The Unreal Beach

The Unreal Beach

At the end of August 1976 I came to Lincoln to be a counselor for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind from Hawaii. This was the first time I lived away from familiar friends and family.
All new staff attended the orientation center. It was several weeks when 1 Wednesday the trainers announced we were going to the beach this Friday. “really? No kidding! … You have a beach near here?” I mused to myself I thought.
I found myself jumping up and down with joy clapping my hands. You could have heard a feather flutter to the tile floor.
“Of course we have beaches. They’re not just in Hawaii.” one of the students guffawed with a snort.
I absently twirled my waist-length black hair between my fingers. My shoulders drooped while I unsuccessfully tried to think of a response to the smart comment.
“You will really like it.” another staff or student said.
For the next two days my favorite day-dream was watching myself basking in fine sand, the consistancy of sifted flour, under my feet with beautiful salty waves around 80 degrees cacooning me.
Thursday afternoon during Braille Class I tossed ideas around in my head regarding lunch for tomorrow. Everyone was responsible for their own meal on the field trip. I yearned for something besides burgers, fried chicken, and Mexican readily available from many fast-food eateries. My Mom and Dad did all the cooking at home. Since, coming to Nebraska I’d eaten mostly oranges, apples, and food easily fixed in the microwave. I finally decided a plate lunch consisting of Ginger Chicken, Macaroni Salad, and pound cake for dessert sounded
scrumptious. My last class of the day was Cooking Connection. They took pity on me and helped me make enough for the eight members of our class. * * * The next day everyone got on the bus for the trip to Linoma Beach. It was a windy 72 degrees.
my fantastic beach excursion would be a reality was dampened by The cooler temperature.
Upon arrival we walked to the steps canes tapped and glided on the rough pavement. We began walking single file down the wooden stairs. The first 3 rungs were solid. I could hear some of the students yelling back to the instructors about defective planks. In a few minutes everyone was instructed to backtrack.
“This is good practice for all of you. You aren’t going to find ideal everywhere.” began Mr. Jones puffing out nasty smoke. “We are making a right turn , around the picnic area. Then turn left, don’t fall over the waist high wall.” Shivers crawled up my back. he seemed to be taunting us. His lighter flicked again. — Follow the winding ramp down to the sand.”
We raced down the ramp. Several individual’s canes caught in the handrail. “Matthew, Tony, Amber, and Jewel what’s wrong with you folks. Your canes should remain at ground level!” Mr. Jones shouted. I walked a few feet. I rocked the toes and heels of my shoes back and forth. They dug a deeper foot print in the cooling sand. The texture waffle cone crunched then evaporated leaving a dusty film under my weight. I set down my towel and took off my tennis shoes. The sun seemed warm enough on my skin to be around 80 degrees. The sand surface under my bare feet had some heat. I still didn’t hear waves moving or smell salt in the air.
I hoped the majority of our group would enter the water first and moved slightly off to the side .
“You go first we know how much you’ve looked forward to today.” several students prompted too enthusiastically.
I baby stepped into the water. My breath caught.
As I went in deeper, It felt cool and then cold and then colder. At first it gave me tremors in my legs, then shivers throughout my whole body. “This doesn’t feel like 80 degrees.” I grumbled. “The water bearly moves. It feels like a talking book record going over the same sentence over and over. It smells somewhere between garbage and chemicals. Most of all where is the soothing salty feel on my skin?” I hissed to nobody in ear shot I hoped.
To gain courage, I pictured dolphins swimming with me, frolicking at play. Squaring my shoulders, quickly waded into the coarse sand and water up to my waist. My naked tooties didn’t appreciate the tiny pebbles mixed with gritty textured sand. After a few deep breaths I jumped in face first. I stayed under the water blowing bubbles pushing hot tears back. When I stood up, a small gust of wind quickly cooled my neck and arms. Crying wasn’t an option unless I wanted to be teased unmercilessly. I wished I could transport myself back to my apartment. This wasn’t a possibility either.
