Monday, 9:02 a.m., September 27, Brian, our contractor started to tear out our old (and only full) bathroom, including the shower and tub. On Friday, 8:26 p.m., October 30, I stepped out of the newly installed shower, wet, onto the bathmat lying on the newly installed Mediterranean tile—clean at last. For more than a month, Stephen and I have been washing up every day, using either the upstairs or downstairs sink. In that month, I learned a lot about making do and keeping reasonably presentable.
I thought it was going to be a nightmare. The backup plan included occasional borrowing of Annie’s shower, staying overnight a couple of times a week in the Holiday Inn, and even moving into the Residence Inn if things got too difficult. Part of what had me so worried was that Stephen was still recuperating from hip surgery and was not very mobile. And I dreamed about a house full of plaster dust and dirt, and noisy hammerings, bangings and other scary noises. I worried what if the contractor disappears, or gets sick, or is doing two jobs at once.
As it turned out, none of that was necessary, and I slowly discovered this over the first two weeks and began to relax. I remembered the story my mom told about when she started caring for her bed-ridden 92 year old grandmother. When it came time for grandma’s first bath, Eva had said to Lorene, well, I wash up as far as possible, and I wash as far as possible, and then I wash possible. At least every other night, washing up could be short and easy, just washing possible, so to speak. Or maybe not, but it dawned on me that I was washing up more than billions of my fellow human beings were having the opportunity to do. And it didn’t escape me that I was using less than a gallon of water in my new bathroom ritual. And every other day I had to help Stephen wash his feet, because of the hip operation. Being episcopalian, fortunately, I had already learned to wash someone else’s feet at the annual Maunday Thursday service.
And something else happened that I never dreamed about. It turns out that we like our contractor. He’s a really nice guy with a dependable sense of humor and good common sense, too boot. He’s actually helping us to get through this, being as careful and as quiet as he can, and predicting when we can do things normally again, such as take a shower. It’s turning out to be an adventure that was worth embarking on.
And tonight, getting in that beautifully reconstructed shower stall—with its “Southwestern Sky” cultured marble walls, its well-sealed and non-leaking base, and its gliding shower doors—and stepping out on that bath-matted Mediterranean Da Vinci tile with its terra cotta and blue-gray hues, I had a moment of appreciation. I am SO LUCKY, for starters, to be alive. And then I am SO LUCKY to be taking a shower again, to be doing it in such aesthetic and hygenic surrounds. I am SO LUCKY to be free of pain, able at age 71 to wash my partner’s feet. Maybe the dirtiest month of my life has turned out to be one of the most enabling and rewarding month of my life. And I didn’t even have to climb a Himalayan mountain or be on a survival quest in the wilderness of Wyoming to get the reward.