Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mrs. Fossilfuel's Castor Oil Adventure

Do not read this while eating.

I've now spent a few days with the 98-year-old Mrs. Fossilfuel. She sleeps a lot, and I check on her every ten minutes or so to make sure she's OK. Or at least OK for 98. Sometimes, to keep warm enough (though her house is kept at 81 degrees) she wraps a pink scarf around her head and over her eyes, and resembles an ancient, reclusive movie star napping at a day spa. She only needs a discarded script next to her bed.

She eats simple meals, fixed to a very precise set of instructions. I fix them as best I can, being a very reluctant visitor to the kitchen, and she always says they taste good. Even if I have to take the pear back and peel it, or the hot milk is not hot enough. Her microwave is, in microwave years, as old and tired as she is. I heat her milk in it for 5 full minutes and it is still not quite hot.

Mrs. Fossilfuel's purse is kept right next to her pillow at all times. Except for when she goes to the bathroom, during which time she asks her caregiver to follow behind her as she hobbles there with the help of her walker, and to bring the purse, then place it next to the toilet where she can see it. It's too sad to be insulting. As though she could protect herself from a dishonest person who came into her house.

Now. About the bathroom. Though Sherrie, the overnight person who comes four nights a week from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., tells me that Mrs. F. indeed walks to the bathroom when she has to go, she will not do it for me. She insists on peeing into the cottage cheese container next to her bed, while I gather her robe and nightgown upward from front and back, and hold her steady with that as though she is a wooden marionette. Her legs shake and I worry she will collapse any second. She gets upset when she can't "go", and asks me to go to the bathroom and turn the faucet on so she can hear it. I do. And then she can't hear it anyway. When finally the first drop falls into the container, she says "Oh, here it comes, honey." And then "Listen, here comes some more." It is a urine play-by-play. Two things come to mind during this.

1. Dennis Miller says that one way you can tell you're getting old is when you start peeing in Morse Code.

2. When my grandma was alive, if she felt weak or had the flu, she'd say "I'm shakin' like a dog shittin' peach seeds." This is how Mrs. F. shakes.

This past Saturday, she said she was terribly constipated. Terribly. Since she would not walk to the bathroom, she laid in her bed actually trying to poop in her pants. She refused to even attempt to walk to the bathroom so I was stumped as to what to do. I couldn't just take her outside and beat her with a shovel. Could I?

When I would check on her, the grimace on her face made me grimace, and she was seemingly in pain from straining. I asked, tentatively, with my shovel behind my back, if there was anything I could do.

She asked me to go to the kitchen and mix this up for her:

One ounce of pineapple juice
One ounce of castor oil

She said this is the potion her mother told her about, (yes, her mother, who I believe was a contemporary of Betsy Ross) and she learned it from an old woman who was an expert in natural healing. And a contemporary of Cleopatra.

Right now you might be saying to yourself: Oh, Candy. I know you didn't give Mrs. Fossilfuel a full ounce of castor oil. I know you didn't. Because only a true dumbass would do such a intensely dumbass thing.

But Candy is not terribly well-versed in castor oil. Also, since Mrs. F. has been deemed "coherent," it is not my place to tell her what she can and cannot have.

So yes. I gave her the mixture in a measuring cup and she drank it. It was 3:00 p.m.

At 4:50 p.m. the world grew dark.

When I checked on her, she said "Oh honey, I think I need the pot." The "pot" is her name for the cottage cheese container.

In my estimation, it was way too late for that. But perhaps I was too hasty in my judgment. After all, she had so far only soaked her robe, nightgown, and bedsheets in shit. Great pools of shit. For a moment, I could not move. My muscles came to a complete frozen stop as my cognition took hold of the news that I was somehow going to have to deal with this flurry of feces.

"Oh my God, Mrs. Fossilfuel. Let's get you to the bathroom."

"Oh, honey. I just can't."

It was then that I wanted to kill her.

I'm going to condense this next segment, partly for your sake, partly for mine. But let me just say that when I helped her sit up, there was a long, juicy, horrible sound coming from her nether regions that I thought was the devil himself calling my name. I was shocked to the bone that this feeble old woman who is as fragile as a wasp's nest could rip off such a sinister, echoing frapp that could peel the fur off a baboon. But there was no time to be shocked. Mrs. Fossilfuel was unloading every morsel of food she had eaten since she had stood on the dock as a three-year-old bidding farewell to the Titanic.

For the next hour, I tried desperately not to breathe. I went through five pairs of latex gloves, a full roll of paper towels, opened the windows that would open, plunged the toilet numerous times, and listened to comments like "Oh I feel so much better" from Mrs. Fossilfuel, the old woman who had transformed herself into a rectal pinata.

When Sherrie came for the night shift, she took one whiff inside the house and started loudly calling the name of our Messiah. I explained what had happened. I told her she could kill me. I just didn't care any more.

