Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Case of the Flying Trousers

Not having children ill prepared me for my mother's care. I can cite numerous examples of this, but there will never be a more perfect illustration (I hope) than during a trip we took this past Sunday.

My mother, Dan and I planned to rendezvous with my mother’s youngest sister, Sylvia, in Connecticut. I warned my aunt that she shouldn’t plan for us to stay long; Ma is at the mercy of her disease and when the dementia drum beats, we march.

Having set my Aunt’s expectations, I packed a bit of food, music that we three like and…one adult diaper. I figured since my mother uses just one at daycare, we’d only need one for our trip.

We had just crossed the Connecticut border when my mother’s voice peeped from the back. “I think I just went to the bathroom.” Slight pause. “Oh God, I did.”

About three seconds later, the odor wafted stealthily to the front seats.

“Yup, you sure did, Jill!” Dan said.

“I still have to go…can we stop somewhere?”

Dan suggested we take the next exit; he knew of a Dunkin Donuts directly off it. However, the one to which he was referring turned out to be ten minutes away and back in Massachusetts. By that time, she had let loose whatever was remaining.

We eventually wound up at a gas station. I gingerly took off my mother’s pants, hoping to keep them as victimless as possible. But, alas, the loose stool had overtaken the diaper, seeped through the top edge, and sullied the upper part of my mother’s trousers.

“It’s all over your pants, Ma.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”

“I have to wash them in the sink.”

“But I don’t have any other pants.”

Yup, I know...and only one diaper.

Her nylon stockings were also saturated. I tossed those into the trash.

And then began the cleanup.

The cardboard box colored, industrial paper towels, standard to almost every rest stop bathroom, are not conducive to a quick and thorough loose stool cleanup. I tried using them wet, wet with soap, dry (“Lisa, that hurts!”) and back again for another full cycle. We were easily fifteen minutes in before she was un-pooped and presentable.

“OK, Ma…I know these pants are wet, but you have to put them on just ‘til we get to the car. Then you can take them off and we’ll figure out a way to dry them.”

Her skinny legs slipped into the last remaining diaper, and then into the wet and cold pants. Her naked feet went directly into her sneakers. I cleaned up the bathroom and informed the attendant that she may want to change the trash bag. To say the bathroom was evil-smelling was an understatement of the grandest proportion.

“Can we buy something to stop the diarrhea?”

Another item I should have packed.

Dan went back into the rest stop as I disrobed my mother again. We loaded her up on Imodium and draped a fleece jacket over her legs. Then, the idea struck; we’ll tie the bottom of her pants to the handle bar toward the inside roof of the car, fling the wet part out the window, and close it tight, thus trapping the pants half in/half out of the car. This provided a 70 mph, forty-five minute fly dry cycle.

When she saw her trousers flapping in the wind, she started to wail, “My pants! What are you doing with my pants? They are going to fall out!”

“Relax, Gilda Bear,” Dan said. “I tied them tightly. They aren’t going anywhere.”

“But now they’re gonna be all wrinkled. I want my pants in here now!”

“Settle down Ma!” I said. “They have to dry and this is the only way.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”

When the day was done and we arrived back home, I told the hapless tale to my best friend Lisa. She was flabbergasted.

“You didn’t have a change of clothes? Wipes? And you brought just ONE diaper?”

“How was I supposed to know?”

She gave me a semi-accusatory sigh, “OK, listen, I’ll make you a list…”

She has a six year old son so she knows. I never had children so I didn’t…until now.


  1. Don't take this the wrong way, but every time your mother says, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”, I laugh.

    This was undoubtedly not the trip you'd hoped for, but... you not only learned from it, you handled it quite well, I think. You could have exploded and turned around and gone home. You didn't.

    Straight From Hel

  2. Lisa, you are getting many stars in your crown with the things you are coping with, Dan is also. It's good you can sit back and look at these situations later and even write about them with a subtle bit of humor. Not fun going through it, though, is it? You're doing a great job with your mom. Never doubt that.

  3. Helen, I have to post an audio clip of her saying it. It IS funny on the one hand :-)...and she says it ALL the time. Thanks for the kudos.

  4. Nancy, I owe a lot of it to Dan. He helps me see the lighter side of everything. Thanks for your kudos too. I HOPE I am...I had doubts this morning when we had yet another fight over the bus!

  5. Where do I begin? Lisa is right on top of things by making a list for you. JMJ - What were you thinking? You always need an emergency kit in the car! You should also have explained to G that based on simple physics it is impossible that someone's pants could have any wrinkles when being dried at 70mph going interstate 395-south on a Sunday in September.

  6. Oh, I know it isn't funny to you as you go through it, but your presentation shows that you are, indeed, aware of the humor in each situation. Kudos to you both, Lisa and Dan, and always pack a suitcase with twice the amount of everything you might possibly need.

  7. Lisa, Wow, what a tale. Bless your Mom's heart. That is one of the most embarrassing things your mom could experience, and thank goodness because of her mind it doesn't, like it would otherwise. All we can do in these situations is exactly what you did--and enjoy as much of the humor in it as you can.Hugs to you, your mom, and your marvelous, patient husband!!

  8. Laura, I will NEVER go without a small suitcase packed just for her. I learned my lesson! Once Ma was all set up back in the car, Dan and I were just shaking our heads and laughing. It was hard not to with the pants flying out the window!

  9. Sylvia, my mother did say "what would I have done if I was would have been awful." And I THINK she may have even said thank you :-) So she was aware at the time but it certainly has passed. Thumbs up to dementia in this case!

  10. Lisa,

    You have hit upon something we've had to deal with because of Sue having Crohn's Disease (Diarrhea!!).I've thought about the problems a combination of Crohn's and Alzheimer's could cause on an outing and try to be prepared.I'm now wearing a shirt from an alternative school one of the Grand Children had to attend for a while, "The Learning Academy" (The school name is on the shirt). When people that have never heard of it ask where it is I tell them to look around. I feel all of us learn as we go. That might be more true for caregivers than others.

    When I saw the photo I thought of how lucky you were not to be around Saint Joseph, Missouri. I'm afraid the flying pants would have gotten you pulled over around here. Never lose your sense of humor. It has been said that a good sense of humor is one of our best medicines. To people (Like me) that drive 4X4's in the mid west "the handle bar toward the inside roof of the car," is the OH S#1+! handle. You have come up with a use for it that I'd never thought of.

    God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

  11. Yes! I think people from here call it that too :-) A combination of Alzheimer's and another disease must be so difficult. God bless you for all you do!

  12. Ooh, I think we have similar thoughts about how to blog about our mothers. The headline of this post drew me to it first. I both love and hate this story, of course, having had similar experiences. I, too, have no children, but feel like I am learning new parenting lessons every day. Thanks for visiting my blog, and take care!