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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

In the crapper...

I love Fridays. That’s the day my housekeeper comes and wipes away a week’s worth of dirt. After she leaves, my house smells clean and feels clean. She vacuums and dusts and makes everything shiny. She is well worth the money I pay her.

There are parts of the house that I don’t allow her to clean. Riley’s room and bathroom are off limits to her. It’s a little dangerous for anyone who cleans Riley’s bathroom, so I prefer to do it myself because I have a system. His bedroom is up to him. He changes his own linens and never eats in his room, so it isn’t too bad. That is except for the times he’s spilled drinks, vomited or pooped at his bedside. Fortunately, I have an area rug over the carpet so I can simply throw it out and get a new one.

When I clean the bathroom, I look like one of those people in a movie about a villain releasing a bio-chemical virus into the air so that he/she can rule the world. My camera is broken or I’d take a picture of me in full bathroom cleaning gear and so you could see how ridiculous I look. I wear a disposable paper surgical gown and pants, a surgical mask, goggles, and latex gloves. In my hand I have a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle of bleach/water. I also have my steam mop ready and waiting as well as a pail of other cleaning supplies. After all that – I’m ready for task that will probably take me 2 hours.

I know what you’re thinking – this broad is definitely a crazy over-achiever. OK. I understand where you’re coming from. Maybe this will help you understand – the first week of the New Year 2010 I was in the emergency room. I was unable to control my bowels. We are NOT talking about a little ooooppps here, if you get my drift. I was feverish, in pain, vomiting. I was so sick and I thought I had the flu. I was informed that there was no flu “going around” at that time and I had probably contracted some kind of intestinal virus. They took some tests, prescribed me some meds and sent me home.

Two days later, I got a call from the public health department, informing me that I had salmonella. I had to tell them where I had eaten over a period of time and who I had been in contact with outside of my family. Before she even finished her explanation, I knew how I had gotten it.

I had cleaned Riley’s bathroom. I had on gloves, so I thought I was safe. I didn’t realize until I talked to the public health nurse that it doesn’t take any more than a speck of crud to make me sick. I didn’t have on a mask or goggles. I could have breathed in particles of poop that were dislodged from surfaces while I was cleaning. They could have entered through my eye sockets. When I was cleaning the floor, I was on my hands and knees in my regular clothes. I didn’t think about removing those jeans right away and throwing them in the wash. I thought I was doing a good thing by wearing the gloves. I was misinformed.

Salmonella is a horrible illness. People have been known to die from it. If you’ve ever had a stomach bug, think about that multiplied by ten. It is violent. There is uncontrollable, projectile everything, fevers and shakes, pain everywhere from the whacking of your muscles. And it’s contagious. So you’re pretty much isolated through the entire thing. I will wear full hazardous waste attire if it will keep me from contracting that again.

So, I leave the bathroom to be cleaned every other month rather than every week. No one uses the bathroom but Riley. I keep the door closed, but eventually the mess will appear on the door jambs and walls leading to his bedroom. That’s when I know it is time to get my stunning outfit on and clean up what he leaves behind.

Riley makes small attempts to clean it, but those attempts are happening less frequently now. He really doesn’t care about cleanliness. After all, he hasn’t showered in 18 months. If he doesn’t care about his personal cleanliness, why would he care about the bathroom?

I accept that he doesn’t care about his personal cleanliness or the bathroom. Why, then, does he scream at me when he thinks I’ve neglected my own room or office? Oh yeah! I forgot for a moment! He’s brain damaged. He has lost the ability to reason or logic. There’s no point in my stating the obvious to him because for him what makes sense is what is coming out of his mouth at the moment.

By the time I remember the brain damage, I’m already frustrated and just a bit guilty because my room is messy. I haven’t chided him in any way about his room. I seldom mention it or his odiferous body. When he yells at me about cleanliness, it’s always based on some way he thinks I should be.

I wish you knew Riley way back when. He was a handsome guy. He was meticulous about his personal hygiene, clothing and environment. He always cleaned his apartment on Saturday morning and that was also the day he picked up and dropped off clothes at the cleaners. I loved that about him. I loved the order of his life. It was a stark contrast from my semi-chaotic life at my parent’s house with multiple kids and uncertain schedules.

During the times when he is upset with me over the status of my room or my stack of undone laundry, I see bits of that old clean-freak Riley. There must be a battle going on inside his head. The old Riley seems to be having a continuing argument with the new Riley and no one is winning.  In brief moments of clarity, it must be extremely confusing and frustrating for him.

Riley likes Fridays too. Occasionally he will impose himself in the cleaning process and make the housekeeper’s job a bit more difficult. But, for the most part, he leaves her alone to do her job. When she’s in the middle of wiping down the countertops and Riley needs to get to his booze to make a drink, she is patient and waits for him to finish. They seem to have an understanding – they leave each other alone.

Hiring the housekeeper is one of the best things I’ve ever spent money on. She doesn’t charge me a lot – but she is worth millions. She relieves my stress and frees me so I can do other things. Now that I have her, I’m like a teenager who’s going steady. I don’t want her to ever leave me. Men may come and go, but a housekeeper should be forever.

As for the bathroom, this is part of the life of an end-stage caretaker. There’s nothing glamorous about it. It is a shitty job – literally.


Ms Kay said...

How delightful . If you ever need to do the competency order thing then you can just show them a video of the bathroom !

Gerry said...

I was so stunned and depressed over this video wondering if that was what was in store with my alcoholic companion who is already leaving pee on the floor for days without bothering to wipe it up. At 80 I no longer have the strength to clean my bathroom and his or wash his clothes, rugs, etc, washing my own. He has done the laundry once since that happened. Rugs are soiled and need washing, he just says he doesn't care if they are dirty.
I told him about your entry and getting salmonella from Riley. His answer was he did not 'believe' it. He always says that if something boggles my mind about advancing alcoholism. Now his cataracts are hanging down and my sister told him she was warned if there are complications like her diabetes the cataracts need to come off early not later. He could experience blindness if there is a complication from an over ripe cataract. He promised his doctor he would come in and have blood tests. Has he done it yet? No. His housekeeping is sinking back into non existence although he is finally washing the dishes every few days so as to try not to feed an overwhelming cockroach population in his apt. Even though manageement has given him a whole supply of sticky papers. Feeding them is the culprit. I hope Riley has stopped his campaign to get a car at his disposal. Oh Lord help us and Lord help the people on the road if that ever happens! You are fighting the good fight, Linda. Doc wanted to know why you don't leave him. I explained daughter situation. Good luck and Lord give you strength!