Friday, June 12, 2015

These days, I catch myself caught up in virulent anger toward monstrously unjust social systems that most people either pardon outright or never think to question. And in quieter moments, I wonder at the endless connectivity of the human body with its universal environment.

In between, I never intend to not write, but there must be time for sleep.

Plans seem a luxury so extravagant that mindfulness is suddenly a convenience rather than an unmasterable skill. For now is good enough for now.

The sabbath and its requirements for worship has saved me from my usual restlessness on Sundays. I rise, prepare myself and my children for our Sacrament Meeting, and then, once it is over, I leave my ward to dress my husband and assist in the process of moving him into his wheelchair so that he may attend Sacrament Meeting with the tiny nursing home branch. I am still a grumbling mess of questions that are never answered in Sunday School or Relief Society, so the task of seeing to Mr. PNU's desire to worship soothes my inability to overlook doctrinal inconsistencies and the problem with platitudes.

A friend of mine, who's just entered the last third of his mission to Portugal, emailed me a few weeks ago with a quote he heard direct from Elder Bednar at a regional conference in Europe: "There is no doctrine other that what Jesus Christ has done for us, and what we can do for him."

I cling to this when contradictions crop up, and they do.

For the rest of the week there is a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday shower schedule by which I mark off the passing of days. I insist on being the one to care for my husband's bathing needs. And though this process takes anywhere from one to two hours start to finish, I relish each step in the meditation of cleaning the body.

First, I change into shorts, a sports bra, and a t-shirt. Next, I undress my husband and help the aides to transport him by human forklift into a bed-like apparatus on wheels, called the bath boat. I have assembled a number of hygiene items into a large mesh bag that I sling over my shoulder and then wheel my husband into the shower room. We have a favorite shower stall. Here I lay out the body wash, the shampoo, the bath gloves, five towels, two wash clothes, and a bottle of cocoa butter lotion before turning on the water. Once a week I use an electric razor to shave his neck and trim his beard first. Then I test the stream, running it over my own leg before turning it onto my husband's chest with the handheld shower head. He inevitably gasps each time even though he knows the water is coming. I drizzle the soap over his limbs and carefully lather, loosening any flaking skin with the gloves, scrubbing the human stink from his armpits, and then rinse the suds away. I wash his face and neck, groin and buttocks, and then remove the gloves to lather his hair with shampoo. I take extra time massaging his scalp and the back of his neck, leaning over him until my breasts brush his face and he lifts his head to kiss them. Finally, I rinse his hair and any remaining soap from his body before I turn the water off and begin laying fresh towels over his wet, exposed skin. He lays, swaddled for several minutes while I pat everything dry, and then I wheel him back into his room. An aide helps me transfer my husband back into bed, where a bath sheet is laid across the mattress to protect it from getting wet. The aide helps me to finish the drying and to tuck a new brief beneath my husband's buttocks, and then leaves me to dress him again. I slip the affected limbs into the clothing first, then adjust shirt and sweatpant openings so that Mr. PNU can finish pulling on each article. We use the different settings on the adjustable bed to facilitate pulling shirts down and pants up as the aides have taught us. I comb through my husband's philosopher-length hair, and bring him a toothbrush and spit cup for oral hygiene.

Once I've cleaned the bath clutter from his room, return items to the shower room, and taken soiled linens to the utility room, my husband is usually eager for me to sidle up next to him in the adjacent adjustable bed. And I do.

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