I felt goose bumps on my arms beginning. I jumped back into the water and rolled on my back. The water covered the tops of my shoulders. For a few seconds I thought I might sink. My heart stopped pounding like a hammer and my breathing relaxed when my body instinctively righted itself. The closest experience I recalled was swimming in a pool during elementary school days. As long as I stayed in the water I remained relatively warm.
After another 15 minutes or so I stood in chest high water. I wished for another dive into the water when my limbs began to quiver like jelly from the cold. My teeth clicked together several times. I didn’t hear any splashing of waves around me. The voices of the rest of the group were distant. “Hmmm, am I the only one in the water?” My thoughts wandered back to the enthusiasm of the other students when we reached the edge of the water. “Damn! I feel like I’ve been set up!” I laughed to myself. “You’ve done this to yourself.” I sternly told my brain. “Everyone out of the water.” Mr. Jones called. My legs moved like pieces of pipe at first. It became easier after a few seconds. I kept listening for other foot steps as the water touched my waist, then my knees, I felt my skin flame beat red When the water touched my ankles and heard someone walking in front of me. My thoughts weren’t of a charitable sort. At that moment I wished I had a snake shooting venum to throw in the middle of the group.
I wrapped myself in my large beach towel. I followed behind everyone back to the picnic area calming my emotions. it was time for lunch. All the bags were placed on a table. After all the other students settled down with their sack lunches my Cooking Connection Class gathered at a table by ourselves. Each of us had brought actual lunch boxes with thermos compartments. Each of us had two pieces of Ginger Chicken, a small container of Macaroni Salad, and a medium sized piece of Lemon Pound Cake. As we began to eat and the smell floated around a line of people gathered around. “Hey where’s mine.” several people asked. “Go take a long walk on a short peer. John told them.
“Why since you brought something different you should be sharing with the rest of us.” Marcos spat at John.
Gretta another member of my class pulled out of a cooler a chocolate cake. “here Marcos here’s napkins, paper plates and cake. Give everyone a slice.” She slammed the bag with the plates and napkins in his hand. He couldn’t see the icy glare she gave under her shades while she spoke I felt really embarrassed.
“I didn’t mean to get all of you in trouble!” I mumbled after Marcos left and calm was restored.
“Don’t worry about it.” John replied.
“Actually we’re glad you wanted a different type of lunch.” Greta chimed in chewing a bite of chicken.
“I know this beach is a real disappointment to you.” Sarah added. “Well, it was definitely different. Thanks for making the lunch it really helped.” I gave them all a high-five while sipping on green tea.


You come into my head. You talk and talk, about things that happened in my past. Are you real? Are they real? Are you just a kid who likes to make up stories? I sit here, sometimes listen to you, yelling at me, telling me to kill myself. You’re strong, and I feel you taking over. I want to go to the kitchen, get a knife from the block, listen to your encouraging little voice. “Do it Jess. Just do it. End the pain,” you say. I want to slip the knife between my ribs, or just stab it right in my heart, take the physical hurt over your emotional hurt. Jessi, you hurt me. Jessi, you bring me joy. Jessi, you want to bring me short relief before the flames of hell take me over? Is that what you want? For me to die? Because you want to die? Your words are whisspered, when you want me to die. you want all the power, you drain my energy with your need to take me over and make me kill myself. To take the pain, to swallow the bottle, to cut a little deeper, to feel the blood flowing. No!!!! I won’t let you make me think those thoughts. Jessi? I love you, Jessi. You won’t take me over, you won’t make me do anything. You’re strong, but I’m stronger. I’m in control, not you. I keep thinking those thoughts as the headaches set in. Sometimes I just want to end it, so I won’t have the pain. I love you, but I don’t. I’m hurting, but I know you are too. My thoughts fade as you take over, as you slowly take over everything. Such a little girl, so many tears, so much anger, so much pain. Will it ever end? Will we end first? Will you succeed? Am I insane? Are you? Are we?…




My Ideal Partner: Chapter 13

Chapter 13
From Suppositories to Enemas

In the six years I cared for Bill, if it wasn’t one thing, it was something else. Often, he had trouble peeing, and all I could do was let him sit on the commode in the bathroom until he succeeded or gave up. Then a few minutes after I settled him in his recliner, at his computer, or outside, he would insist he needed to go again, and the process would start all over. This also happened at night, and I was often up for an hour or more, waiting for him to pee. When he finally figured out how to pee lying down, the night routine became a lot easier.
