The quest to bathe Grandma

It may not qualify as Herculean, but it's no small feat getting Grandma to take a shower.

It may not qualify as Herculean, but it’s no small feat getting Grandma to take a shower.

Brave Perseus beheaded Medusa.

A laundry list of tasks stood between Jason and the golden fleece.

And Odysseus had to squeak by Scylla and Charybdis to get that gig named after him.

Maybe my quest pales in comparison. But these guys all had the gods helping them out. Listen well and you shall hear how I bathed Grandma armed with nothing but a detachable shower head and a really big towel.

I woke up Sunday morning with a sense of dread I couldn’t quite place. I knew I didn’t have to go to work, and I’d volunteered the night before. Then I remembered: it was Grandma’s bath day. The mere thought sent me back to sleep for several hours.

Eventually I had no choice but to face my fate. I gave Grandma her morning meds and reminded her it was bath day.  Before I could even finish the excuses started. “I haven’t had my breakfast yet, and I didn’t sleep well last night,” she protested. “That’s OK, I’ll be down later when you’ve had a chance to wake up,” I stalled.

I’d bought myself time, but I couldn’t enjoy the day with the task hanging over my head. Finally, around 2:00, I went back downstairs. “Why don’t you get ready to take your shower and I’ll be back down in a little while,” I said. “Where’s your helper?” Grandma slyly asked. “Tam’s busy. I’m giving you your bath today,” I said. “That’s right,” I thought as I went back upstairs, “Sunshine has the day off. Today you’re dealing with the War Department.”

Knowing Grandma’s pace, I vacuumed and cleaned upstairs for a good half hour. When I came back down, she was still milling around aimlessly. “You need to warm that bathroom up,” she reminded me, despite the fact the basement was already uncomfortably warm. I started to protest, but I already knew Grandma approached showers like an ordinary person approached a pit of vipers: fully armed, with no sudden movements and ready to shriek at the slightest thing — all against a backdrop of jungle-like humidity.

After what seemed like an eternity, the bathroom was suitably scorching, the clean clothes were in place, a protective shower cap covered Grandma’s head, and the water was warm — but not too warm. I held her arm as she stepped over the base of the shower door, but she still reached for the water control for balance. “Don’t touch that. It won’t support you and you’ll make the water too hot,” I told her. “I’ve got your arm, just sit down.” She grabbed for the water again before sitting down on the built-in bench. “I need my washcloths! Two of them!” she ordered from the bench. Knowing better than to ask why two, I grabbed them from the shelf and handed them to her.

If you’ve ever tried to stand outside a shower and hold a removable shower head, soap up a washcloth and completely avoid getting wet in the process, you have some idea how the next few minutes went. I handed Grandma the soapy washcloth and stared at the ceiling counting to infinity as I held the water down by her legs. When she’d finished her front it was time for the next feat of simultaneously holding the water, steadying her arm and washing her back. I wished in vain for an opposable big toe or a third arm.

It was impossible to keep the shower head pointed at her feet for this portion of the proceedings, so every time the water got within a foot of her head, she shrieked. By the fourth time I was ready to accidentally-on-purpose spray her in the face, but like all great heroes, I resisted temptation and carried on.

Finally the water portion of the shower was over. But we weren’t finished. We still faced the drying off. The redressing. The water sopping up. The mat rehanging. For someone with no interest in personal hygiene, Grandma is uncannily particular about everything associated with the post-bath experience. I completed these tasks in a whirlwind because if I spent another five minutes in the bathroom my flesh would melt. Once her camisole and underwear were on, she shuffled by me and headed for her living room chair.

Once she was seated, there were a few more shrieks when I placed the sacred sponges between the designated toes, plus one “Ewwwww” for good measure when I put the fresh pair of socks on her gnarled old feet. With a final burst of patience, I helped her put on her two blouses and whatever those things are that cover her legs but are not pants.  At last, the quest was complete.

I grabbed her dirty clothes and headed for the stairs, surprised to hear a “thank you” as I left. At the last minute I realized I didn’t have the mysterious second washcloth …  But Grandma was clean, and the quest was complete. Only a fool would go back.

Image credit: ariwasabi / 123RF Stock Photo

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7 thoughts on “The quest to bathe Grandma

  1. Kudos to you for your patience and caring. One day, we will all be those ‘grandmas’ who need help with the most basic tasks. Your post brought back memories of my own dear grandmother. Very funny! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Hooray for hospice | Grandma Drives Me Crazy

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