artichoke in water and vinegar and clean by using your thumbs to bend and open the inner most part of the thistle to check for any stray bugs or snails (really). Place in a large pot with lemon slices and juice. Fill pot so water covers approximately 2/3 of the artichokes. Bring water to boil and keep on a low boil for one to two hours. Artichokes are ready to eat when the leaves remove easily with a small tug. To reveal the heart, once leaves are removed, use a spoon and gently scoop out the “choke.” Discard choke and eat your heart out!
*I am happy to recommend Eva Zinger's store, 6 Tel Hai St., Netanaya, Israel. www.evazinger.com