I truly would rather laugh at Mom’s shenanigans than, well, cry or pull out my hair. So, when she returned from the bathroom and handed my dad a pair of clean folded underwear, it never occurred to me that these were the ones she’d been wearing earlier that morning. I gently touched her thigh and discovered that she had indeed gone commando.
That’s what it’s called when you don’t wear underwear. The term was first popularized in the 1970s but it was an episode of the long-running 90s TV sit-com Friends that boosted the concept. Today you can find all sorts of advice columns that suggest that going commando is not only more comfortable and hygienic but—for women—may also offer thrills when the seam of your pants (assuming you’re wearing pants) touches your…private parts.
With muted bemusement, we persuaded Mom to put her underpants back on. She told us that she was already wearing one layer, meaning her skirt, and didn’t need anything else. There have been other times when we’ve discovered her wearing four or even five pair of underwear. You just never know.
Maybe it didn’t matter.
And maybe it did.
Checking the pad we place in her pants is actually a way for us to be alert to incontinence or even bleeding that may occur throughout Mom’s day. She’s still aware enough to demand her privacy when she goes to the bathroom, so the pad is helpful
I was immediately reminded of a story my grandmother Millie used to tell us. When she was a young mother in a rush to get out, she accidentally left the house without her “knickers,” the wind raising her short skirt as she pushed my mom in her carriage. If there were more details to this story, I never remembered them, my mind stuck on the vivid image of her valiantly holding her skirt down while she steered the “pram” with the other hand, her small frame buffeted by the wind as she navigated the crowded London streets.
Once her panties were back on, I convinced Mom that the one slipper and one sandal she was wearing didn’t really match. I helped her put on the second sandal. Then, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss, with (diminishing) brains in our heads and feet in our shoes, we steered ourselves in the direction we chose.
Or, as the British might say, we made sure not to get our knickers in a twist.
My absence in posting a blog last week was due to the celebration of the holiday of Shavuot. Despite the fact that I spent too much time in the kitchen, I did enjoy eating dairy meals, one of the hallmarks of the holiday. Another is reading the Book of Ruth at synagogue. I always think of Mom on this holiday as her name is Naomi Ruth, a combination of the two heroines from the story. I hope that I can be as selfless as Ruth when she tells Naomi that she will stay with her and convert. I pray I have the strength to follow my Naomi wherever she leads as the road that is Alzheimer’s grows ever stranger.
Cannelloni with Cheese and Vegetable Filling
This is one of the annual dishes I make for Shavuot. It’s a week after the holiday, but this vegetable-rich dish is good for all year round.
1 250 gr box cannelloni noodles
1 large onion, grated
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
4 carrots, grated
1 large zucchini, grated
3 large stalks celery, grated
2 tsp oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 250 gr (½ lb) cottage cheese
½ cup Parmesan, grated
1 32-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 16-oz can tomato paste
2 tsp each of basil, oregano, parsley, granulated garlic, salt and pepper
Grate all vegetables either by hand or in a food processor. Set aside to drain liquid. Sauté onions and garlic until browned then add grated vegetables. Simmer until reduced by about half. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine sauce ingredients. Remove vegetables from heat. Stir in cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese (reserving a little for garnish). Using a spoon (or your fingers) stuff each cannelloni roll with filling. Lay gently in a baking dish spread with a small amount of sauce. Pour remaining sauce on top, cover pan with foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Sprinkle on remaining Parmesan before serving.