Essaying the Situation
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Song of the Washer-ing Women
    My mother and I sing the following song every morning for anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes, depending on how slow she and I are moving. Every morning it includes improvisations that may or may not have previously included. I've written in as many improvisations as I can remember of the hundreds that have been created since we began sink bathing her on October 26, 2003. The basic structure of the song, though, is always the same, every day, usually once a day, very occasionally twice.
    Every day, for a couple of months, now, I've realized that this song should be recorded here as a dedication to all caregivers who bathe their Ancient and/or Infirm and/or Just Beginning Ones. This is the most important song we sing with those for whom we care. It is always the first song of the day (even if it is repeated throughout the day), it allows us to draw a bead on each others' moods, sets the tone for the day and the accompanying dance, through a smoothly accelerating idle, revs our Beloved Care Recipients for the rest of the day.
    Feel free to sing along and add your own verses.

First Verse
Mom:  [sitting on the edge of her bed] My, did I sweat, last night! I'm soaked with it!
Me:  That's not sweat, Mom, that's urine.
Mom:  [glaring at me suspiciously] I don't think so. I think you're wrong.
Me:  Mom, your bladder has been leaking profusely at night for over a year. Beleive me, that's urine. If it isn't, there's definitely something wrong because, I can tell you, you're sweat smells exactly like urine! [she comically mugs her displeasure with what I've said] Take off night shirt, put on bed, not over the edge...good. Thank you. Arise! Let's get you bathed.
Mom:  And shine! I don't think I'll bathe today. [Mom rises from the edge of the bed and stretches.] Ohh, that felt good!
Me:  It looked like it felt good. You don't have a choice about bathing. I'm not going to let you marinate in your urine all day. Okay, you know the drill. Into the bathroom, sit down on open toilet, take off underwear, throw it away in garbage, not on floor, not in bathtub.
Mom:  Throw it away?!? Why?!?
Me:  Because it's paper, and it's soaked.
Mom:  Well, I hope we have more, then!
Me:  We've got lots. Now, go, now that you're practically naked, the only warm place is in the bathroom. Go! I'm going to strip your bed, spray it and I'll be right in.
Mom:  Spray it!?! With What?!?
Me:  Vinegar water. Go, before you freeze!
Mom:  Why are you spraying my bed with vinegar water?!?
Me:  The party line is that it's to clean your urine off your bed, but the real reason is to kill your kooties! Now go!
Second Verse
[Accompaniment for the following verse: A constantly running sink.]
Me:  Okay, last pill, open up...nope, nope, nope, don't touch it, your hands are covered with urine...good girl...okay, water...
[Mom raises her hand, waves away the water]
Me:  You don't have a choice, you're dehydrated, drink up, you may not be thirsty, but your body is...good, one more gulp...
Mom:  That's enough.
Me:  Okay, give me your left foot.
[I wash her left foot]
Let me know if the water temperature is uncomfortable.
Mom:  If it is, I'll kick you!
Me:  Whoa! You're in rare form today! Okay, right foot.
[I wash her right foot.]
Okay, lift left foot only.
[I lift the left half of the towel on which her left foot has been resting, throw it over the right foot, while holding her left foot.]
No, No, leave your right foot down, keep it under the towel. Thank you.
[I position a clean towel beneath her raised left foot, then support her left foot and rinse it.]
Okay, you may now raise your right foot.
[I pull the wet towel out from underneath her right foot, throw it behind me into the bathtub, pull the clean towel underneath her right foot, support this foot and rinse it.]
Mom:  [wriggling her toes] That feels good. You can keep doing that.
Me:  [soaping up the blue washcloth] I'll do it again, tonight, when I rub lotion on your legs. Now, you get to wash your face while I wash your left leg. Here.
Mom:  [snuggling her hands and face in the wash cloth] Mmmm, warm.
Me:  [while I'm soaping up the green washcloth] Wash all over face, both sides and forehead, to the hairline, wash ridges around nose, behind ears, front and back of neck, scrub, scrub, scrub, do everything twice, avoid eye area so you don't...dut, dut, dut...[a little louder] avoid eye area so you don't get soap in your eyes, we'll get that during rinses...
[I wash her left leg, keeping my eye on her face and neck progress]
Me:  Don't forget neck, scrub, scrub, scrub...
Mom:  I did my neck...
Me:  No you didn't, I was watching...
Mom:  How can you watch from down there?!?
Me:  I have eyes on the top of my head...come on...get that urine off your neck, behind ears...good girl...
Mom:  [picking through the hair on the top of my head with her free hand while I squat at her feet] My goodness, girl, one, two, three, four, you've got more than one pair of eyes, up there...
Me:  I don't recall that I specified how many eyes I have up there...
Mom:  Well, you didn't get those from me, you must have gotten them from your father.
Me:  Really?!? I got the eyes in the back of my head from you, I know that from when I was little, you always used to talk about the eyes in the back of your head. I assumed I got the others from you, too.
Mom:  Nope, not from me.
[I'm on my feet now, at the sink, wetting the rinse cloths, so I reach over and teasingly sort through her hair]
Me:  No, I guess you're right. My mistake.
