Thursdays are shower days for Mom. The whole process takes a couple hours, from start to finish. It's hard to get Mom in the shower, first off. She'll stick out her tongue and flat out refuse: "I just did this yesterday!" or "I want to take a bath like I did when I was a kid, not a shower!" I make bargains sometimes, remind myself to be patient, kind, and gentle.
On Thursdays, I'm wiped out—more mentally than physically—by noon. I mean, my back hurts a little, but mentally and emotionally, I'm just plain tired. There is something so draining about bathing your mother. This is when the parent/child relationship is so obviously reversed. There is the frustration that comes with hearing the childlike "I don't want to do this; why are you making me?" again and again. There is a hefty dose of remembering, as I blow dry her hair, that this is the woman who bathed me as a child, who patiently rolled my hair in pink plastic curlers every Saturday night and then stuck me under her warm, comforting hair dryer. And there is the in-your-face reminder of how the body ages and fails, how it sags and wrinkles and weakens, and, frankly, the knowledge that someday, this will be me.
In the end, though, she always ends up smiling. "This is wonderful! I never want to get out! How did you learn how to do this?" She is overflowing with gratefulness, bubbling with the joy of accomplishment. After I dry and curl her hair, she thanks me and says, "I'm going to pay you a million dollars!"
These are bittersweet days, ones you never imagine until you are here in the midst of it, moving slowly through the hours and days and weeks, shaking off the frustration, returning the smile, breathing deeply, giving back.