Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What We Did On Our Night Off

The fake purple flowers, the soft gray tones, the rose accents pillows, the comfortable couches, a lovely meeting room, big flat screens, expensive stackable chairs, the best fluorescent lights money and funding can buy…

It's the Alzheimer Chapter's Tuesday night “How to Bath your Batty Mother-Father-Husband-Wife-Aunt-Sister” workshop!  How to bath them without them freaking out, screaming, crying, wailing and punching the shit out of you.

The workshop facilitators start the workshop with a video. I never saw anyone like my mother before but here she is, appearing as a frightened and bewildered ancient skinny bald white guy with boney sticks for legs, a not-as-ancient-but-pretty old Black woman who is very Christian judging from the prayers she is crying out, a middle-aged plump, blond with a southern accent clutching a dolly begging to be left alone…

I see and hear Florence in their crying and screaming and flying fists and shouted fears, yelling they are being hurt and it’s cold and it’s wet and they don’t want to fall and…

I look around. The room is packed with lots of people who suddenly finds themselves not in the relationship they started out in years before.  The faces are fierce and tired and the questions loaded and desperate.

**She took him on an expensive cruise he wouldn't shave should she try to shave him?

**Why did he stop playing the piano?

**He lies about bathing but won't let anyone in the bathroom with him.

**She is hiding soiled underwear and…

We are all clutching the remnants of someone as they slip out of our grasp and begin a plummet into insanity that only comes when something inside the head starts eating the brain for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"Lower your standards," the facilitators tell us.

Florence, once crisp in her chic pants she got for $2 at the flea market at Coney Island, a bit of silk flare around her neck, a jaunty man's jacket that made Hepburn look dull, her old Stride-Rite snappy heels… now in diapers and cheap $10 sweatpants that pill after only one wash.

 I turn to the wall and bury myself in my workshop notes so no one sees me cry.

After tonight there will be no more baths. The baby wipes will do just fine.