How do you thank someone for wiping your ass?
Well, maybe not doing that exactly, but helping you go, and cleaning up after you and helping with all the other messy bits of being human.
It turns out that there are many things it’s just impossible to say thanks for. We can thank our parents for the encouragement and the cash, but it’s a blessing that since we are too young, we don’t really have to thank them for the diapering and holding our hair while we vomit.
My mother came home from her bus trip to see the Radio City Christmas Extravaganza all hunched over. The walk from Bryant Park to Rockefeller Center was so tough, even with her roller, that she couldn’t even get back into the bus. They’d misjudged some timing and so even though I woke them at 5:45, boiled the coffee water and offered egg salad — a tradition from my grandmother Ruby — it started a stretch and remained that all day.
Back, I made grilled cheese & ham, grilling the ham first, I bandaged broken blisters, offered comfortable clothes, and helped pull her up from the seat. It was a late night helping her upstairs, and the next day, dinner was served in her room, just more caretaking.
Important stuff, all of it, but the kind of messy human stuff that we don’t really want to talk about. It’s even the kind of stuff we don’t have words to talk about, the pre-language muss of a body.
It’s one thing to feel gratitude for something clear and full of pride, another to feel gratitude for something we should be doing for ourselves in private, something we want to do for ourselves in private, something in which we feel less than mature needing help.
Still, we know that it is imporant that someone is there to do the simple, messy human things that we frail humans need help with. When we can’t do what is needed, well. . . .
I got a Thanksgiving card in the mail from my mother. She forgot and put a stamp on it, leading me to think about how we need to get her more of those nice stamps she likes. I also noticed the stickers we found in the mall, where I had to push the wheelchair slowly so her wide hips wouldn’t build friction heat where the wheels rubbed.
Take care –
thank you for all you do
Mom + Dad
Sweet and simple.
But I know that those words are just what she can say, the slim face of unspeakable thanks that don’t lend themselves to words, the thanks for being safe and caring when she is less strong than she would like to be, less capable than she hopes to be, and more vulnerable than she can speak about.
It’s good to be there and not make judgements, to just do with the grace of discretion, which is the true soul of privacy, to maintain the elegant dignity of a human spirit against the inherent crap of flesh. It is what needs to be done.
And it’s good, too, to be rewarded with unspeakable thanks.
Thanks to each and everyone of you, thanks for what I can speak about, and most of all thanks for what remains potent, gracious and unspeakable.