When I got home, Scott came up to hug me as he always does. I waved him off because I was too tired to summon the words "Don't hug me. I've been slithering through shit." I sat on the kitchen floor, leaned back against the side of the oven and said "Please bring me some alcohol." He did. I drank. And I told him the story, as I threw everything I was wearing into the washer. And then threw myself into a hot bath.

Here is how Mrs. Fossilfuel thinks. Here is how she prioritizes things:

When Sherrie and I had moved her to a chair and sat her atop a pile of plastic grocery bags to keep the chair safe from her radioactive brown lava, and were scrubbing her bare mattress with carpet cleaner and trying not to lose the will to live, we pulled a clean sheet out of the closet to put on her bed while the mattress pad soaked in bleach. Mrs. F. looked at it and said "Oh, don't use that one. It's all cotton. It wrinkles."


  • At 12:30 AM, Blogger Citlali said…

    oh, wow. the words "holy shit" come to mind but are strangely way too appropriate... ugh. HOW do you do it? What's going to happen now? It's a strange experience laughing and wanting to hurl at the same time. Have another drink for me... = ]

  • At 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    God, no one else could have handled that as gracefully as you did...she reminds me of my mom, especially the purse. It was a full year after she died I think before my sister and I mustered the courage to go through her purse.

    God bless Ms. FF. Love, Anita

  • At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm with Citlali. Holy shit, indeed. I also had that same experience of wanting to laugh and hurl. And cry for what you had to go through. I have to confess that I could not have done it. I would have vomited and then run from the house, leaving poor Mrs. Fossilfuel to drown in diarrhea.

    Although I say "poor Mrs. Fossilfuel," I no longer feel very sorry for her. Somewhat, yes. But for a person who was laying in a puddle of feces and would rather use an old cottage cheese container than even attempt to get to the toilet, I can't believe that she refuses a cotton sheet because it wrinkles.

    If I wasn't terrified of growing old before, I am now.

  • At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Can Mrs. FF afford a bedside commode? Seems like it would be easier than a cottage cheese container? I don't think they cost very much but not sure.

    Wow, all I can say is wow.

  • At 7:42 AM, Blogger mgm said…

    Candy, no one could make geriatric diarrhea as funny as you can. Citlati said it, laughing and needing (not merely wanting) to hurl at the same time is a bizarre sensation.

    I don't know how you handled it so well either. I've sometimes had to force back a gag when I've changed Skeeter's diaper and he doesn't have 98 years of backlog.

  • At 8:38 AM, Blogger Lisa Dunick said…

    oh my goodness. I was thinking that being old is a lot like potty training, but then I got to the explosion part.. and oh. my. god. I'm seconding the bedside commmode-- because there's no way in hell I'd be holding a cottage cheese container (is she really that good of a shot??!!) for anyone. On. My. goodness.

  • At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "rectal pinata"

    Comic gold. That's worth hitting your tip jar for, I think.

  • At 8:59 AM, Blogger Norma said…

    Candy, you are a saint. Maybe you'll be my caretaker when I'm Mrs. Fossilfuel's age. I agree with futuresis, I'm terrified of getting old now!

  • At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Castor oil and pineapple juice is the doulas last resort to bring on labor in a woman well past due. Honest. It gets everything out. Everything. It's like the hostile bouncer of the abdominal cavity. Ham and eggs! You too!

  • At 10:36 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    It was one of the most traumatic hours of my life. At least in the "can I make it through this without puking and then killing her" tension.

    And a sight to behold. Like a grisly homicide scene, only brown everywhere instead of red. I should've just left and called 911.

    Domhan, I'm going to wear a bottle of lotion around my neck on a chain from now on.

  • At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Domhan was on the right track. I just remembered that the trick is Vicks Vaporub under the nose. Is there enough Vaporub to ward off that stench? That's the million-dollar question.

  • At 1:37 PM, Blogger mgm said…

    Candy, did you try putting a chalk outline on the bed? Bright yellow crime scene tape?

  • At 5:24 PM, Blogger EB said…

    You *have* to send this one somewhere. It must be published. Or you must do stand-up. Something.

    I just laughed so hard that I nearly pulled a Ms. FF.

    #&%&*$% I miss you!

  • At 5:52 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Futuresis, Vicks Vapo-Rub wept and ran from the house. The little blue jar bounced rapidly down the street.

    Mad Grad, no, no crime scene. Only the momentary pondering of homicide.

    EB, I'm going to try to fit this into a manuscript. We'll see how that goes. It would help if I didn't need to ever sleep.

  • At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Candy, Candy, Candy. You just gave me a very uplifting new perspective on long-term caregiving. Thank you. No shit - thank you!

  • At 8:13 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Citlali, I don't know how I did it. I'm a wimp. Not sure I could do it again. Ever.

    Anita: you must write about the purse.

  • At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    God, it was so good to see you. I'll write about the purse..have in fact, though I have to find it. So much to say it will have to wait for another day. Just signing off...Love you, dearie. Anita

    Scott's right (write!) Pure comic genius.