He was frequently incontinent. Many times in the middle of the night, I leapt out of bed and made a mad dash to sit him up and give him the urinal, only to discover it was too late. Sometimes while I pulled him to a sitting position on the side of the bed, he was urinating, and the liquid dribbled to the floor. Fortunately, I had a towel in place to solve that problem, but after a night of marathon urine collection, the sheets were soaked, and I had to change them the next morning. Later, it occurred to me to put a pad underneath him in bed, but even then, the sheets got wet.
“Maybe I should go to Sheridan Manor,” said Bill after one such episode.
It was tempting, but the fact that I was tired of constantly washing and changing sheets was no excuse to send him to the nursing home. “Of course not, honey, we’ll figure this out,” I said, more to assure myself than him.
These episodes didn’t only happen at night. During the day, I often dropped what I was doing and rushed to him in the recliner when he said he needed to go to the bathroom. By the time I had the wheelchair in place and was ready to transfer him, the pad underneath him was already soaked, and I had to change his pants instead.
I called the urologist many times and was told to bring in a urine sample. Fortunately, the office was located across the street from the YMCA where I participated in water exercise classes three days a week, and when the weather was bad, I often rode with people who were glad to swing by and wait while I dropped off the sample. Many times, those samples came back positive for infections, and Bill went through quite a few rounds of antibiotics. When I actually took Bill to see the urologist, he admonished him to drink plenty of water, but as with many teen-agers, this advice went in one ear and out the other.
Bill preferred Pepsi and Mountain Dew with his meals and in between. At least he wasn’t an alcoholic, I thought, as I opened can after can of these soft drinks for him. In the morning, he liked to drink peach juice with his breakfast, but that was the only hydration he wanted. One day, Jaylynn, one of his shower aides, told us about Propel, a bottled water that came in several different flavors with no additives or preservatives. “Bill, you’ll love it,” she said. “It tastes really good, and you don’t get all that sugar and other stuff you get with pop. The grape flavor is the best.”
I figured it was worth a try so the next time I went to Walmart, I bought a six-pack. One sip and I was hooked. Bill was skeptical but soon grew to like it and drank more of that and less carbonated beverages.
Bill’s bathroom problems weren’t limited to urinating. He often suffered from blocked bowels. Fortunately, there was no incontinence here, but as a result, he often spent long periods of time on the commode before succeeding or giving up. We tried a couple of over the counter stool softeners, but these didn’t work. One morning when I transferred him to the wheelchair after another unsuccessful attempt, he said, “Honey, I think I should go to Sheridan Manor this time. They can give me enemas and stuff like that to help me.”
“Are you serious? You really want to go back to Sheridan Manor?”
“I have to, or I could die.” There was a note of desperation in his voice.
This was during the time we were waiting for the new lift, and Bill was receiving his showers at Sheridan Manor. I called and spoke to a different admissions coordinator, this time, who was sympathetic and told me I could bring him in when he was scheduled for his shower.
Bill spent a few days at Sheridan Manor and was given suppositories and milk of magnesia, and that seemed to clear up the problem. When he was discharged, the nurse admonished him to drink plenty of fluids and take milk of magnesia or some other laxative regularly, but again, those ideas went in one ear and out the other.
This was in November of 2008. In January of 2009, Dad and I took the trip to Florida we put off the year before because of Andy’s marital difficulties. Soon after we returned, Bill’s bowels started blocking up again. One morning, he said, “I think I’d better go to Sheridan Manor again.”
“You’re kidding! I just brought you home a couple of weeks ago.”
“They need to give me another enema.”
“An enema? They didn’t give you one of those the last time you were there, did they?”
“No, I mean a suppository.”
A suppository, I had one of those in college when I was hospitalized for a high fever. I was sick to my stomach, and when I told the nurse I didn’t think I could get a Tylenol down, she shoved it up my butt instead. I’d heard of people giving themselves suppositories so how hard could it be? However, I realized that if Bill couldn’t wipe himself after a bowel movement, he couldn’t give himself a suppository.
