The Poo Diaries‎ > ‎

05.06.13 Ewww.

Dear Dementia,

I am certain I’ve developed Obssesive-Compulsive Disorder since Garland and Meryl Claire moved in. I was formally diagnosed after sharing my recurring public bathroom nightmares over the phone with my childhood friend Emelie, whose years of personal struggle with the disorder led her to expertly proclaim, “Those are OCD dreams Bel! I know. I’ve had them since we were 12. How are your hands?”

“They’re not pretty, Em. I use so much bleach and wash my hands so often that I’m prone to spontaneously bleeding–especially when I’m public, in the middle of the supermarket, and I have no tissues.  That’s when I get the urge to wave my hands high and scream hysterically, ‘Stigmata, stigmata!’”

Em and I both laugh. It’s good to hear her laugh; she’s been through a rough year with her own mother, who recently passed. I am sad for Em and her sisters, who all loved their mother dearly. And I wonder what’s wrong with me for feeling a little envious of Em because her mother went relatively quickly; I wonder why I feel so sorry for myself for having parents not only who are alive but also who I get to spend so much time with. So many acquaintances and even strangers tell me to cherish every moment with Garland and Meryl Claire because those moments are precious; and they know that because it’s those moments that give them comfort now that their beloved parents are gone.

But I wonder if those strangers’ parents were anything like mine. I wonder if their parents didn’t pay taxes for ten years and left their child to deal with the IRS; I wonder if their parents leased a car for louse in Florida who racked up speeding tickets and failed to make payments so that it went into collections and left their child to deal with it; I wonder if their parents bought an enormously overpriced horse trailer and truck for another louse in Florida and left their child to deal with the payments and insurance and eventually the hiring of an attorney and private investigator to sort it all out; I wonder if their dad was taken by agents to jail in the wee hours of the morning and their mother called  her child screaming profanities, lamenting her imminent demise, pleading for answers but refusing to act on her own behalf; I wonder if their parents were forced to sell and move out of their home of thirty years, led their child to believe she need only to help with their last-minute packing and drive them cross-country, and with six days to go had packed thirty years’ worth of nothing and left their child to deal with it; I wonder if their parents left their child to handle the care and eventual sale of a second home in Taos plus a storage unit filled with thirty years’ worth of stuff from Florida; I wonder if their parents showed the nasty sides of themselves in front of their grandchildren; I wonder if their parents stuck their heads in the sand like ostriches, ignoring their problems rather than admitting them and asking anyone for help, biding their time until an emergency develops, and then called their child, fully expecting her to drop her life to rescue them (which, of course, she did); I wonder if their parents willingly heaped their responsibilities upon their child and turned to her with a straight face to say, “Oh dear, I hate to be a burden.” Do I cherish these moments?

And then I have a morning like this one.

Chili’s refusal to go downstairs to go outside is my first clue. The odor that wafts up from the Abyss when I open the door is my second clue. I creep down the stairs cautiously and reach for the light switch to turn on the overhead lights before taking my final step down. I remember from experience to look before I leap into the room or suffer the consequences.

And there it is. Three mounds of poo on the rug in front of the coffee table.

Garland is sitting on the couch, chin to his chest, fast asleep. But the culprit, Buffy, is closed in Meryl Claire’s room just as I had insisted after the dozen or so times she had had accidents in the very same room. It’s much easier to clean up Buffy’s messes when they are contained in Meryl Claire’s room. Each time she urinated and pooped outside the bedroom before I established that rule, Garland invariably walked through it, traipsing feces through the living room, into the bathroom, and back into his bed with him.

This time is no different. I drop my supply box on the dresser next to the TV and don medical gloves. I mentally pat myself on the back for buying that industrial-sized box of latex-free gloves the last time I was in Costco. I check the bottom of Garland’s socks. Ewww.

“Hey. What are doing to me?” Garland seethes with annoyance. But I am in no mood.

“Nothing. Just checking for shit.” Though my explanation makes no sense to Garland, my crass words cut through any attempt by Al-Z to challenge me.

