Growing up I thought that one of the saddest things in the world was when a person gets so old that they begin to wet themselves again. When someone in their eighties or nineties loses control of the essential bodily functions a person with so-called dignity can hold. The functions they have been perfectly capable of for the last seventy-five or more years. I still think this is sad, but I no longer shed tears for the elderly in my life.
I have seen this sad event more than one might think. I grew up in a church with several elderly folks. Many of whom from time to time could not hold their pee, or, did not know they had to pee and would wet themselves. I never asked them which it was. It would start with a simple spot of wetness and then grow and continue down the legs of their pants. When it was realized what was happening, the elderly persons would become so embarrassed, and I was sad for them.
To my recollection these elderly gentlemen composed themselves better than I would. It was almost that they were accepting the embarrassment as part of life, almost embarrassed for the length of the lives of which they should be proud. All of life there was this simple discipline of peeing where you were supposed to, and now it could not be helped. They peed in public like they were back to being three years old.
I never thought this was funny, older persons wetting themselves. I had and still have by all accounts a vivid imagination and a odd sense of humor, but this is one thing that would never be joked about. One day when my grandpa who lived to be ninety-two peed his pants my sadness grew to tears. I mean I laughed when he farted as he walked, but somehow, I kept the laughs contained to farting, because it wasn’t as messy and there was no fuss about these farts. But to me, peeing of the pants was just sad.
Maybe my sensitive soul just couldn’t take the lack of dignity that happens when someone pees their pants. There is such a fuss made by those close to the individual. They are running around trying to keep the mess contained and clean up the loved one. There are apologies made by the family members of the elderly as if it is a sign of their own incompetence in taking care of their aging loved one, maybe their apologies are actually fear that their love one is just one step closer to the death that awaits us all. Maybe the wetting of the pants is a sign of mortality, I’m not sure. Either way there is a fuss and business by those who surround the elderly in these moments.
The last time I remember crying about someone peeing their pants was my mother. She was not elderly at the time. Hell, I was only twelve or thirteen which would mean my mom was well south of old. I can picture this as if it was yesterday, it is that vivid in my mind. At the time there is no one that I loved and appreciated as much as my mom, and she is still in my top five. I mean she is my mother, the one who supports and cares for me through thick and thin. The one who has and continues to teach me the depth of a mother’s love. There is no way I want her to pee her pants, and I don’t just say that because I don’t want to clean up after her, I say that because I love her.
We were in Yellowstone in our navy blue 1986 VW Vanagon, that later became mine. My whole family of origin was there in the van, six of us in total. We were road tripping and trying to see some sights just outside the park. We were on one of those remote roads that not many cars dare to venture down, but we did. It was a long day of driving around to see the sites and for my mom nature was calling.
My mom did not want to pee on the side of the road, she wanted to use a toilet, even if it was one of those primitive toilets that the National Parks use. A hole in the ground with a toilet seat covering it. We drove and drove looking for one of these or any other type of toilet. It took a while and by the time we found one it was urgent, like almost-pee-your-pants urgent.
My dear sweet mother jumps out of the front passenger seat and bolts to the bathroom we just found. A brief moment later she exits the bathroom crying. I lost it. I cried and cried for my mother who had just wet her pants. I mean we were almost there, so close, steps in fact from the bathroom that she needed to have, and she didn’t make it. All the thoughts of the old men in church who peed their pants rushed toward me. The thoughts that only really old people pee their pants mixed with the sadness I’ve felt about this travesty almost all my life combined to make the tears flow.
Now my dad had started to play a prank on my mom as he was always apt to do. He put the van in reverse and started to back away from her. I did not think this is funny. She was running after us and crying. When my dad saw she was crying the prank came to an abrupt end and he let her in. My mom was in hysterics. Mumbling about something I could only imagine was how she didn’t make it.
But I did not see that her pants were wet, and I didn’t think that my mom would jump back in the van with pee-soaked pants. She would have never let me do that, she would make me change. Then her words became intelligible again and it all made sense. “A mouse, a mouse, there was a mouse in there.” She had not peed her pants, she had been frightened by a mouse, and she still needed to pee. As I remember my dad went into the bathroom to make sure the mouse had scurried back home, so my mom could pee once and for all.
Well she did. She made it. Not peeing in her pants but peeing in a primitive toilet somewhere in the greater Yellowstone region. We all laughed. Well I cry-laughed; I was still emotionally distraught by the thought that my mom nearly peed her pants.
This story serves as a reminder for me to keep humility. Often times my observations and assumptions are wrong. Who knows, I might not even remember this story with complete accuracy. And by the way, I have never known my mom to pee her pants. If she has, she has not shared that information with me. Maybe she fears I would tease her about it, little does she know that I have a humor line that cannot be crossed when it comes to people peeing their pants.