A Bother to you
August 10, 2017
Why are you yelling at your mother?
August 10, 2017

Voices: Mary and Me

Bed Bathing for Childless Daughters

I have no idea why, but in retrospect I anticipated that the point at which Mary could no longer be put in the shower would be the most important milestone for me in her decline. I had no problem with the concept or actuality of changing diapers, but I couldn't imagine getting her clean enough with a plastic tub of water and wash cloth. She wouldn't be clean if I couldn't hose her down with running water and she would therefore, be dirty or smelly or suffer the loss of dignity. Inability to get in the shower even with help seemed to be as close to the end as I could imagine because I already knew that not eating was the final marker to the end of her life. I was comfortable with the end, but I couldn't see through to the long hard period before the end. Not being able to be washed in running water of the shower was therefore the end before she left me forever. I imagined a bed bath would take hours and be uncomfortable for her and likely I would be ineffective in doing it right. Bathing was my issue.

When it came that I, being scheduled on morning shift, was the one to give the bed bath it wasn't at all what I imagined. Now, on Saturday mornings for example, I run the water to hotter than what would be comfortable in the tub or shower because temperature would likely feel cooler to Mary with evaporation when not sheltered by shower water. I add just a dash of peppermint or lavender Dr Bronner’s soap. I start at the top with her face and chest and back. I wash her hands between the fingers. Then, I skip the middle and move to her feet and legs and then back to the middle. The towel is ready. It doesn't take too long because I am totally in my groove. Focused. Uninterruptible.

Being a childless daughter, I found a new fulfillment possibly like the euphoria of new mothers, coincidentally brought on by my morning shift assignment. In retrospect, giving Mary a slightly fragrant, hot bed bath has become the bonding ritual we share which compared to other tasks is Mary and me, and Mary smells good.

Thyme N. Haff

2012 June nine


Bathe verb. To immerse the body, or any part of it in water or other liquid, for the sake of some effect (e.g health, warmth, cleansing) promoted by the action of the liquid. Bathing is the washing or cleansing of the body with a fluid, usually water or an aqueous solution. It may be practiced for personal hygiene, religious ritual or therapeutic purposes or as a recreational activity

adapted from Wikipedia.org/bathe