I remove Garland’s socks, putting them in a plastic trash bag, and place his bare feet upon a towel on top of the coffee table. I follow poo tracks to the bathroom and notice a full load of poo in the toilet as well. Ewwww.

A thought crosses my mind. Is the poo on floor really Buffy’s? Or could it be human? Would the vet be able to tell the difference? Ewww. Yuk. I’m not saving any to bring in to the vet. I can’t. It’s too disgusting.

Garland has closed his eyes and disappears inward. Good. Maybe he won’t move. Maybe. But I can’t take that chance, and all of my cleaning supplies are upstairs, out of Al-Z’s reach.

I open Meryl Claire’s door and I put Buffy outside. The bedroom looks clean. Could it be Garland’s poo?

No, Buffy must have done it before Meryl Claire went to bed and Meryl Claire just didn’t notice it. She’s overlooked it before. Once when she stepped in Buffy’s poo, she had clumps in her slippers and poo squished between her toes, and she smeared it all over her bed sheets and hand-knit comforter. She couldn’t even smell it. She even fought me about needing to take a shower. I won.

I decide to wake her.

“Mom. I need you to get up. There’s poo all over the living room and I need you to make sure Dad doesn’t move while I go upstairs to get stuff to clean up.”

Meryl Claire responds to my nudge and no-nonsense tone and sits right up.

“What? Huh?”

I repeat myself and she is out of bed in no time. She sure can move quickly when motivated. I point out the poo. Her gaze pans over to where Garland sits and she protests, “But where am I going to sit?”

“I don’t care,” I say, without any patience to indulge her. “Please just keep an eye on him while I run upstairs.” Buffy barks at the door from outside. “And don’t let Buffy in. She can wait until I’m done.”

I run upstairs and grab cleaning supplies: plastic grocery bags for trash, paper towels, all-purpose cleaner, heavy-duty carpet cleaner, Clorox wipes, and a gallon jug of bleach. Oh yeah: more medical gloves; I’m gonna need ’em.

I pick up as much poo with the paper towels and furiously scrub the carpet. There’s something seriously defective with anyone who calls dog poo a “present.” Am I supposed to cherish this moment? Really? REALLY?

Next I attack the tracks leading to the bathroom. Then the bathroom floor.

There’s an empty toilet paper roll on the bathroom counter. I pick it up. It’s half covered in a thick layer of poo. Human or canine? Ewwww.

I place a new roll of toilet paper on the holder, then turn to scrub the bathroom counter and sink. Bleach. I need bleach. I pour it over the counter and douse the sink. I pour some more in the toilet. There. That’s better.

I strip off the dirty gloves and replace them with a fresh pair. Next I strip Garland’s bed, bring his sheets and blankets upstairs, and throw them in the wash.

Now it’s back down to the Abyss to deal with Garland. I need to get him in the shower. But first I’ll test his blood glucose. 135. Hmmm, that’s high. He’s usually in the 90s. I really hope he hasn’t eaten anything. I shut down that line of thought. Ewwwww.

“Garland, c’mon. Let’s go in the bathroom and take a shower.”

He barely moves. I wonder if he’s okay.

“Garland. Hey Garland,” I call to him and tap his arm.

“What? What do you want?”

“Let’s get up. Can you stand for me?”


“It’s time to go into the bathroom and take shower. Let’s stand up,” I urge him.

He rises, wobbling for a moment before steadying himself, and makes his way to the bathroom door.

“I have to go to bathroom,” he states with emphasis, as if he’s pondered his need for quite some time and has rendered his decision.

Instinct tells me to remove his shirts first. Good instincts.

He struggles out of his sweatshirt and thermal shirt and I quickly administer his insulin shot.

“Now you can go to the bathroom, ok?”

“In there?” Garland asks, pointing to the shower door.

“Oh no, not in there. Over there, Garland, in the toilet.”

He steps toward the toilet and I close the door halfway to give him some semblance of privacy. When I peek in to see how he’s doing, I am horrified. His hand is covered in poo—human poo, no doubt about it this time—and he is struggling with the toilet paper.

I want to run, to simply dissolve into space. But I have no choice. I must go in. Ewwww.

