Incontinence

by Marty Ross-Dolen

I peed in my bed the other night. I was dreaming about organizing
some cabinets, I think, about wanting to declutter the space I was
in. I had to go to the bathroom, and I found a toilet, which I admired
for its unusual modern design, prepared myself for sitting, sat, and
went. I remember in the dream realizing that I was dreaming, and I
knew that I had started to wet the bed before I actually woke up, so
upon waking I wasn’t all that shocked. I was just wet. And pissed.

“Oh my God, I just peed in the bed,” I whispered in disbelief to my
husband, Eric, who woke, it being the middle of the night, when he
felt me swing the covers about in order to assess the situation. Desperate
not to wake the dog (Eric will easily fall back to sleep; the dog
won’t), I tiptoed to the bathroom to empty my bladder and returned
with a pile of towels, enough to cover the damage and sleep comfortably
until the morning. For a while I lay with my eyes open, thinking,
trying to remember the last time I had done such a thing. I decided I
must have been five, or around there, having slept in a dry bed for at
least forty years since. Until now.

***

I called Eric while he was at work the day after I wet the bed.

“I can’t believe that I peed in the bed last night,” I said, preoccupied
by this strange occurrence.

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s not a big deal though. I’d just chalk it up to
weirdness.”

I thought for a moment.

“No,” I responded, “I can’t. I’m chalking it up to oldness.”

***

My great-grandmother died just shy of turning one hundred, and I
remember a summer when I was in high school and she visited, then
in her mid-nineties, and she and I stayed alone together in my house
while my parents went out of town. Her body moved slowly, but her
mind was quick, as long as she was able to hear the conversation. I
have a picture of us during this visit, she and I standing on the back
deck, my left arm wrapped around her shoulders. I am looking forward
toward the camera, while she is looking to her right, at me, her
nose inches from my left cheek. I suppose she didn’t hear the photographer,
my mother, tell us to look her way. But she wears a wide
smile, so she must have heard the words “say cheese.”

I remember that during this visit my great-grandmother wore
diapers at night, and she was self-conscious about this, asking me
for a plastic garbage bag to collect them rather than allowing me to
help her throw them out. She called to me from the bedroom where
she was staying, and I opened the door just early enough to catch a
glimpse of her holding one. I remember that she was embarrassed,
and I was embarrassed too, not because she wore the diapers, but
because she felt bad that she did.

***

I have been dealing with latchkey incontinence for years. Just the
sound of the jingle of my keys as they move toward the lock of the
door to my house is cause enough to let the urine flow, and often by
the time I get the door open, hurdle over the welcoming dog, and
make my way to the powder room, it’s too late. I attribute this common
condition to the carrying of two fetuses to term, as is the explanation
that most women give, and I’ve come to live with it, nuisance
that it is, and consider it a souvenir of pregnancy and childbirth. My
children know to clear the path when I’m heading like a bolt of lightning
to the bathroom, and, fortunately, the dog is small.

***

Although I haven’t wet the bed again since the other night, I have to
admit that I have not slept as soundly either. I’m more wary, worried
about forming a habit, rewinding the clock. I don’t want to see a
need for diapers any earlier than I should have to, collecting them in
a plastic bag to dispose of them myself, alone and embarrassed, my
dignity at risk anytime someone opens my bedroom door too early,
just in time to see me holding my urine in my hand.