Mom:  Let that be a lesson.
[I hand her a wet rinse washcloth, wet my own]
First rinse, face. You can do your eye area, now, first, before rinsing anything else, so you don't get soap in your eyes. Pretend you have soap on that washcloth, scrub, scrub, scrub...
[while I direct her I'm rinsing her left leg], you're not done yet, get all your face, up to the hairline, behind your ears, scrub, scrub, scrub, ah, ah, ah, you didn't get your neck...
Mom:  Yes, I did!
Me:  That was while you were washing. You need to rinse it now, scrub, scrub scrub...
...excellent, third rinse, scrub, scrub, scrub...get the last of the soap off...
Mom:  You forgot to rinse my leg a second time.
Me:  I already did. I'm faster than you. Wanna race?
Mom:  No, you get up earlier than me.
Me:  Okay, left arm only, start with fingers, scrub, scrub, scrub, between fingers...
Mom:  [holding up left index finger, she asks with exaggerated innocence] How do I wash between this finger?
Me:  Touche. Wash between all fingers, individually, all the way down to the knuckles, scrub, scrub...
Mom:  scrub...
Me:  [smiling] Very good, Missus Hudson, you may advance to the next step, top and bottom of hand...
Mom:  scrub, scrub, scrub...
Me:  [while I'm stopped, soaping her right leg]...all the way around forearm...
Mom:  I only have two arms...
Me:  No you don't, you have four arms on each side.
Mom:  You don't have four arms.
Me:  That's because I take after my father.
[we both laugh]
All the way around the upper arm, under the arm, scrub the armpit, don't swab it, get this area right here [running my finger along the bottom of her upper arm] there you go, top of shoulder...
Mom:  I already did that!
Me:  No you didn't, I was watching, I have eyes on the sides of my head...
Mom:  Now, those you got from me.
Me:  Ah, ah, ah, left arm only, no cross contamination here...
[handing her a rinse cloth] Okay, first rinse, left arm only, start with fingers, in between all fingers individually, all the way down to the knuckles...
Mom:  You learn quickly.
Me:  I got that from my and bottom of hand, scrub, scrub, scrub...all the way around the first of your four arms on your left side...
Mom:  Smarty!
Me:  You know what I think is funny...scrub that armpit, don't swab it, get all that urine contaminated soap off, come on, top of the shoulder, back of the shoulder...
Mom:  No telling.
Me:  Now that we know that people inherit their intelligence from their mother's side...get that area under your upper arm that you always miss...there you go, here, second rinse, left arm only...
Mom:  [primps with her free hand] Naturally.
Me:  That kind of shoots men marrying for beauty all to hell, doesn't it. And, what's the point, then, of women marrying for brains?!? We may as well marry for brawn.
Mom:  That's a good idea. Maybe I'll do that, next time.
Me:  Come on, Mom, rinse the entire of the shoulder, too...okay, here you go, wash right arm only, starting with fingers...I think you did. Dad was incredibly strong, besides being smart.
Mom:  He was, wasn't he.
Me:  [I notice Mom examining something on the side of her forearm] What's that? Looks like another bruise. What do you do in bed at night, woman?!?
Mom:  I don't know. I wish I could remember. It sure looks like I'm having fun.
Me:  It sure does...start with fingers...I mean, I wonder, what was Nature thinking, letting us slip into attraction patterns that would seem to be exactly the opposite of what 'survival of the fittest' would demand, anyway...between all fingers, Mom, come on, all the way down to the knuckles, top and bottom of hand...
Mom:  Maybe Nature doesn't care whether we survive...
Me:  I know, maybe all Nature cares about is interesting stories that don't necessarily go anyplace...all around all four of your arms, over there, don't forget your elbow, inner and outer...
Mom:  Sounds reasonable to me.
Me:  Ah, ah, ah, get your upper arm, Mom, top of shoulder, armpit...
Mom:  I did!
Me:  You got three of them, but not the fourth.
Mom:  Like I said. Smarty!
Me:  Here, first rinse, right arm. Get all that soap off, all the way down to the knuckles, all your fingers, Mom...anyway, regarding Nature...
Mom:  What's the point of a plan if you can't have a little fun along the way?
Me:  Good point. Excellent, you did that without prompting! Here, second rinse, right arm...
Mom:  I think tomorrow I'll take a bath.
Me:  Don't forget the top of your shoulder, Mom, you did good on the armpit and know, I know you long to take a bath, I wish you could, really I do, but, you know, I think [MCS] had a good point, since you're prone to urinary tract infections, now, you shouldn't be taking baths anymore. I don't suppose you'd consider sitting on a stool and taking a shower, would you? Okay, good. Arise and face me.
Mom:  Absolutely not! No showers!
Me:  I didn't think so. Step forward a little, don't stand on your hands, Mom, stand on your feet...don't hang from the bars, it's not good for your back. Well, then, I guess we'll be doing this for the rest of your life...
Mom:  I suppose so. Well, it's better than taking a shower.
Me:  Okay, well, that's good. [stooping to see how the creases at the tops of her thighs look] Well, this looks much better, Mom. That anti-itch cream does the trick. I think we'll keep using it. It looks like you never had a problem.