  • At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I printed this post off today and disrupted a meeting at work since people were passing it around and laughing about it.

  • At 10:20 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Great to see you, too, Anita. Thanks for making the trip to the unnamed small town.

    Belle, I'm sure those people have known a few Mrs. Fossilfuels in their time, right?

  • At 12:34 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    efloAbout halfway through this I started laughing so hard--then felt terrible about laughing--then laughed again.

    Oh, shit. I can't even IMAGINE what I'd do. But I'll tell you what--I'm thinking of taking up smoking again. And possibly skydiving. Because I DO NOT want to get old. Ever. I can hardly pee in a public restroom, let alone into a cottage cheese container, let alone what Mrs. FF has done...

  • At 3:18 PM, Blogger Hoosier Mama said…

    Cotton sheets wrinkle...and you know, it's WAY harder to get crap out of wrinkles, whether they be of cotton, or the epidermis variety, than out of a nice smooth sheet. Clearly she had your best interest at heart, you ingrate.

  • At 6:16 PM, Blogger Jerry said…

    I'm tempted to feel sorry for you, but you present events in such an entertaining way that I'm conflicted.

    Great story...if Mrs. F was 10 years younger she would enjoy it herself.

  • At 10:19 AM, Blogger ian said…

    I tried the Castor oil trick with my fourth child who was a week late. Didn't work, even though I had a similar result as Mrs. Fossilfuel.

    Used bedside commodes can be found (Craigslist) - Personally I'd rather BUY her one than have to empty a cottage cheese container.

    Perhaps we could start a fund for Candy?

  • At 11:19 AM, Blogger Carin said…

    Oops, not Ian. It's Carin.

  • At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I will go stand on the local university campus and shake a can and shout, "Support bedside commodes!"

    I would do that for you, Candy.

  • At 11:55 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Mel, I had to laugh afterward to keep from offing myself. So don't feel bad.

    Pass me a smoke. Now let's go get some parachutes.

  • At 11:56 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Hoosier Mama, I *am* an ingrate. Shame on me. Next time she explodes like a pinata, I'll know better.

    Carin, I cannot believe that concoction didn't shoot the baby out like a wet bar of soap on a locker room floor.

  • At 11:57 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Jerry, I get the feeling from Mrs. F. that she didn't ever have much of a sense of humor. I hope I'm wrong. I'll keep looking for it.

    Futuresis, like, OMG, can we be sorority sisters?

  • At 9:57 AM, Blogger Tony from the Bronx said…

    Candy, I think you're missing the Poetic Beauty of all this--think of the splendid paintings of Breughal, with all those little grotesque people running around screwing and drinking and vomiting and jerking-off. That's us--the human condition.

    Now for some practical advice: my Norwegian relatives up to Wisconsin used coffee cans--you know, Maxwell House, Hills Brothers, Chase and Sanborn--they're all good. Much sturdier, but watch out for those sharp edges--an abrupt movement might be fatal.

  • At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Or is it just me?

  • At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's not just you,'s me, too, the Eager Whore of the Eagar hoards...can't wait to meet you, kiddo. The girl is happy. Happpeeeee. Love, Anita

  • At 4:50 PM, Blogger sparrow said…

    Just wanted to let you know that as I stood there in the bathroom last night, with Ms. A on the shower chair, while gallons of rancid bowel contents blew out of her... my only thought second to "my God, I'm going to die in here" was: rectal pinata.

    ...and I'm pretty sure I would have laughed if not for the circumstance.


  • At 5:01 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Pixie, I am very familiar with that "I'm going to die in here" feeling.
    You appreciate fresh air a lot now, don't you?

  • At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Patrick said…

    Funny, my father's side of the family has a saying:"Shaking like a dog shitting razorblades".

  • At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Patrick said…

    Also, I get stories of this magnitude at the dinner table.

  • At 12:27 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Dude, I'll take the peach seeds over the razorblades.

    And yes, I'm sure you've heard at LEAST this horrific at the dinner table.

  • At 11:50 PM, Blogger FarmAndAway said…

    When I was about 2, and my sister was thus 5, we had really, really bad diarrhea. In fact, I think we had that a lot and it might have been related to the fact that my dad thinks a serving of ice cream is 2 cups, and we were little, and whatnot. sister and I decided to paint the upstairs bathroom with our shit. One of us would sit on the counter and go, and then wipe it all over the mirror and walls while the other nailed the floor. My dad who was home alone with us that night came in and looked around at the somewhat large bathroom that was absolutely plastered with gravy-colored poo goo, and did the whole "What the HELL are you idiots doing?! You're lucky you're covered in shit or I would beat your buns right now. Get in the tub and stop crying! I am the one who should be crying.

    Meanwhile the dogs had come in and were lapping it up like caramel.

  • At 11:59 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Laughing my ass off here, Acerbica. And then I hit that last line about the dogs and it was all over. What a friggin' word picture!


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