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The Toilet Water is Awful Cold

by Rundy on November 25, 2006

Grandpa is worse in the evenings. Some evenings he is better than others. Some evenings he is quite bad. His confusion can add up, one confused piling on top of another making his muddle thoughts all the more muddle until things have spiralled completely out of control.

This morning Grandpa wanted to take a shower. I got the water adjusted properly and left him to his business. A little later I heard a shout from the bathroom.

“Everything all right in there?” I called through the door.

“Yeah, you can come on in,” Grandpa said.

On entering I found him standing in the stall with the door opened. I discerned that he wanted me to check some water, but for what cause, and what water he wanted checked wasn’t clear. He pointed to the toilet and told me to check the water and see if it was cold. I thought maybe his shower water had become cold and I asked him if he wanted it adjusted. No, he said, his water was fine. At this point I became confused, no longer being able to guess what his concern was. I wasn’t going to check the toilet water, and I hazarded a guess that his concern might have had something to do with the faucet so I turned it on and checked the water.

“Is it cold?” Grandpa said.

“I can make it cold,” I said. “Right now it is hot.”

At this point Grandpa became flustered and mumbled that he guessed everything was all right. I left thinking that maybe he had been concerned that he was stealing all the hot water from everyone else and that is what he wanted me to check. Later I found out otherwise.

Grandpa is often distracted from his initial goal. After supper he left the table and went to the bathroom. In reconstructing the situation afterward, I figured out he left to take a crap in the toilet. But I didn’t know that at the time–I only knew Grandpa had got up from the table after finishing his supper. And he didn’t remember why he had gone to the bathroom sometime after he got there.

Grandpa usually takes off his overshirt before he sits down on the toilet out of a fear that his shirt might somehow drop in the toilet or get wet. However, he also takes off his overshirt when he is going to shower, wash his face, and shave. So the point of taking off his shirt is where he often gets derailed. Such was the case tonight.

A little later he came tottering back out of the bathroom without anything on his upper body, requesting something which he was unable to articulate. I took a good guess and asked him if he wanted a wash cloth. “Yes, that’s it,” Grandpa said. “I want a wash cloth.”

I got him a wash cloth and checked in on the situation in the bathroom. Up until that point I wasn’t sure if he was intending to wash his face or take a shower. I saw a towel laid out on the floor and concluded that he was preparing to take a shower. He had already taken one that morning, he didn’t need to take one, but I wasn’t going to argue him out of it. Taking a shower would cause him no harm, and it would cause him less agitation if I let him do what he wanted.

By this time Grandma joined the show. I try to avoid having Grandma help Grandpa as much as possible. Soon as she understood what he was trying to do, she tried to stop him. “Why are you doing that?” she said. “You already took a shower this morning, Papa. You don’t need a shower. You don’t need anything in there.” By the time she was finished bulldozing him Grandpa was sputtering, defensive, humiliated, and even more confused. Grandma had made him feel stupid and angry, made him no less confused, and did nothing to solve whatever he felt was his problem.

Grandma left Grandpa simmering in the bathroom doorway.

“I can still help you take your shower,” I said.

“Never mind that,” he said angrily. “I’m not going to take one. I’m not going to do nothing.”

“Well what would you like to do?” I said.

He looked at me. “Can you take those things off? Those socks and stuff,” he said, indicating my socks and pants.

“Yes, I can take them off,” I said, not sure where this was going.

“Well take them off and come in here and sick your leg in this water and test it for me.”

I went over to the tub and stuck my hand under the faucet. “You want me to get some water the right temperature?” I said.

“No,” he said. “Stick your hand in that water,” he said, pointing toward the toilet. “It’s veeerry cold.”

I paused. Whenever possible I try to fulfill whatever request Grandpa might have no matter how strange it might seem. His requests have meaning to him, and as such they are important to him and so I try very hard to not brush him off. But there was a big problem with this request.

“Grandpa,” I said. “That has piss in it.”

“Oh, come on,” he said. “It’s got to have been flushed a half a dozen times.”

The water in the bowel was yellow with piss.

Feeling a confrontation coming, and not exactly sure how to deal with his request to stick my hand in a toilet bowl full of piss-water, I decided to stall by flushing the toilet.

“Um, Grandpa,” I said after clean water had come in. “Why do you want me to check the water?”

He flustered a bit, then turned away and said, “Never mind. I’m not as stupid as you guys think.”

He was angry because Grandma had called him down and made him feel a fool, he was angry because he couldn’t convey his desire, and I think he was angry and humiliated because some part of him realized that in trying to convey his wishes to me he had asked me to do something really stupid but another irrational part of him was annoyed because I didn’t get what he had wanted, and hadn’t done what I wanted.

Dressed in nothing but his undershorts he tottered back toward the kitchen grumbling about how everyone thinks he his stupid and no one is any help, “And you most of all,” he said, catching sight of Grandma.

I just wanted to let it go. Grandpa was humiliated, confused, and angry. I was willing to let him chew out the world and me included if it made him feel better and if it would lay the matter to rest. But Grandpa heard his final “And especially you,” and she took it as being aimed at me. “Don’t you go talking to your help that way, Pa,” she said. Great, I thought. I don’t need an argument now.

But now on top of everything else Grandpa was feeling guilty about his attitude and actions . . . as well as angry, frustrated, and confused. “I know I shouldn’t,” he said. At this point I tried to intervene again, saying it was all right, and if there was anything he wanted me to do I would try to do it.

This launched Grandpa into a long rambling aggrieved discourse through which I finally managed to understand that he was concerned about the water line to the toilet freezing. Everything clicked into place.

“Okay,” I said. “I understand what your concerned about. But . . . what would you like me to do to take care of the problem?” It is better to offer a pro-active solution, but in that instant I couldn’t think of what I could do to alleviate the perceived danger of the toilet line freezing.

“Well,” Grandpa said, sounding offended. “Someone could at least open the door to the closet under the stairs to let some warm air in. But nobody wants to–”

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll go do that. I can open the door under the stairs.”

“Never mind, never mind,” Grandpa said. “I’m not in charge here. I don’t have any say. You guys do what you want.”

So we came back to doing nothing. Grandpa got back into his clothes and comb his hair. Afterword he apologized and I said I forgave him and I didn’t think he was stupid.

But I still wonder how he knew the toilet water was veeery cold.

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