Since the idea of inserting a suppository didn’t appeal to me, I did the next best thing. I called Bunni at the senior center to ask if the aides could administer them after his shower if necessary. My hopes were dashed by three words. “It’s against regulations.” Kathy, our aide at the time, used to be a nurse so she would have known how to do it. How ironic it was that regulations prohibited certified nursing assistants from administering suppositories, but it was okay for an uncertified family caregiver to do so.
Feeling discouraged, I placed another call to Sheridan Manor’s admissions coordinator. “Why don’t you bring him in, and one of the nurses can show you how to give him a suppository?” she said.
I didn’t like this idea any better but figured it was the best solution. However, when I suggested this to Bill, he refused. “Honey, are you sure? We can’t keep traipsing back and forth to Sheridan Manor whenever you need a suppository. Please let me try.”
“No, they need to do it.” To tell the truth, I was relieved. After only two weeks at home with him and his uncooperative bowels, I was ready for another break.
After a week at Sheridan Manor, Bill was ready to come home and willing to let me learn how to give him his suppositories. During his stay, I watched the nurse insert the suppositories and realized that although it was an unpleasant task, it wouldn’t be hard to do. Since Bill could no longer do his business while sitting on the commode, I asked the nurse what kind of bed pan I should use with him at home. She recommended a fracture pan, and since the local pharmacy we used for our prescriptions carried them, I bought one.
When we approached the social worker to ask that Bill be discharged, she offered to have one of the nurses show me how to administer suppositories. Sharon was a nurse I’d worked with before when I was employed as an activities assistant. She gave me a pair of gloves, and after I put them on, she showed me how to roll Bill onto his side, take the suppository out of the package, find his butt hole, and insert it. The gloves made it difficult for me to feel what I was doing, and Bill’s giggling didn’t help. I finally found the bull’s eye and felt that wonderful, familiar sense of elation that came with accomplishing Bill’s personal care tasks. I had more trouble at home, although I didn’t wear gloves, but since Bill still had some feeling down there, he could tell me if the suppository was going in the right place. Eventually, like all other tasks associated with Bill’s care, I got it down to a fine art.
Unfortunately, Bill’s bowel trouble didn’t stop then. One day a month later, Bill had trouble peeing again. At four in the afternoon, when he hadn’t urinated in twelve hours, I was concerned, but for once, he wasn’t. “Don’t worry, honey,” he said as I kissed him while he lay on the bed. ‘I’ll pee eventually.”
I went next door to give the local newspaper to John and Diane after I finished reading it. Since John had been a pharmacist, I asked him what to do. He suggested sitting Bill up for a while to see if a change in position would get his bladder to cooperate. Since he could no longer do his business while sitting on the commode, I would have to put him in his wheelchair or the recliner and then lay him back down again if he suddenly felt the urge. Since my singing group was practicing that night, I had little time and a million things to do. I needed to do something, though. He couldn’t go on like this. Much to my relief, when I walked into the bedroom with John’s suggestion on my lips, he held out the urinal and said, “I’ve got something for you.” I was never more glad to empty a full urinal.
However, he hadn‘t moved his bowels in three days which wasn’t unusual. That night before we went to sleep, he peed again, and I offered him a suppository. “No, it can wait till morning,” he said. Because I didn’t want to get up in the middle of the night to wipe him, I didn’t push it, but later, I wished I had.
At two o’clock the next morning, Bill said, “Honey, I need to go to the emergency room.”
“I can’t pee. I can’t poop.”
“Why don’t I give you a suppository? Maybe that will help.”
“No, I have to go to the emergency room. I could die otherwise.”
Since the paratransit service didn’t run in the middle of the night, the only way to get him to the hospital was by ambulance. This was crazy, I thought, as I picked up the phone and called 911. I contacted them many times before when Bill was on the floor, and I couldn’t lift him, and the operators and paramedics knew us. When I explained the situation, the operator on duty assured me the ambulance would be there shortly.
