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Archive for November, 2010

I haven’t had a bath in years.  In certain times in our history, and in certain cultures of the world today, that wouldn’t be such an odd thing.  But you say that in the good ol’ US of A, and people look at you like you’ve just declared underwater basket weaving to be the greatest sport ever conceived.

So let me clarify:  we take showers at our house.  Ease of use is the big reason – just hop in, lather up, rinse off and out you go.  No waiting for the tub to fill up, no fighting off the cat who just has to play with the bubbles and inevitably falls in, and no temptation to lean back and fall asleep, to emerge a gigantic prune an hour later.  Another reason is that the bath tubs provided in tract-built SoCal homes are barely big enough to be foot baths for the likes of my husband and me.  We’ve come to the conclusion that what contractors and manufacturers determine to be “normal” sized has actually been measured against the Oompa-Loompas from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The downstairs bathroom has the usual shower/tub combo.  The tub is the “standard” size for a residential home.  That being, about 4.5 feet long by about 1.5 feet wide by about a foot deep.  Go check out your own tub, and you’ll probably come close to this.  Now, find a NFL linebacker and put him in your tub.  Add water.  If you manage to get more than three cups of water in without it overflowing, than your linebacker is too small and probably needs to be traded.  Otherwise, you now have a pretty good idea what it’s like for me and my husband to try and take a bath in something considered “normal” sized.  We look longingly at four-person hot tubs, thinking “Wow. I might actually be able to stretch out in that.”  Note the singular, by the way.

And upstairs in the master bath, they thought they’d get all fancy and we have a shower stall separate from the tub.  Now, mind you, the shower stall is barely three feet square, so putting the likes of one of us in it becomes an exercise in contortionism, but we’ve been in far smaller (or no stall at all) while camping, so it’s not that big of a deal.  The tub, however, makes me wonder if somewhere someone shrunk the blueprints and never told the builder.  It’s supposed to be one of those nice little soaker tubs, a lovely oval with plenty of surround for all the candles and bath salts you’ll be using.  It’s four feet long, two feet wide at the widest point, and ten inches deep.  Yup, ten inches deep.  If I could lay flat on my back in the thing, my nose would stick up past the rim.  At least we know I wouldn’t drown.

I actually tried taking a bath in the upstairs tub shortly after we moved into the house, thinking that it would be a nice, relaxing thing to do after the three hour one-way commute from the West LA job I had at the time.  Putting aside the fact I could only get half my body wet at a time, I also hadn’t had my knee replacements yet, so getting up and down was a bit of a challenge.  When it came time to get out of the tub, I couldn’t.  The whole thing was so low to the floor, and I was so slippery from being bubble-bathed, I couldn’t get any leverage to get up, and there was no panic bar.  I toyed with the idea of just rolling over the edge and onto my hands and knees, but there would have been a tidal wave of water and suds onto the upstairs vinyl floor and I just didn’t want to deal with that mess.  So I called for my big, burly husband.  The man who can hold up an engine block with one hand while changing the transmission with the other.  The man who moves 248lb. blacksmith’s anvils around the garage like they’re child-sized.

The man who contemplated getting his engine hoist when he couldn’t get me out of the tub.

To be fair, the problem was largely one of extreme slippery surfaces combined with lack of sufficient leverage.  We ended up draining the tub and using towels for rescue ropes to get me out.  Needless to say, I’ve never done that again, and the tub now largely serves the cats as an ambush site, when one is lying in wait for the other to go to the litter box.  Much more entertaining than taking a bath.

And the sad truth is, even once we lose the weight we want and get back to our fighting form, as it were, we’ll still be far too large for those puny little tubs.  We’re both descended from those giants of the European north, those Germanic rabble rousers who refused to bow to Rome’s demands and made Charlemagne decide doing his nails was more important than crossing that last border.  We are not Oompa-Loompas.

As a child, we all want to be “normal,” to fit in and have friends and just cruise through the world unnoticed and without hassle.  Well, that wasn’t the childhood I had, and it certainly isn’t the adulthood that’s followed.  My current challenge is to accept that, since I’ve never been “normal” before, it’s okay to not be “normal” now.  Or ever, for that matter.

