Friday, November 04, 2005

The stairs required careful negotiation, carrying her as he was, thin legs in one arm, her arms loosely draped around his neck and her head on his shoulder, his other arm supporting her upper back. She had never been heavy, but illness had reduced her to a stick figure, one that reminded him of the 18 year old girl he first met 30 years earlier. She had been so thin, then; 90 pounds soaking wet. His first memories of her are of thin legs and arms in shorts and a t-shirt.

The stairs were broad, but not so broad that the turn in the middle didn't require his full attention.

He slid sideways thru the door into the master bath and then set her carefully into the bath water, drawn just a few minutes ago and still a perfect temperature, just above tepid and just below hot. The tub was a two person kind of thing, one she had picked out when they built the house. It was deep and had adequate back and arm support.

She was comfortable, something that was hard to achieve anymore. Laying her head back and closing her eyes, she let the warmth ease her pain. He began to bathe her, starting with her hair. First the shampoo, then a gentle massage, slowly building up a soapy lather in her thin hair, being careful not to pull to hard and tear her skin.

Using a mixing bowl, he rinsed her hair, then picked up the soft, plush washcloth and began to wash her body. Her started with her face, being careful around the eyes and mouth, then her neck and breasts, flat now, using a gentle circular motion, reminiscent of other baths in happier times.

He lifted her arms to wash under her arms, the hollow of her arm pit almost all bone, her ribs painfully obvious. He washed her tummy and hips, and then wistfully washed her vulva and bottom. He couldn't help thinking of the old "God must be an engineer" joke because only an engineer would put a waste disposal line right thru the middle of a recreational area. He told her the joke one more time, and they both laughed.

Finishing with her feet, he massaged them as he had ten thousand times before. Her face relaxed in pleasure, as it always had. He was grateful for even this smallest thing.

He drained the tub of the soapy water and then refilled it, sitting on the edge of the tub and chatting with her, constantly checking water temperature to be sure it wasn't too hot or too cold. When it had filled, he turned it off. She told him to go write a story for a while, she was just going to soak. It was a play on words, soak for sulk. Many of their arguments over the years had been about how much time he spent writing.

He went into the bedroom and booted up the computer, opened up a blank doc and began to write whatever came to his mind.

The children and grandchildren had all been by to visit today. She had been in good spirits, and laughter and love had bubbled up all over the place. When they all made their goodbyes, she held each one close and told them she loved them.

We don't always get the chance to tell them we love them, and she wasn't going to miss it.

He thought about the children as he wrote, how the first one was the reason they married, and how, when it was all said and done, he was glad it worked out that way. Who knows if he would have had the courage to marry her otherwise, and he couldn't imagine his life happening any other way than exactly as it had.

The words were coming easier by then, and he wrote of all the times they had made love in this tub or that tub. 30 years is a lot of love, and uncounted baths and showers together.

After a bit, she called out to him and said, "I love you, you know, and I am glad we were married. I would do it all again," and then she fell silent. He went into the bathroom and gave her a warm kiss, saying he felt the same way, that he was glad that she had been in his life.

The water had cooled a bit, so he warmed it up, then returned to his computer.

He heard her move around in the tub. It was hard for her, and her breath was ragged with the effort, but then she was quiet. His tears, nearly there all evening, began to fall in earnest, but he kept writing. He wrote and wrote and wrote, the words burning the screen in front of him, until he couldn't write any more.

When he had no more words, he called 911. [source]

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