I have always had an aversion to dirt. To understand why, look no further than my childhood in England. I was the picture perfect little girl in a flowered print dress who played with her dolls. I did not climb trees or wear blue jeans, and I never got my hands dirty.
As an adult, I have always avoided messy eating situations; I dislike picking up pizza and risking food dribbling down my face, I do not pick up and gnaw on chicken wings, I cut my spaghetti so I can eat it neatly with a spoon, and my late husband used to shell my boiled lobster for me. We never had children and he was trained to take off his muddy shoes when he entered the house.
In my business where I sold environmentally friendly products, I became the queen and frequent blogger on the topic of how to clean anything without using chemicals. My favorite tool was a steam cleaner. I have never thought of myself as a clean freak, but I certainly do not like getting my hands into dirt even to this day.
In 2011 my husband was in his last months of suffering from terminal brain cancer. Brain cancer is a very punitive and ugly disease. You are slowly robbed of every cognitive and physical function until you die a vegetable. This story took place six months before my husband’s death.
His Cancer Altered My Way Of Being
One evening I heard a blood-curdling scream coming from our bathroom. I rushed into the bathroom to see my 6’3″ husband standing naked and sobbing. “I am so sorry Honey” was all he could say and I could immediately see, and smell why.
There was as the expression goes, shit everywhere. And I mean everywhere. The walls, countertops, toilets areas, all covered. The stench was simply overpowering. There had clearly been an explosion, and I wondered how on earth so much had managed to travel so far.
I looked at the scene trying to hide my horror. This was a clean person’s nightmare.
Gently, I hosed my husband down in the shower and laid towels on the floor so there was a clean path back to bed. All my husband could do was continue to apologize, it was so humiliating for him. I told him not to worry and made light that my trusty steam cleaner from my business could deal with this- no problem.
I stripped down to my underwear and soon the bathroom was billowing with steam and I was sweating profusely. I was gagging at first and even nearly slipped in the muck, but with zealous determination, managed to finish. The last bit of poop vanquished, all was clean at last.
After I showered I looked around and there was no trace of the nightmare that had just occurred. I sighed an enormous sense of relief. It was as if it had never occurred, but it had. My husband was already asleep by the time I returned to the bedroom, and I gently covered him up. With any luck, he would not remember this had even happened in the morning.
I walked into our living room with tears in my eyes. Just one more sign that this disease was progressing. However, I also had a completely different kind of emotion. I was never so proud and satisfied with cleaning anything as I was that evening. I had discovered that even Miss Prissy could rise to the occasion, and get her hands dirty in the name of compassion and love.
This was part of my journey of learning to be a caregiver and strangely enough, I am less prissy nowadays. It is just dirt.