Sunday, April 15, 2007

Giving Mom a Bath



As I helped her ease down to the stool in the shower, gingerly careful of her broken shoulder, and lathered her hair with minty shampoo and ran a soapy washcloth across her back...

I thought about all the times she bathed me. She'd sit on the toilet lid as I splashed around with with my washcloth and yellow squeaky duckie.

I thought about how when I was growing up she wrote out a dinner menu and stuck it with a magnet to the side of the fridge. Monday, Meatloaf, string beans, ice cream. Tuesday, Baked Chicken, potatoes and salad, cookies. There were always vegetables and dessert. She shopped every Sunday to buy all the ingredients needed for the week because in addition to raising three kids and a husband (!) she worked as a school nurse.

I thought about how she used to hang all the clothes that needed ironing in a closet and then once a week fold out the ironing board, heat up the iron, and make all our clothes presentable.

I thought about how she volunteered as a nurse at a camp summer after summer so my sister and I could attend a ritzy camp for free. For her, it was a summer of dispensing medications and tending to kids with stomach aches. For us, it was a summer of horseback riding, waterskiing, hiking, archery, and campfires.

I thought about how she used to sit on my bed when I was cozy in my pajamas. She'd be holding a cellophane-covered book we'd gotten from our weekly visit to the library. I'd read one page and she'd read the next, and she'd let me turn the pages.

I thought about how she once told me, "Don't ever worry about my feelings or what I think when you're writing. Write whatever you want." She was telling me to feel free to be myself as a writer and a person.

I thought about how, after 48 years of marriage, she lost her husband--my father--last month. And then a week later she fell and broke her shoulder. And I thought about how no matter what I do now to help her make it through, I will never be able to repay her.
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