They have lovely bathtubs in Germany. They’re at least twice as deep as a standard American bathtub; the side of the one I had in my flat was as a bit higher than my knees when I stepped into it. After living there and experiencing the true, deep comfort of soaking in hot water literally up to my neck, I was spoiled. The old American bathtub, no deeper than mid-calf, just didn’t cut it.
And that’s why I had the bathtub in my main bathroom removed and replaced with a double-sized shower back in 2003. I hardly ever used that shallow, disappointing bathtub. The water always cooled off too fast (and our hot water heater only held enough water to fill the tub once), If that wasn’t bad enough, I could only submerge my entire body by laying flat on my back with knees bent because the tub was also too short. I’m only 5 feet and 4 inches tall. The submerged part of me would be nice and warm for two or three minutes, but my legs froze.
So phooey. Just get rid of the silly thing, I thought. You love a hot shower. And a nice, big shower stall with pretty ceramic tiles and a rain-shower type spray will be just fine. Add an on-demand, tankless water heater for an unlimited supply of hot water, and that shower would be perfect.
And so it was done.
It’s important at this point to note that, as of that year, I’d had almost no RA symptoms for roughly six years. I’d gotten used to living a normal life – meaning a life without chronic pain. I thought less and less often about the dreadful rheuma years, 1987 to 1997, until finally I just didn’t think about them any more at all. See, I tucked my rheumatoid arthritis neatly into a box labeled “THE PAST,” strapped it up with duct tape and relegated it without ceremony or a backwards glance to a random, dusty attic closet in my mind.
Of course, the sneaky rheuma was still there, and it was busily chewing an escape hole in the box. But as far as I was concerned, it was “gone.” I was in “remission.” If I was lucky, I’d never have to face the disease again.
Fast forward to today.
Rheuma’s been out of the box for a couple of years now. Almost daily I remember that lovely deep bathtub in my German flat. I’d pour a couple of capfuls of Kniepp Rheumabad into the hot water, which mysteriously made the heat sink even deeper into my aching joints. There were times when getting into and out of the bath was dicey, but once in, ohhh my. It was worth it.
Now I have a shower. It’s still spacious. I still love the earth-and-forest colored tiles. I absolutely love love love the on-demand hot water. But beyond all that, the drawbacks to a shower vs. a bath when I’m in the depths of a rheuma flare are obvious. Why didn’t I consider the return of the disease, the return of that deep, nerve jangling joint pain that a deep bathtub could sooth, if not actually relieve? I really, really wanted to believe that I’d never have to deal with it again. I was in denial.
So now I’m tentatively exploring the possibility of putting a tub back into that space. I should be able to keep my pretty tiles, I think. Any tub I get, though, can’t be one of those silly shallow American fiberglass things. It wouldn’t be worth the trouble. So I’ve been looking at those step-in tubs, the ones with doors on the sides and a built-in seat. They come with hydrotherapy jets and even thermostats to keep the water at an even temperature. And they’re deep. I could sit in water up to my neck again if I scrunched down just a wee bit.
That sounds absolutely heavenly. But the cost may be way out of my league. So even a plain old bathtub, as long as it’s deep, will do. I’m checking into both kinds. I really need a bath.