Sunday, July 31, 2016

Shit, Shave and Senseless

I shift my weight from one foot to the other and back again. The monologue in my head repeats on a loop:

“Take slow, deep breaths.” I breathe in, hold, release without sound.

“Look at him, not at the ceiling.” His skin lays wrinkled and loose on fragile bones. He strings together sounds to express what's going on inside his head, unintelligible bits of crooked puzzle pieces.

“Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” My father, who I once thought huge and larger than anyone I else I know, can't touch his feet to the floor as he sits in his blue, microfiber covered recliner. The chair occupies the middle of my living room, it's plush mountainous bulges contrasting sharply to my orange hardwood floors.

I’m late for work. My canvas bag, stuffed with my journal, tablet, a book on writing, my smart phone and a bottle of seltzer, digs into my left shoulder.

“Bathroom?” I’ve said it five times already, but number six lights up his face. He wants to know if he can go in the bathroom to get ready for the day. Shit, shave and shower. He needs to know explicitly if he can go into the bathroom and do his thing and I forgot to tell him before I headed for the door to leave.

Three hours before the bus comes to get him, he perches on the front edge of his chair, his body clenched, hands folded, fingers laced, wrists touching. I see him in grays, a still from the Dust Bowl during the thirties, lines of fatigue etched in his face, eyes haunted.

“You can use the bathroom.” I smile. I nod.

He rises, shuffles his feet into his gray slippers, shuffles across the room. The same path he shuffled yesterday. Routine matters. He carries a box of tissues in his left hand, tucked under his arm. He takes them into the bathroom. The door clicks shut. The razor buzzes.

I walk out the door crying.


  1. You have such a wonderful way of describing the harsh reality of the human condition.

  2. Rough to read, must be hard as hell to live. Hang tough.

  3. It's so hard to go through this, I know. My thoughts are always with you.
    My father needed help with everything towards the end. His sense of balance was gone, and my mother was the only one whom he trusted to transfer him. He hated the Sit to Stand lift that we ended up getting for him, but he was a very big man and it was becoming impossible for him to transfer him on her own any more.
    One time I was staying with him so she could go out for a while, and I am grateful that my ex husband (who has simply become family to me in the years since we divorced) was there with me, or I couldn't have transferred him to the commode when he needed to go. He kept yelling "I'm going to fall!"
    The resources that are available for elderly family members are a godsend, but there need to be more of them and they need to be free of charge. The elderly are the most quickly growing population in the United States, yet their needs are greatly underfunded and under-addressed.

    1. I'm sorry you went through that with your father.

      We are lucky where we are. We have the only center in our state that is fully paid by his Army benefits. It's erratic. The same company down the shore is not covered.

      I wouldn't know what to do without it.

  4. I can relate to this - my father has Alzheimer's.

  5. Wonderful, Nessa. Reminds me of a recurring dream I have.