64: Showered with Love

64: Showered with Love

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers

Showered with Love

Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine.

~Slovakian Proverb

I’ll never forget the year that my husband’s 91-year-old mother came to stay with us in Tennessee. She lived in Delaware and had suffered from several small mini-strokes, and the doctor advised her not to live alone any longer. That was when her two sons decided she should move down south with us until we could sell her Delaware home and get her into an assisted-living facility not far from us.

Grace was a ray of sunshine in our lives! She had so many tales to tell of growing up in a large family of seven children, and most of her stories would make us laugh. She had a wonderful sense of humor and a formidable spirit, believing that when God closed a door, He usually opened a window. No matter what hurdle she had to face, she’d find a way over it, even at 91 years of age.

One incident I recall was when I was trying to convince Grace that it was time she started taking showers, instead of trying to climb in and out of a tub. She had never taken a shower in her life. Our first shower experience was a memorable one!

I took Grace into the bathroom and told her to undress and wrap the towel around herself, and I’d come in and help her get into the shower. When she called to me that she was ready, I entered the bathroom and turned on the water to get it to a comfortable temperature for her. Then I pulled back the shower curtain, handed her the soap, gave her a washcloth, and helped her climb into the tub.

The first thing I heard were her screams when the water hit her smack in the face! “Beverly, WHAT DO I DO?”

“Mom!” I yelled. “Back up a little!”

All I heard were some blubbering noises, and then a “kerplunk.”

“I dropped the soap, Beverly!” she bellowed as if I were down the hall in another room.

“Mom, I’m right here... I’ll help you find it,” I reassured her as I opened the shower curtain.

The water was hitting her smack-dab in the forehead and bouncing off all over me. I tried to guide her frail little body backward as I reached down for the soap, but by now I was washing my own hair in the process!

“I don’t want my hair wet,” she blubbered.

“It’s a little too late for that, Mom,” I replied, handing her the soap. “Do you need help washing?”

“I don’t like this. I don’t know how to do this... I can’t SEE!” Grace had her eyes closed as the water hit her neck area and splashed up into her face.

“Why don’t you turn around?” I suggested, as I noticed my shirt was now soaking wet.

“I don’t want my hair wet,” she insisted.

Okay, what to do now?

“Mom, give me the soap, and I’ll help you.”

“No. I can wash myself. Just stop the water from hitting my face.”

There was water all over the bathroom floor at this point, and I had to step carefully so I wouldn’t fall and end up in the tub with her! I urged her to back up even more in the tub until the water was just hitting her knees.

“Okay, Mom,” I said. “I’m closing the curtain now, and you finish washing. Then step up into the water to get the soap off, okay?”


I left her alone. Grabbing extra towels, I mopped up the bathroom floor and waited. It wasn’t more than three or four minutes before she yelled, “I’m finished, Beverly!”

Reaching in to turn off the shower, I looked at Grace and said, “There, now, wasn’t that refreshing?”

Then I noticed she was covered in soap.

“Mom, didn’t you rinse off the soap?” I asked.

“I don’t want that water in my face,” she replied.

Gently, I turned on a little warm water and used the washcloth to get the soap off my sweet mother-in-law. She looked as if she’d been dragged through a ringer washing machine, and I could tell she was thinking that her first shower experience would undoubtedly be her last!

We managed to get her out and dried off, and snuggled into her nightgown and robe. She had survived, but she did not enjoy it one little bit.

Grace was with us approximately a year before we got her into a wonderful assisted-living facility just 10 minutes away from us. The nurses and aides there were so good with her, and she learned to love her showers. Maybe I just didn’t have what it takes to handle shower duty! Or maybe she just learned after a time how to maneuver in there—and with her shower cap, she did not have to get her hair wet!

We miss Grace. She lived in the facility for about five years until she had to be transferred to a nursing home. Our sweet Grace passed away last August at the age of 98 and eight months old! When I tell my beloved stories about her, I never fail to include her first shower episode that I was so privileged to experience with her.

~Beverly F. Walker

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