I then realized that if he was going to the hospital, they would need a list of his medications. Still half awake, I stumbled into my office with the intent to print the list on my computer, but when I saw the lights of the ambulance turning into the driveway, I knew there wouldn’t be time. After showing the paramedics into the bedroom, I dashed into Bill’s bathroom with a zip lock bag and tossed all his pill bottles into it. Since then, I kept a printed list in my fanny pack, back pack, and gym bag.
The paramedics discovered that Bill had a fever. This was serious, I thought, as they loaded him into the ambulance. Since I was still in my pajamas after the paramedics left, I quickly dressed and called John, waking him up of course, and he drove me to the hospital. When I was shown into Bill’s cubicle in the emergency room, the stench of fecal matter assailed my nostrils, and I
was relieved. “They dug it out with a chisel,” he said. “It hurt like hell.”
My relief was replaced by anger. “If you’d only listened to me when I suggested giving you a suppository at bedtime, we wouldn’t be here now at this ungodly hour,” I said, as I flopped into a chair near his bed. I knew I sounded like one of those nagging wives of hen-pecked husbands, but I didn’t care. John left, telling me to call if I needed him.
For the next four hours, I waited while Bill was given a laxative and two enemas. At six in the morning, Bill was finally ready to go home. The nurse had apparently overheard my earlier outburst because she said, “Okay Bill, it says here on your discharge instructions that you need to listen to your wife.”
Bill and I both laughed. We were both in better moods now that he was empty of waste. Since the doctor explained that Bill’s fever was caused by the stress his body underwent as a result of the blockage, I didn’t have to worry about that.
We were sent home with a tube of butt cream and a prescription for a laxative. Because the paratransit service still wasn’t running, the local ambulance service was again called, and the same two paramedics who took him to the hospital arrived to bring him home. I hated to call John again at such an early hour so I asked if I could ride with them, and they agreed. As we pulled out of the hospital parking lot, Bill said from the stretcher in the back, ‘Let’s go to the Rainbow Bar.”
”I don’t think it’s open yet,” I said, relieved that he still had his sense of humor despite what he’d been through in the past few hours.
At home, we settled back into our usual routine. To my relief, Bill liked the taste of the liquid laxative that was prescribed, and I gave it to him twice daily with his meals. The nurse at the emergency room said I could add it to his drink, but since Bill didn’t always finish his beverages, I decided against that. He also took an interest in eating fresh fruit: oranges, strawberries, and watermelons when they were in season. Eventually, he no longer needed the laxative and didn’t require suppositories as often.
Because the strokes somewhat effected his ability to communicate, he had a hard time thinking of the word “suppository” when he needed one. He often said he needed an enema, but I knew what he meant. One morning however, he threw me completely off guard. I’d just finished showering and dressing and was about to get him up when he said, “Honey, give me a butt fuck.”
“Excuse me?”
“Oh, I mean an enema,” he said, laughing.
“You silly goofball,” I said, and we embraced and kissed.

My Ideal Partner: Chapter 12

Chapter 12
Shower Games

In the spring of 2009, one of the aides who gave Bill his showers three times a week suggested we get a roll-in shower. This way, instead of transferring Bill from the commode to the shower bench in the bathtub, she could just wheel him right into the shower. Since I still had some money left over from Grammy Hinkley’s estate after paying off the mortgage on the house, I called A Plus Plumbers. I’d dealt with them before when we had sewer trouble. Jack, the firm’s owner, came with Garrie, a carpenter, to look at the situation and gave me a reasonable estimate. This was in the middle of April. In May, Dad and I planned to travel to Florida to visit Andy and his family in their new home. I arranged for the new shower to be installed while I was in Florida and Bill was at Sheridan Manor.
At the end of April, I was traveling home with Rose, another writer, from Casper, Wyoming, about a two-hour drive south of Sheridan, where we attended a poetry workshop. When we pulled onto the highway, I called Bill at Sheridan Manor to tell him I was on my way back and would see him the next day when he came home. After talking to him, I put my cell phone back in my pocket and reached for my bottle of Dr. Pepper I’d purchased at a service station before leaving Casper. Just then, my phone rang. “Oh, he really misses you, doesn’t he?” said Rose with a giggle.
