Towel, wash cloth, clean sheets and nightgown are ready and placed in the staging area, the dining room table, along with the shampoo caps, barrier cream, bed pads, and cleanser that, Needs No Water! to rinse. Hospice is here, time for the thrice weekly bath ritual.
First, she is asked, ” Do you want to try a shower today?”
This choice leads to the great move; lower the bed, raise the head, back up to a seated position, slide the legs to the side, off the bed, slowly ever slowly, lean onto the walker, feet lowering, flat on the floor, ready, go.
Once up, we stand either side of her as she slides and scoots the 15 feet to the bathroom, where the door closes and the Hospice aide, Angel, takes over.
I return lower the bed flat, strip the sheets, pillow cases too, every time, and place them into the wash, gotta be ready for next time. Turn the mattress, plastic pad under and over the crisp clean white fitted sheet, beach towel is tucked in then, across the bed, a trick I have learned for ease in lifting and rolling to a comfortable position. Top sheet next, tuck in one side, duvet shaken outside, then floated atop, fluffy cloud folded down, almost ready.
Back raised again, lowered all the way down, pillows are shaken and get fresh cases, there, done. The bed looks like an ad from Target, blue roses, cottage collection, happy, crisp white sheets, shams perfectly placed. Lavender candle fills the room, TV off, The Essential Roy Orbison ON. Blinds open, curtains open sunshine in. Good Girl is pleased.
This is the same ritual we do for THE bathroom walk, only no sheet change, just a rush to straighten out the cursed wrinkles that she feels beneath her body, I have begun to think of the story, ” The Princess and the Pea”.
Hilda is a camel and her once daily bathroom break comes so late at night when one is so bone tired that it makes you weep for sleep, usually around midnight.
” I think I’ll go to the bathroom”.
But I digress.
“Or do you want a bed bath today? It’s up to you,”
This choice leads to a modest retreat to the driveway where there is a patio, coffee, and an about an hour of “free” time. Modesty is maintained, for her sake as well as my own, I know the time is coming where this luxury will no longer be afforded. Griff and I start our morning cross word and coffee ritual. He does it in pen and blames any errors on American versus English English. I pretend he is a genius and correct on every clue. I have learned to shut up and nod, it works for any conversation. There are times I feel badly about this, but it is a purely a self-survival manoeuvre, there is a depth to my emotional well and I can feel the bottom rising.
“I think I’ll try a shower today, thankyou.”
For every sip of water, every pill, every morsel given, there comes Thank you.
Every task is met with it, served along with it a conscious attempt to smile, followed by a full helping of direct soul connecting eye contact. I try to stay busy busy task oriented, wash wash clean up cook the supper busy, but I am no match for this. This thank you forces you to be present in the moment, there is no escape, I feel as if I am falling, falling toppled over like looking into the eyes of your newborn child. Swept away.
Reverse now, scoot to the bed, sit, back against the back, legs put up, beach towel rolled one each side, one, two-three, lift, center her on the bed, she winces, liquid morphine dispensed, bitter nasty says she, and then it comes.
The Thank you.
I brush her hair, the thick grey root line grows, it so much more beautiful than the mousey brown of the rest, I try to imagine what she would look like with that sparkling silver hair all over. For a moment I think of letting my hair grow its natural grey, give the creeping silver permission to cover my head. I shake it off, too vain.
Hilda closes her eyes, then startles awake like an infant, before finally settling in to a deep sleep.
Kettle on cuppa tea comfort coming, I say, Thank you.