Wednesday, 1 July 2015

I Can Still Wipe My Own Ass, Mostly

"At least I can still wipe my own ass". It's a quote, sort of, from "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom, a book chronicling the descent of Morrie Schwartz through ALS. Later, at one point in the book, Morrie confides that he can no longer wipe his own ass. The book presents it as an event, but really it isn't; it's a process of decline that we all go through with ALS.

I can still wipe my own ass, mostly. When I am at home I have the bidet seat to help me with cleanliness in that part of my anatomy. On some days, however, cleanliness is not only next to Godliness; it's next to impossible. Some days, no matter what I do, I need help in that arena. These days happen rarely at home, but they happen more often out here on the road.

Without the bidet seat, cleaning my derriere means using a washcloth. The process starts with the normal route, toilet paper. I have trouble reaching under me because of the failing muscles in my legs and my inability to contort. I can't stand, nor even lift slightly, to aid in the cleaning process. So I do my best with paper, then finish the job, if you will, using a wet washcloth. It can be a messy business sometimes. Every once in a while, it is also an incomplete business. This discovery is usually recognized when I make the transfer, discovering a stain on the toilet seat where I sat for the transfer.

After discovering my failing attempts, the next steps can get embarrassing. When I am alone, I try again or simply accept that my underwear are going to take a beating that day. Or I head straight for the shower if I can. When Katherine is with me, she will take charge, ordering me face down on my bed, cleaning what I can no longer clean. I don't know how she does it, but she manages to do this task without negative comment, without attitude, without emotion. She just says "It has to be done."

I have often said that PALS need to be careful not to turn their lover into a care giver. My assumption has always been that it affects the other person to have to spend so much time with difficult tasks like this, that they begin to look at their partner more as a patient. It turns out the effect is as much in the me as Katherine. She doesn't seem to mind; I have difficulty dealing with it.

I can still wipe my own ass. It won't be that way forever. The difficulties I have now will only increase. I will need more and more help, until one day it's only the help that allows me to wipe my ass. It's a tough thing to deal with.

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