When I was a teen, those “Chicken Soup for the (fill-in-the-blank) Soul” books were in vogue, and I remember really relating to an entry that said a person could never truly be an adult until she is able to touch and properly dispose of the slimy dregs of gunked up food — and sometimes hair — that filter to the bottom of the kitchen sink after the dishes were done.
Now I am an adult, I've accepted that cleaning out drain traps will always be a part of my grown-up life. But there is one more important adult-defining obligation that I think needs to be mentioned: pee.
It started with the cats
We have two cats that we moved into our house six years ago, and they promptly peed in every corner they could find. We've covered the carpets with plastic sheeting or heavy furniture and we stockpile urine deodorizer by the gallon.
It has helped, but we still find puddles every few months. Last month when we dog-sat a friend's bichon frise, one of them decided to mark my leg to show who is really king of the house. We’ve learned that cleaning up urine is, unfortunately, an inevitable part of pet ownership.
Then came the kids
Our kids have been out of diapers for more than a year and are fully potty-trained. Yet still, I find myself cleaning up pee. Naively, I hoped that the kids would abide by this lovely saying I once found hanging over a public toilet: “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie.”
I've tried to offer incentives. I made star charts. Clean up the toilet and floor, and flush each time you go, and I give you a star. After reaching a previously agreed-upon goal, my oldest got to pick a reward. He chose an ice cream maker.
Two weeks. after we'd made two batches of strawberry ice cream, I still found myself nagging repeatedly, “Why is there pee all over the floor?”
I was frustrated, but my wise mother advised me to pick my battles, reminding me she had spent a lifetime wiping droplets off the floor in front of the toilet. I know I made my fair share of messes as a kid, too.
Then came my dad
Three years ago, my capable and strong father was diagnosed with the most malignant type of brain cancer, glioblastoma.
He was only 67, and in his final months, we moved him in with us so we could care for him. It's something I will never regret doing, but cancer effectively broke his beautiful mind and rendered his otherwise healthy body useless.
He became obsessed with peeing. In one afternoon he would struggle to make a dozen trips to the bathroom. Usually, his legs gave out and his 180-pound frame would topple to the floor. Spillage was a given, despite attempts to figure out ways for him to ease onto the seat without falling.
When he became bed-ridden and was catheterized, he was so agitated to get out of bed that he'd knock his drainage bag onto the floor and then roll his wheelchair over it until it punctured and leaked.
On the day he passed away, I was too exhausted to grieve. With time, perspective and seriously the most supportive husband ever to help me through, I can now look back through rose-tinted glasses and feel pure gratitude in having spent that time — however challenging it was (spilled piss and all) — with my dad.
Then, my husband
One recent winter morning when it was still dark outside, my better half, being of sound mind and able body but still bleary-eyed from sleep, opted not to turn on the light before doing his business.
You can guess what I nearly stepped into when I walked in a few minutes later.
“Not you, too” I whined.
“What?” he questioned. “I didn't want to turn on the light. It hurts my eyes.”
Him: “I'll clean it up.”
In my grown-up life, pee pee messes are ubiquitous, and that's okay. Most of the time, it's sterile, even if it stinks. You do what you can, nag until you can't stand the sound of your own voice, and just stock up on the Lysol wipes.