FORTY-FOUR - It's Just a Human Body, Myles

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Dad had some kind of a back spasm in the middle of the night last night. It was pretty freaky, because it locked him up and he couldn't move without being in the throes of agony and saying, "Oh, God! Oh, Shit!" I ended up running next door for Misty, who came over and stayed for the rest of the night. She loaded Dad up with some muscle relaxants, and I put on the George Winston CD that my parents used to play for me when I was a baby. It's all flutey and harpish, with wild river sounds and seagulls in the background. (This seems to be quite common with relaxing music these days. Birds and rain. Never fails.)

Anyway, Dad finally went back to sleep, and Misty went off to work this morning, so I am staying home from school because Dad can't be left alone, which is fine by me because I happened to know the guidance counsellor was coming in to talk to our class about "sensitive things" today. Things like herpes and rainbow parties and what not, and ten bucks says everyone had to partner up with someone and do the ol' "Condom on a Banana" exercise. Can you imagine? With Ivy right there and everything! Completely mortifying.

Things were fine until mid-morning. Dad had just been dozing, and then I made him a blueberry smoothie, and then about half an hour after that, he called me over. He told me in a very hushed tone that he had to...um...relieve himself, and I don't mean he had to pee. He explained that his back was still twitchy and he couldn't really move, and that, heinous as it was, I was going to have to "help him out in the ol' bathroom department." (His words, not mine.)

I don't think anything can prepare a person for something like this. I mean, I sort of expect to have to deal with aging parent issues at some point in my life, but not as a fourteen-year-old kid! Still, I had to step up, because when nature calls, it calls.

I will not go into the explicit details of this event. Suffice to say, the humiliation my father endured whilst hanging his butt off the edge of the bed and pooping into an Island Grocers plastic bag, was huge. As for me,(the holder of the bag and wiper of the butt), I may need a little time on the ol' horizontal couch to scare off the PTSD that is hovering around me right now.

When it was all over, Dad and I didn't say much, and we still can't look each other in the eye. There had been quite a bit of nervous coughing from my father, and I had to take a long, hot shower. Man, I don't know how Misty does it! I'm sure her days at the nursing home are chock full of butt wiping and...worse! She says you get used to that sort of thing, but I honestly don't see how.

Maybe dogs have the right idea. They just kind of know when it's time to check out. Our old neighbour's dog, Clancy, knew. He was arthritic in the hips and mostly blind, and then he got a tumour on his lung. Our neighbours wanted him to have an operation, but Clancy just get trying to crawl under the front porch to hide. A week after they found the tumour, Clancy managed to get under the porch, where he curled up, and quietly passed away. And that, was that. I think he wanted it that way. There's a certain dignity to that, I think.

Not to suggest that my father needs to go and find a nice secluded spot in which o venture on into the light or anything; I was talking more about all the people I saw in Misty's nursing home the other day. Those old skinny men parked in wheelchairs in front of a TV show they weren't even watching--the ones drooling onto their blankets and pissing into a bag. The women, too. I bet they all had vital and interesting lives, but people will probably just remember them as pale-faced, catatonic zombies with oozing bedsores. I'm not sure it's right. But then, I'm only fourteen, so what do I know?

Misty came over just before dinner. She brought me an actual hamburger and some French fries, which was pretty sweet of her, and she brought my dad some pomegranate Kombucha and some peppermint foot cream.

When she started massaging my dad's feet, I took it as a cue to go and visit the llamas. Not that there is anything particularly sexual about the human foot, but Misty massaging ANYTHING, can really quicken a person's pulse.

Norm was in the barn, brushing some tangles out of Desmond's coat, and when he saw me, he gestured to another brush in the straw and told me to give Audrey a bit of a tidy up.

I've never brushed a llama before, but after a few minutes, Audrey seemed to really enjoy the experience. She half shut her eyes and her tongue hung out a little bit. Of course, she could have just been thirsty. It's hard to tell with llamas.

Norm asked me how Dad was, and I ended up telling him about the whole "pooping into a grocery bag" thing. He laughed, and said you got used to stuff like that, and that he'd had to do that sort of thing for Misty's mom when she was so ill. He said that after a while you didn't even think about it anymore. I told him I hoped that I never had to "get used to it" and that my retinas will be forever scarred. Norm said, For Chrissakes, it's just a human body, Myles. Everybody shits. And at that very moment, Desmond decided to take a huge crap, which meant a veritable rainstorm of poo pellets that just missed Norm's gum-booted feet by inches.

Cheeky bugger, Norm said, but I could tell he was kind of impressed. I was too. I mean, I've always believed animals to be sentient creatures; I just didn't know llamas possessed a sense of humour, too.

You learn something new every day, I guess.

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