Because I couldn’t read the display with a naked eye, I had no way to know who was calling so after flipping open my phone, I fought the urge to say, “Hi hunky poo.”
It was a good thing because the caller wasn’t Bill. It was Andy, calling to tell me that he and Kathleen were having marital problems. To make things worse, cell service on the highway was spotty, and we kept getting disconnected. A couple of times, Andy called back and poured his heart out to me but didn’t get far before we were both flung into the abyss of no cell service.
However, I gleamed enough from our conversation to realize that the last thing they needed was company. Besides, they were in the process of moving to another house in Jupiter, and when we visited them the previous year, they were also in the process of packing. It seemed like we always visited them at a bad time. After talking it over with Rose during the long drive back to Sheridan, I decided that it would be best for Dad and me not to visit the next month as we planned. When I got home, I called Dad and explained the situation, and he agreed.
I then called Andy, and it took some doing to convince him. We would have been a diversion for him, but the last thing Kathleen needed was a visit from her in-laws. After further discussion without interruptions this time, Andy reluctantly agreed. He and Kathleen patched up their differences, but a year later, they separated and eventually divorced.
I was actually relieved we weren’t going to Florida in May. After making the arrangements for the installation of the shower in Bill’s bathroom, I was increasingly apprehensive about strangers coming to our house while we were gone. Although I hated being around when power tools were used, it was good to know that I would be there while the old bathtub and shower were taken out and the new shower constructed and installed.
Bill still had to go to Sheridan Manor while this was being done since not even the toilet in his bathroom would be usable, and there was no way to get him into my bathroom. He took it in stride, especially when I pointed out that once the new shower was installed, we could occasionally take a shower together. We never did this because I realized later that I couldn’t have transferred him from the bed to the commode as easily as the aides from the senior center.
On a Monday morning in mid May, work on the shower began. By the end of the week, it was finished, or so we thought. Late Friday afternoon when Bill came home from Sheridan Manor, I wheeled him into the bathroom so we could explore the new shower together. We then discovered that instead of a roll-in shower, we had a step-up shower. Apparently, Garrie misunderstood what we needed. “This isn’t going to work,” said Bill.
“You’re probably right,” I said with a sinking heart.
On Monday morning, Garrie was planning to return to perform some finishing touches to the shower before it could be used. Bill’s next shower was scheduled for the following Wednesday. Before Garrie arrived, I called Bunni, our case worker at the senior center and asked her to come and take a look. To my relief, she determined that although he couldn’t be rolled into the shower, the aide could still position the bench inside the shower and then transfer Bill from the commode to the bench as before. “It’ll still work,” she said. “You just won’t get as much bang for your buck.”
I was willing to let it go, relieved that Bill could continue to be given his showers. But for the first and only time since his strokes, my husband took some initiative. He called Jack at A Plus Plumbers and asked him to give us an estimate on fixing the shower so he could be rolled into it. Jack and Garrie came the next day and quoted another reasonable price for raising the floor so it would meet the shower. This involved installing extra flooring in the bathroom. Jack and Garrie said they could start on Thursday and assured me it would only take one day. “I don’t have to go to Sheridan Manor,” said Bill. “I can just lie down and use the urinal.”
By this time, he figured out a way to use the urinal while in bed without making a mess. In the middle of the night, all I had to do was empty the urinal when he was finished. He eventually got to the point where he couldn’t do his business on the toilet at all and had to lie down frequently during the day to urinate and move his bowels.
Jack and Garrie were true to their word. They arrived bright and early Thursday morning and by late afternoon, the project was finished. Bunni came in the afternoon to inspect it, and to my relief, she said, “This is great. It’s going to be so much easier.”
The original floor in Bill’s bathroom was made of linolium. The extra flooring was tile, and the process created an upward slope from the kitchen into the bathroom which was easily negotiated with the wheelchair. However, the tile was slippery so I had to be careful when the floor was wet. I occasionally slipped and nearly landed on my back side when I encountered a wet spot I didn’t see. Fortunately, I never slipped while transferring Bill to and from the commode.
