Bike Ride Part Two: Time for a Bath

After my trip through Meiners Oaks, I cycle over to my parents’ private, deluxe nursing home on Fairview Road. My timing is perfect, as my dad is trying to convince my mom to wash her hair.

My father and two younger sisters can handle almost every aspect of my mom’s care without me, except for one thing. I am the only member of the family who has succeeded in coercing my mother to sit on her shower stool and actually take a full bath. If you want to know how strong a thin, ninety-two-year-old woman can be, try moving my mom from her easy chair into the tub!

I tell my dad to relax—that I’ll handle giving my mom a shower. But first I have to butter her up. My mom asks the same questions over and over again. She can’t remember the last time she had a bath, what day it is, or who the neighbor is, but she still speaks five languages. Her favorite thing is teaching me Spanish. So I sit on the floor near her easy chair while she reads out loud from her lesson book.

After about ten minutes of Español and joking about my weight (my skinny parents cannot get over how fat I am), I nonchalantly suggest to my mom that this is a good time for a bath.

“A bath? Are you crazy? I don’t need a bath. Why should I take a bath? Do I smell?”

My sisters and I have threatened her a hundred times that if she doesn’t bathe then we will have to hire a stranger or put her in a nursing home. She poo-poos our threats and tells us to leave her alone. “Mind your own business. I can wash myself—I don’t need you!”

I finally get my mom up from her chair. At first she refuses to walk. She yells for my father to save her, and then curses him for being on my side. Then she yells for the police. Finally, she appears to throw in the towel and makes her way toward the bathroom, me right behind her in case she falls. Then, in the hallway, instead of veering toward the bathroom door she walks right past it and straight into her bedroom. “You are not as quick as you think!” she yells gleefully and quickly slams and locks the door.

My best strategy for getting my mom in the shower is to wait till she’s on the toilet and then steer her onto her shower stool right after she gets off the toilet. But it’s too late for that trick today.

Ten minutes later she opens the door, and angrily agrees to have her hair washed in the kitchen sink. I quickly clear the dishes, grab towels and shampoo, stick a basin in the sink, and fill it with water. Despite all her yelling that I use way too much shampoo and her threats to disown me, I love washing my mom’s hair and scrubbing her scalp and neck.

After she’s all rinsed and dried off, with her damp clothes removed and her bathrobe on, she orders me to get out of the house—now!

An hour later my father calls to thank me. I can hear my mom playing the piano in the background, her ordeal forgotten. “She smells so good,” my dad says.

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