When the people who made you can’t stop pissing

Pissing Man by Timothy Ralph

In Ireland in the 1970s, the streets were strewn with rivulets of fresh mustard piss. Firstly, the suburban laneways where men just couldn’t make it home from the Bookies on time, to the pathways of public parks, Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium, all around O’Connell Street on St. Patrick’s Day and just about anywhere else you can think of. I even recall a man standing pissing at the side of Victories Credit Union when I headed down at the age of 12 to open my first account.

Irish men were such prolific pissers it was almost laminated to the Constitution as an indelible part of their liberty and right to live. So it should come as scant surprise when I moved back to the parental home last October to write and help out for a while…that the old man was pissing all over the house without any due cause to care.

For a while my mother said nothing. This has been a kind of ostrich-head + sand tradition going back to when I first tasted Liga. It wasn’t until I walked into puddles late at night in the kitchen, or took the stairs barefoot to bed when drunk or made the mistake of whiffing the cushions on the couch in the sitting-room (what crazy instinct was this?) that I realised there was a urinary tract conspiracy in full liquid swing.

“Don’t say anything because he gets awful embarrassed about it,” the Ma said. This nugget of emotional blackmail worked for a while. He’s hitting 80 after all, his legs are gone, he can no longer make it out to the pub and he’s lost interest in almost everything apart from whiskey, war documentaries and the lotto. But like everything in an alcoholic home, avoidance strategies and colourful denials are destined to come crashing down at the first foretoken of crisis.

A few months ago my mother got cancer (well she’s had it for a good while but it’s taken at least a year to get her to own up to the four/half stone weight loss and general body-breaking-down weakness). During the haitus between smashing her denial and getting to a hospital, we started fighting about the old man’s pissing habits. One night I caught him pissing in a bucket outside the kitchen door and when I reported back [in a blind rage] to the Ma about ”how utterly disgusting” it was, she admitted quite calmly that she laced the Piss Bucket with disinfectant regularly and emptied it once a week. “You mean you’ve actually known about this!?” I barked.

Up until that point I’d taken an active part in the spare him any hurt household games, taking his piss cushions from his armchair in the dead of night and washing them, drying them on radiators and shoving them back again before he crawled down the stairs for his boiled egg the next morning.

“He just can’t make it up the stairs,” she explained, again, over breakfast. Well then get in a downstairs toilet for starters, that’s what normal people would do. “He doesn’t want to lose the cloakroom”. But he can’t go out anymore, so what’s the use in a cloakroom!?  ”He says he’ll deal with it and get to the toilet quicker.” Of course he won’t! It’s just going to get worse…much worse, Jesus! He’s going to have to deal with it or I’ll contact social services!”

Three weeks ago as I cleaned the house in preparation for her return from hospital I eventually sat the old man down and attempted to talk piss politics openly. “I can’t help it!” he whinged, adding that if he had to wear ‘padded pants’ like I was suggesting, he’d rather kill himself. Another thing about alcoholics is that no matter what is going on in the world around them, it will still always be about them. I resorted to shock tactics telling him that no-one visits the house anymore because of the stench, that my brother home from the UK to visit my mum was knocked back in anger by it all (“smells like a bag of ferrets”) and had pledged to write a stern letter on his return…that fire-hose pissing on this scale was a clear and irrefutable health hazard, potentially dangerous…someone could slip and fall, there’s a cancer patient returning home with an open wound and serious infection could mean a summer picnic to Glasnevin Crematorium. Nothing but blank bulldog stares.

“I bleed five days a month and I can’t help that either,” I told him, not so subtley, ”but imagine if I didn’t stick something in my knickers and deal with it!? Imagine if I just bled on buses and in the GPO when queueing for stamps or in Beshoffs buying chips or all over the floor in Penneys shopping for cheap socks…wouldn’t that be completely and utterly INSANE!?”

The crux of the battle came (and not on dry land) when I stormed off to Finglas in search of Tenapads in a terribly hungover state two weeks ago. I left them on the kitchen table on a placemat where he sits for his dinner and just to avoid any further denial, I left a note with them: ‘You have to wear one of these when you’re drinking and at night-time in bed’.

A while later he stormed into the dining room where I was watching Eastenders and pointed to a giant circus-ring type wet patch on his trousers. “Now tell me, how would your magic pads have stopped that happening?” he squealed. That’s when I realised the sheer level of compacted insanity we’re dealing with.”Of course it won’t stop it happening but the pads will at least contain it till you get to the shower!” I said, utterly gobsmacked.But it seems that decades of hard pissing has drowned out the last semblance of rationale in the paternal brain and yet another old man is destined to leave the planet happy, having asserted his full and moral rights to the Irish Constitution.

This was originally published on the ANTI-ROOM blog on June 29th, 2010. Click here to read comments.

About junecaldwell

June's short story collection Room Little Darker is published by New Island Books in May 2017. She's a prizewinner of The Moth International Short Story Prize and has been shortlisted and highly commended for many others including: Calvino Prize in Fabulist Fiction, Colm Toíbín International Short Story Award, Sunday Business Post/Penguin short story prize, Lorian Hemingway (USA), RTÉ Guide/Penguin Ireland and Over The Edge New Writer of the Year. In 2010 she received an Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) bursary for fiction. Her work has been showcased at the Italo-Irish Literature Exchange in Nogarole Rocca / Verona (May 2012), Read For The World (June 2012) and Bloomnibus (June 2013) at the Irish Writers' Centre, Galway Pro Choice (Aug 2013), Over the Edge Galway (Dec 2013), Stinging Fly Spring Launch (March 2014), At The Edge, Cavan (May 2014), The Winding Stair Prizewinner's Reading (Sep 2014), One City One Book: DLR Lexicon Barrytown Trilogy reading (April 2015), Hodges Figgis Book Festival (Oct 2015), Bogman's Canon Fiction Disco (Nov 2015, April 2016), Doolin Writers' Weekend (March 2016), Five Lamps Arts Festival (Mar 2016), National Concert Hall: Kevin Barry Recital Room series (April 2016) and the Eastrogen Rising: A Rebel Cabaret. Her creative writing has been published in Woven Tale Press, The Moth, The Stinging Fly, Literary Orphans and Popshot, as well as a non-fiction biography of a Trouble's moll with Gill and MacMillan in 2006. Her short story 'SOMAT' is published in The Long Gaze Back: The Anthology of Irish Women Writers, edited by Sinéad Gleeson/New Island. Journalism: The Gloss, The Guardian, The Observer, Sunday Times, Sunday Life, Sunday Tribune, Sunday Business Post, Sunday Independent, Ireland on Sunday, Irish Independent, as well as a number of women's magazines and trade journals.

Posted on June 29, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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