Monday, 10 November 2014

A Beautiful Woman

About 90 minutes ago a beautiful young woman walked into my apartment. Carmel coloured skin, slender and lithe, only 27 years old, she laughed as she talked to me, encouraging me to get into my bed. There she adjusted my legs and hips, then climbed in, settling herself beside me, focused on what was to come. Her soft hands, her gentle smile, her dark lips and deep brown eyes, all there and waiting for me.

She moistened her lips, spread her knees to steady herself, and grabbed my legs, taking full measure in the effort that is a part of my routine every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. She exercised my calves, my thighs, my hips and even my arms. She massaged the cold out of my toes and gently held my knees as she raised and lowered my legs. In the end, she left me exhausted, unable to move, ready for sleep. She is good at her work, wearing me out quickly, working me out completely.

It all sounds good, but she is the home care worker who arrives every Monday, a lovely young woman from East Africa. She is all business, focused on the serious work of keeping me as mobile and flexible as possible for as long as possible. Her attentions cause me to ache and groan, as unattended muscles are reminded that, even if there are no signals from my brain telling them to do so, they must yet move. She chatters at me as she works, keeping things light and keeping me moving.

I often think of the comment of another PALS, a fellow now dead, who was fully consumed by ALS. He needed help with almost every aspect of his life, including bathing, dressing and moving about. He once complained that "dozens of women have seen my junk, and not an 'Oh wow' between them." I sometimes wonder what these women think about as they care for my body. I know the thoughts that run through my mind primarily revolve around the pain and ache that even dead muscles can cause. Sometimes I just let my mind go blank, so I can escape the counterfeited intimacy; I leave and go elsewhere, waiting for the job to be done.

It is an odd part of ALS, to need someone, a stranger in most cases, to come and care for you in the most intimate of ways. It is the kind of thing where you need someone with no emotional connection, no intent to move from ersatz to reality, someone who can focus on the business at hand without connection to the emotions involved. I need to be stretched; she is the person who stretches me. That is all.

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