Now to just figure out how to fit a four-person hot tub in the upstairs bathroom…

 

 

©  2010  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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October was a bleak month for me.  With the notable exception of my wedding anniversary, the whole month was pretty much a black cloud of crippling depression.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

The largest part of the problem stems from the fact we had to take that last trip to the vet with our oldest dog.  Bronwen was one of the sweetest animals I had ever enjoyed.  Only the second dog I had “owned” as an adult, she was a foundling that had stumbled down the overgrown alley behind where I lived at the time.  Ten weeks old and all cuddly.  Mostly white with some hidden light brown spots, the vet thought she might be an Australian Cattle Dog mix.  Something she proved over her life time as she continually tried to herd us and the cats, could never walk in a straight line, and was always on patrol in the yard.  She actually wore a track around the perimeter, that’s how dedicated she was.  Never a boisterous dog, she only barked when it was really, truly necessary.  And though she got on well with just about any other animal she met, she tended to be on the shy side with new people.  That was one of the indicators my husband was the one for me, when Bronwen walked right up to him and plopped herself at his feet upon their very first meeting.  Can’t really argue with that review.

But time catches up with all of us, and the last couple years took their toll on her.  She developed arthritis in her back, to the point that it was pinching the nerves and caused her to walk like a drunk.  Her eyes grew clouded and she came to only hear the loudest or shrillest of sounds.  Then she had a spell that looked like she was having a seizure, so off we go to the emergency vet, just hours after I’d come home from urgent care where I’d been diagnosed with pneumonia.  The ER vet kept her overnight and hundreds of dollars worth of tests later determined that she had Canine Vestibular Syndrome.  While initially it looks like a stroke or seizure issue, it actually equates to a really bad case of vertigo.  Something that is not that uncommon in older dogs.  But it seemed to take a lot out of her.  She lost some weight, something she really couldn’t afford since she’d always been on the thin side, because she just didn’t want to eat.  And even once she got back to eating regularly, she couldn’t put the weight back on.  She had a couple, milder, episodes over the next couple months, but by then the writing was on the wall.

Toward the end, senior dementia also set in, and the house she’d lived in for nearly half her life became a confusing maze.  She’d go round and round in circles trying to find whatever she was looking for.  We’d have to guide her out the back door or to her food dish, and PetZyme, Woolite Deep Cleaning Carpet Shampoo, and Febreeze lived on the counter because clean up from “accidents” became a daily chore.  Despite all that, she still patrolled, even though she was falling over every few steps and couldn’t get up by  herself anymore, yelping for help.  It became a struggle for both of us, her trying to walk away from her pain, and me trying to keep her safe since she couldn’t be left alone.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but there were times when I grew so angry with her because she just wouldn’t stop being old and helpless.  Every five minutes, having to stop whatever it was I was doing to go and pick her up from where she’d tangled herself up in the dog house, fallen over on the concrete, or tripped herself up in the middle of the back yard and lay baking under the 100 degree sun.  The last few weeks, she was almost desperate to walk, not able to get comfortable no matter where she was, even in her cushy dog bed up stairs, whining and yelping for help every few minutes.  When our other dog, who had never liked Bronwen, suddenly started laying next to her whenever she had fallen, that’s when I knew the time had come.

So she and I made that trip to the vet, holding the outside hope that he could offer some miracle of pain relief that would bring back the sweet dog that had been with me for nearly 16 years.  Modern medical technology is good, but sometimes you just have to ask yourself, are we doing anyone any favors?  And that’s what it came down to.  Yeah, maybe we could have stretched it out a few more weeks, maybe even months, but the bottom line was the dog I’d known was already gone and all that was left was a pain-filled shell operating on instincts.  It would do neither of us any good to postpone the inevitable.

I knew I’d made the right decision when, within a few seconds of receiving the sedative they give prior to the final shot, Bronwen released a sigh of relief the likes of which I’ve never experienced.  She was finally without pain, and she passed quietly to the Summerlands as the sweet dog she had always been.

My pain at her passing will take a little while longer to dull, but I can only hope that when the time comes, I can go peacefully in the arms of a loved one like Bronwen did.  We are allowed to release our animal children from their pain because we don’t want them to suffer, understanding that delaying the inevitable does more harm than good.  Maybe one day human medicine will come to the same conclusion.

 

© 2010  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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