Her Words

The world needs your help…even when it itches

Cindi & MomOn a typical visit to see my mother-in-law at the nursing home, I will greet her, take a seat on her walker, and roll to my position directly in front of her La-Z Boy.

(There is only one other chair in the room that made the cut when the downsizing began about six years ago—a small country-blue number from her house in Slidell.)

If you have ever been tasked with changing a glorified hospital room into a “home,” you know it’s like trying to solve the space-management equivalent of a Rubik’s Cube. However, we finally arrived at the correct placement of the maximum memory-jogging elements for our mom who lives with dementia.

Dr. Who would be proud. It was our own little nursing home Tardis—way more crap in there than should be physically possible.

In addition to the furnishings provided by the facility, we added a large La-Z Boy recliner, an end table, a lamp, a bookcase, a quilt rack, and the little blue chair. Impressive enough, but all this also had to be placed to allow for movement around the room in a wheelchair or walker.

All that is back story for this: I sit on the walker because it’s a pain in the neck to move the blue chair—from its very calculated spot. The walker is comfortable enough and—how sad is this to admit—I find it a little fun to roll around the room.

I was at my usual “post” on a Monday morning, chatting it up with Mom. She ran through her list of conversational questions: “You have a daughter, don’t you?” (Umm no, two sons.) “Did you have a nice Christmas?” (I don’t remember, it was three months ago.) I placed my actual responses on auto-pilot and started nosing around her table to see what new clutter could be disposed of to keep me from losing what was left of my mind.

I had to lean way over in the walker to reach a napkin holder that was stuffed with the dietary notices that arrive with her food tray three times a day. After a brief exchange with her about why she most certainly did not need to keep these papers—although they did look nice with her display of used toothpicks—I was allowed to drop them into the trashcan.

When I repositioned on the walker seat, I noticed my pants felt wet. I reached for the spot with my hand. Sure enough, wet. Call me crazy, but if I’ve learned nothing else from spending hours at the nursing home, it’s this: All wetness is suspect! I instinctively smelled my now damp fingers. Urine. NO, not “my-ine”!

I tried to hide my disgust and continue talking while thinking of an exit strategy. I made my way to her bathroom and yelled responses from there as I used wet wipes to clean up the affected area. I washed my hands and made my excuses to leave.

Here’s what I learned. I am all about loving and giving…until it’s gross. Take my time, take my money—“take your records, take your freedom, take your memories I don’t need ’em”—just don’t make me sit in pee.

Lest you think I’m a prude, I’ve had more than my share of other human’s bodily fluids where they don’t belong—on my body. I’m a mother of two boys. Each of my sons did their part to teach me humility and remind me that I’m not the center of the universe.

I’ve been the target of projectile vomit. I’ve endured the “I’m quicker than you” urine spray while changing diapers. I’ve felt the warm sensation on my hip as I held my precious bundle whose diaper was unable to contain the bowel movement that was now bonding us together.

But the bodily fluids of an adult? Apparently that’s another story for me. So what changed? It wasn’t that long ago I was playing the “Is this chocolate or poop?” game on a daily basis.

I have friends who don’t flinch or hedge when the opportunity comes to serve the “least of these.”

One answered the call to help an infant in need of a temporary home. She brought home one baby human—and about 50 baby roaches in the child’s car seat. “Thanks for serving!”

Others have offered their spare rooms to those in need and were rewarded with bugs that love beds—not once, but twice! “Thanks for serving!”

I actually listened to two families who had travelled together on a mission trip to the Amazon LAUGH as they shared the news, “We have lice.” “So do we!”

“Thanks for serving!”

I’m not proud of my reluctance to get down and dirty in the trenches of Jesus-ness. I find no recorded texts of Him wiping his hand on a tunic after ministering to a leper or running over to the Jordan to wash off the germs of Peter’s fever-riddled mother-in-law.

You most certainly would have seen me there bathing in Clorox. (With maybe even a drop or two in my kosher cocktail for good measure)


Mom spent her life giving, selflessly, as a wife, mother, grandmother, nurse, neighbor, and church member. She pitched in more times than I can count when we were figuring out life as newlyweds, homeowners, and parents. We were truly clueless and messy humans. She got her hands (and, I’m sure, the seat of her pants) dirty for us on many occasions.

I’ll certainly continue my frequent visits with my precious mother-in-law. Just know however, I’ll be pulling out the blue chair.

And I’m pretty sure in heaven, I’ll be the door-holder, ushering my less-squeamish brothers and sisters of humanity to the front for their grasping of the truth that the world needs our help…even when it itches.

I think that’s what we’re called to do. I’m trying. But I may need a lot more Clorox (and a little more cocktail) to do it.

8 thoughts on “The world needs your help…even when it itches

  1. Your descriptions leap off the page like you are a screenwriter or something. Oh yeah, you are! Real life is messy any way you cut it. Thank you for honest sharing. It always resets me.

  2. How sad on many levels. Your mother-in-law is lucky that you visit her. Loneliness and peeing your pants must be so terrible even if your mind is not what it used to be. In years ahead it could be any of us in that room hoping a daughter in-law will come and visit.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Kathleen. It is sad, which would explain why so many people are placed in a nursing home and never (or rarely) visited again by family. Just because they can’t remember us doesn’t mean we can’t remember them:-)

Leave a Reply