Mom:  Do you realize you have four washcloths in there? Why do you need four washcloths?!?
Me:  [washing her thigh creases and pubic area with one washcloth, then switching cloths and soap and washing her front torso] Two for washing, one for you and one for me, two for drying, one for you and one for me, then, when I'm the only one washing you I trade off. It's to avoid cross contamination. It's worth it, Mom. If they every have a "Cleanest Elderly Person" contest, you'd win hands down.
Mom:  Watch your language, girl! [she's referring to my use of the word "elderly"]
Me:  Okay. Cleanest person who's been around for at least 87 years. Hows that?!?
Mom:  Better. Not much. You already did that. [referring to me rinsing her again]
Me:  One good wash, two good rinses. That's my motto, Mom. Okay, let's dry you and put on the itch cream.
Mom:  You're motto lacks something in imagination. You need a new one. Don't you mean "anti-itch"?
Me:  [laughing] Oh, yeah, wouldn't that be funny, applying itch cream to that area!?!
Mom:  Not to me!
Me:  Okay, I won't use the itch cream, then, I'll use the anti-itch cream. Turn around so I can do your back. Center yourself over your legs. Don't hang on the bars. Looks good. No interesting things back here. We're doing good.
Mom:  I prefer to be interesting.
Me:  Trust me, Mom. You don't want your back ever to be as interesting as it was before I started washing it!
Mom:  Mmmmm, that feels good. Right there. Rub right there.
Me:  Hold on, I'll rub you better during the rinse. I don't want to rub soap into your skin. Okay, there. How's that?
Mom:  Good. Good. Scratch right there. Ohhh, good. Thank you.
Me:  We aim to please, Missus Hudson. Okay, here comes the part that both you and I hate.
[I take down the baby wipes, open the box and pull one out, preparing to wipe her backside and her uro-genitary area.]
Mom:  Is that really necessary?
Me:  Well, it's working to keep your urinary tract infections down. You haven't had one in three months, now. I'm sure your urethra has snapped back from all those catheters, but I don't want to tempt fate. Believe me, Mom, I don't do this for pleasure. If someone asked me to list my hobbies, I wouldn't put, "Cleaning my mother's ass" down as one of them.
Mom:  [she snickers, then mocks offense] Gail! Shame on you! You didn't learn to talk that way from me!?!
Me:  [snickering] Nope, you're right. I learned it from Dad. Thanks, Dad! Okay, I'm going to dry you off and put lotion on your back...Okay, turn around, let's finish you off. Cornstarch first...[reaching into the box of cornstarch, bringing out a handful]...yeah, I definitely like this cream stuff better, the cornstarch doesn't become glue up there. Okay, let me get your underwear, hold on...[I leave the bathroom, get two pairs of paper underwear from the closet, one small, one large, and return]...My goodness! There's a naked old lady in the bathroom!
Mom:  [laughing] A cute naked old lady!
Me:  And her cute, clothed daughter! [stooping with underwear] Okay, lift foot, from the thigh. Okay, lift other foot, from the thigh. Okay, lift other foot, from the thigh...
[my mother snickers]
Me:  Okay, let's put pants on...
Mom:  You only need to put them on two of my legs.
Me:  So, you want to be daring today, eh? Okay, your choice. You may sit down, now...nope, don't put your watch on yet, here, put out your hand for this...[I slap my hands together a couple of times, demonstrating how she needs to distribute the lotion between her hands]...that's right...distribute it evenly, okay, take one hand like this...[I place one of my hands palm down on the top of the other]...okay, take that stuff all the way up the arm, no, no, don't rub it in yet, distribute it all the way up, that's right, okay, do this with the other arm...[I demonstrate, again, with opposite hand and arm]...good, okay, rub that stuff in, up and down your arm, all around...[I mime rubbing lotion into my arms]...come on, rub that lotion glaze into your arms, that's right, take it all the way up to your shoulder, get the back of your arm, that's good...Okay. Good. Now you may put on your watch and glasses...[I retrieve her shirt and bra from the floor at the opposite end of the bathroom and drape them over the edge of the tub]...okay, here's your shirt and your bra...remember to latch your bra in front, swing it around and stuff your things into your thing holders...
Mom:  [directing a comic smirk my way] I thought I taught you better than that!
Me:  Okay, Mom, put your breasts in your thing holders, but explain this to me, if this is a thing holder, why aren't breasts called "things"?!?
Mom:  I'm going to have to sit you down and have a talk with you, child!
Me:  Let's do that over breakfast. Okay, [as I collect towels, cloths and soiled clothes] your house coat's hanging right here, when you're done and dressed meet me out in the dinette.
Mom:  I suppose when I get out there you're going to check to see that my "things" are in my "thing holders".
[She hates that I do this but, if I don't, she ends up wearing her bra around her neck before breakfast is over.]
Me:  Only if you don't want to make a little money on the side. Want me to get the change box out this morning?
Mom:  No, not this morning. Maybe tomorrow.
Me:  Okay. I'll see you in the dinette.

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