It was a relief having the new shower, especially since it made the aide’s job easier. In the fall however, she complained of pain in her lower back and thought it was caused by transferring Bill from the bed to the commode. Bunni came one morning and observed her to see if there was anything she could do differently that wouldn’t cause strain on her back. After watching the aide transfer Bill from the bed to the commode, she said, “I wish I knew how to build a better mousetrap.” I thought, okay, maybe we didn’t have a solution to this problem, but I had a great title for a poetry collection. Hence, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver was published in December of 2011.
Bunni called in a physical therapist to see if he had any ideas. Michael, whom I knew when I worked at Sheridan Manor, was now employed by an outpatient physical therapy program. After observing the transfer, he suggested a lift that would make the transfer easier. Bunni then told us that because of the risk of injury to the aides, her agency could no longer provide the personal care Bill needed until we acquired the lift. She gave me the name of a medical supply store in Billings, Montana, where we could order the lift, and Medicare would pay for it.
We weren’t left to fend for ourselves, though. Bunni contacted Sheridan Manor to see if Bill could go there just for his showers. Jean, the director of nursing, whom I also knew when I worked there, immediately called me and we arranged for a time when Bill could go there three times a week to get a shower.
After a month of red tape, the lift finally arrived, but we discovered another problem. It was a hydraulic lift, and because of the way our bedroom was set up, Bill had to be raised out of bed and moved a few feet to the commode before being lowered onto it. The lift was hard to push across the carpet without Bill’s weight. Pushing it with Bill on it would have been almost impossible. We needed thinner carpet.
My funds from Grammy Hinkley’s estate were pretty much exhausted after paying off the mortgage on the house and for the shower renovation. Fortunately, Wyoming Independent Living Rehabilitation, a private agency, had limited funds for such purposes. We applied for and received funding to replace the carpet.
This meant that all the furniture in the bedroom had to be moved out while the old carpet was removed and the new laid. Fortunately, the project would take only a day, and Bunni found volunteers to help us move the furniture. “All you have to worry about is taking care of Bill,” she said. “We’ll do the rest.”
She was true to her word. Early one morning in October, she arrived with a couple of strong guys, and everything was moved out of the bedroom in record time. An hour later, a crew from the carpet store arrived, and much to my relief, by one o’clock that afternoon, the project was completed and furniture and other items moved back into the bedroom. During the process, the living room was crowded with the bedroom furniture which made it impossible to get Bill to his recliner. Fortunately, he was content to work on his computer before going to Sheridan Manor to get his shower. He returned around lunchtime, and by the time everything was done, he was ready to lie down.
We then discovered another problem we didn’t foresee. Our bed had coasters which wasn’t a problem on the original carpet. With thinner carpet, it moved more easily which made transferring Bill more dangerous. Fortunately, Bunni had a solution. She called in another volunteer who put blocks of wood underneath the coaster so the bed wouldn’t roll.
At first, Bill didn’t like the lift because it suspended him in mid air while he was transferred from the bed to the commode and vise versa. I almost laughed when I saw the process for the first time because it reminded me of the song about the man on the flying trapeze. Because of his lack of vision, I could imagine how insecure he felt during the process. We kept reassuring him that he was securely fastened into the sling and wouldn’t fall, but after his first shower, he said, “I’m not using that damn lift again.”
It took one month to get the lift and another for the carpet in the bedroom to be replaced. For two months, Bill trapsed back and forth to Sheridan Manor for his showers. I had to dress him every day, not just on the days when his showers at home weren’t scheduled. I was ready for a break. “Please, honey, just try it for another week,” I said. “It takes some getting used to.”
Bunni assured us that Bill could continue to have his showers at Sheridan Manor indefinitely if he no longer wanted to use the lift, but I wasn’t about to settle for that. Because Bill joked about girls seeing him naked, I got an idea. “Okay, honey, just imagine you’re naked on a flying trapeze in a big circus tent, and fifty women are in that tent who paid $50.00 each to see you naked on that flying trapeze, and you’re going to get all that money in the end.” It sounded outrageous, but it worked. After another week, he seemed happy as a clam, being propelled across the room, hanging in mid air.