I glance down at my gloved hands, sigh, and will myself to into action.

I take the toilet paper roll from him and hand him a long piece. He stands and his backside and legs are covered in poo as well. And then I see it. He has taken a huge dump in his underwear. It has leaked out into his long underwear too. Oh Dear, Dear, Effing Dementia!

I’ve reached my limit of disgust; my brain no longer distinguishes between levels of grossness. Autopilot switches on.

“Sit down.” I command, and Garland does as he’s told, covering the seat with poo.

I grab a plastic bag and remove his sweatpants. They appear clean. For a moment I consider what to do with the long underwear and tighty whities, which are mostly brown now.  I determine there’s no way I’m cleaning those. I put them in a plastic trash bag. I’ll buy new ones.

Garland’s hands are now top priority. He must not touch ANYTHING.

Naked except for the poo clinging to his legs and not-so-private parts, I guide him over to the sink and shove his hand under warm running water. But the poo is not washing away. I realize I will have to clean his hand myself. Ewwww.

It’s alright, I think, trying to psych myself up, you’re wearing gloves.

I grab his hand and scrub it with soap, watching the poo and my father’s dignity wash down the drain. Is that you I feel smirking, Al-Z?

I turn to start the shower and Garland instinctively reaches for the hand towel.

“No, Garland. Let’s just get right into the shower,” I say as I gently guide him to the shower's threshold. But he resists. I suddenly realize I better remove the floor mat or it will become covered in poo, and in one fell swoop grab it and throw it outside the bathroom door.

“I’m not going in there. I’m going out there!” He motions beyond the door to the living room.

“Oh, but first you have shower. C’mon.” I push a little more forcefully.

“Not in there. I’m not going in there. It’s cold in there.”

“No it’s warm in there Garland.” I’ve had enough and I push him inside. He pushes back but not not hard enough and he stumbles forward into the shower.

“Hey! What the hell are you doing to me?”

I direct the warm water over his body and he relaxes a little.

“See? It’s warm. Doesn’t it feel good?”

“Ahhh. Yes, that feels nice.”

I take down the handheld shower head and aim the water at his lower extremities. But the poo is not washing away. I change the setting to emit a stronger blast of water. That’s a little better. But Garland’s not so sure.

“Hey. What is happening? I’m cold.”

I move the water to his upper body to warm him up, and watch poo dissolve down the drain. I’m gonna need a lot of Clorox.

I return to his backside. The poo is too embedded and is not letting go. It hangs in clumps from his pubic hair and I realize I will have to clean his parts myself. Ewwww.

It’s alright, I think, trying to psych myself up, you’re wearing gloves.

I grab the soap and wash him with my gloved hand. My brain disengages so I don't focus on what I'm actually doing to my own father; it will work that out later in my OCD nightmares.

At last, the poo rinses away. I replace the shower head and Garland stands like a statue under the stream of water, allowing me the opportunity to change my gloves. Normally, I encourage Garland to do as much as he can on his own. But not now. I wash the rest of his body and his hair. Al-Z must sense I mean business and Garland submits.

Finally he is clean and dry. But there’s more to do. We follow the routine: get dressed, comb hair, brush teeth, take the morning pills.

Meryl Claire sits on the couch watching The View. I guide Garland over to the table and fan a partial deck of cards out in front of him. He picks them up and begins to lay them out in an order only he and Al-Z understand.

I bring the poo-filled trash, the used bathroom towels, and my supply box upstairs and fix breakfast for Garland and the dogs.

Back down in the Abyss, Garland happily munches his shredded wheat while I douse the entire bathroom with bleach. Meryl Claire stares at the television. When I’m satisfied I’ve adequately disinfected every inch, I head back upstairs, throw in the last load of tainted laundry, and set the chair alarm.

The worst of it is over. I head up to my room to disinfect myself. There is only cold water left but I don’t care. I shower anyway.

A new nickname for Garland pops into my head: Poopy-pants Magee. Finally I laugh.  And I begin my workday.

May the next generation conquer you, Dear Dementia.

With love,

Belinda Jay