Thursday, October 20, 2005
I had to give my father a shower the other day.
It was Sunday morning and he and my sister had just come home after having breakfast at a local diner. She and I were talking in the kitchen when my father walked in between us and went into the bathroom.
A few seconds later the smell reached us and we knew what happened. My father had "an accident", as my mother would have said.
In other words, he shit in his pants.
Poor bastard. He's 84 years old, suffering from Alzheimer's and he's got to deal with this. We got his shoes off and I threw his underwear into the wash. My sister left and I went out to do some shopping, but when I got back the smell was still coming off him.
I told him to get undressed and saw the stains on the back of his legs. I got him into the shower and turned on the water; he was like an old circus elephant, once so powerful and terrifying, now docile and quiet as I hosed him down.
His doctor warned us that, as the disease progresses, my father will lose control of his bowels and I'm afraid that time has come. My sister thinks the huge breakfast he had at the diner may have upset his system and this would be a one-time occurrence. I hope she's right.
A short time ago I would have been traumatized by this: cleaning up shit and hosing down my father's naked body. I would have freaked and either run away or bitched the whole time. But I guess--I hope--I'm a little stronger, a little more mature. He took care of me when I crapped my diapers, so how can I complain now?
My mother once had an accident in the kitchen. She was terribly sick, as she had been most of her life, and her system couldn't hold it in.
I was in the bathroom at that time, getting ready for school or work, I'm not sure now it was so long. I just remember hearing my mother yelling outside the door and then it was too late. The whole kitchen floor was covered and my poor mother was mortified.
I got dressed and walked out of the house, leaving my father to do the clean-up.
Years later, when my mother's condition had worsened, she called me into the bathroom. She finally blurted out, "can you wipe my backside?" I did it and she shook her head sadly.
"Oh, Robert," she said, "there's no dignity."
No, there isn't. We hear all this crap--the real shit--about the Golden Years, and TV makes old people like cute little cartoon characters. But at some point it just goes downhill and there's nothing cute or dignified about it.
I was talking with my shrink tonight and he marveled at my ability to put things off, the novel, screenplays, relationships--pretty much life in general, as if I were going to live 400 years.
I panic when he talks this way because I know he's right. We have only a certain amout of time on this earth, if we're lucky, and only portion of that time is open for exploration and adventure. Then you're crapping your pants and being hosed down by your children.
I remember when my aunt's husband was in his final year. He had trouble getting around toward the end and my aunt told me to see and do things now before I got too old, because it would be late by then.
If life is so short, if life is so precious, then it's too short, too precious to waste time complaining or mooning over mistakes, or freaking when my father has an accident in his pants.
Yeah, I wished I moved to L.A. when I was 20, I wish I had done something to get into the film business, in any way, rather then becoming a reporter. What the hell was that anyway? Because it was writing? Christ, painting billboards is writing too and at least then I wouldn't have to work in an office.
I can make excuses, but that's another waste of precious time. I can only deal with now, I can only apply myself to my various projects and hope one of them pans out.
And if there are any more accidents, I'll clean them up and get back to work.