Last Thursday, just before my parent’s return, my sister realized she had to do the obligatory base touching she was asked to do while they were out of town.
I was having some gastric distress; cramps and wind, enough that I had to cancel any plans for a last blow-out before my parents arrived. I may be able to struggle through work with gas & such, but trying to claim fun while blowing out the wrong way, well, a bit too much for me.
My parents have been feeling that this was their last trip, that it is just too much, especially for my father, who has to be the engine that pushes my mother to her dreams. With the bad hip and the slowed ticker, it’s almost impossible for him.
The plan was that my mother would use her scooter to get around, but she soon decided that going about alone is no fun, so she didn’t. And that cost is no surprise; she “doesn’t like to make decisions,” so a half hour wait between when she announces she wants to be pushed to the can and the actual trip is routine. Routine and vastly frustrating as she acts like a petulant and wilful child.
“I guess I’ll just clean up their shit until they don’t shit anymore,” I said to my sister on Thursday.
This week has been the test.
I was really sick on Monday, as I got the car unpacked and the laundry started. I just reheated a stew I made for their supper, and fell asleep around 6 PM with explosive diarrhoea. I was hurting bad and laid low.
I tried to recover on Tuesday, but it was Wednesday when my father was sick; their bedroom carpeting was splattered from sidetable to toilet, the sheets were messed, all that. I even had to give him a sponge bath to clean his shit-spattered legs. He went through 10 pairs of underpants, all wet and soiled.
Thursday night, though, he got the chills and got weak. Covers, all; I even had to hold him up to help him go. He didn’t even have the strength to use the phone to call down to me; I felt so bad I missed his moans.
To see him, an old man, this frail and dissipated, well, impossible not to imagine a future. The image of him, naked and androgynous from the decade old prostate treatment, well, the cycle from baby to aged seemed almost complete.
He had strength back Friday, though he still asked for help with his long elastic socks. He’s better today, but clearly with absolutely no reserves.
My mother, though, is back in her recliner in the living room, TV on all night, as it was when I slept on the couch next to her so I could hear if either of them. Even as my father tries to clean the rug with wet, smeary underwear, and I need to come back with pine cleaner, my mother lies in her own filth, waiting as long as she can and then expecting others to mop up her leaked waste. As readers know, my view of what I do here is not to take care of my mother, but rather to help my father take care of my mother; my attention to her is to make his life easier.
It’s been a tough week, with my own bowels tied into knots with the stress of resuming denial, though being on the phone twice a day while they were away never let me really enter a world beyond their limited expectations. It’s the second year my mother wanted to know what was wrong with my eyebrow, and the second year I wanted to swat her in furious frustration. They both don’t get it in different ways; my father wants to do the right thing but can’t pick up the cues, while my mother can pick up the cues, but has no real commitment to anything but her own self-pity. They offer lip-service to my future, but their real needs are temporal and pressing.
Clean up their shit until they shit no more.
Just live in the splatter.