A Story From My Life, Part 3: Bedwetting

This is one of the saddest stories I have to write. Once again, it isn't a direct memory of mine from my childhood, but part of the family arcana. It arouses in me the strongest empathy and sympathy for another human being that I'm able to feel. It concerns my eldest living brother, Louie, who has long ago grown up and gone on, and has (I hope) put this story behind him.

We all still have those deep scars of the heart which throb in sympathy whenever we should meet.

I've taken some steps to protect my identity on Hub Pages, so even though my brother and I share the same last name, I think his identity is protected as well. He might still be embarrassed by this story. He might even still think it's his fault--though it was not. It was NOT!

It was a rigorous household, out in the country in upstate New York, run by two people who were strict fundamentalists, limited in resources, and limited in natural love for their children. It did not help that both parents had come from dysfunctional households, had gone through the Great Depression, and also were limited, or self-limited, in their exposure to more enlightened ideas of child-rearing.

Like many male children of battering, abusive or neglectful parents, Louie had a problem with bed-wetting when he was about five years old.

Mom had to wash the sheets, every day. She only had one change of sheets for each bed. She used an old wringer washing machine that she set up in the kitchen. It was heavy and awkward to use, and involved a lot of manual labor.

To exacerbate the problem, water was from the well, and sometimes water supplies were limited. For the hottest days of a heat wave in the high summer, water supplies were sometimes non-existent. Carole and I both remember, when we were six and seven years old, attempting to lug a 20-gallon carboy of water from the neighbors, down the road. A couple of miles down the road. There is nothing so heavy as water to carry and nothing more valuable as water when you've run short of it.

Poor Louie! My parents' solutions were harsh. Dad beat him, and beat him, and beat him. It only made the problem worse. Mom ordered rubber sheets from the Sears catalog, which had to come out of the grocery money, because Dad refused to pay for that little extra. Dad was a miserly sort--I remember Mom's "allowance" was twenty dollars per week to feed the six of us that were home when I was in my teens, in the 70's. That had to cover everything--groceries, household supplies, anything the children or she needed in the line of clothes or shoes. Mom did her best, but money was really tight in that household. Dad was working as a designing engineer at Sylvania, and was racking up the money for his retirement. I think the Great Depression haunted him, as far as money went. He couldn't save up enough of it to feel secure that when he got old and couldn't work, there would still be enough to cover him.

My poor dear brother. The siblings picked on him. Dad flailed him to pieces every night. He got a smell about him, which he took to kindergarten. Because of limited water supplies, Mom couldn't keep up.

And it was entirely involuntary on his part. No kid would continue to create such misery for himself on purpose.

Dad was not able to recognize this. He thought Louie was lazy, or willful, or was doing this on purpose to defy him. Dad grew more and more determined to break Louie of the bed-wetting habit. Dad set and alarm clock to go off in the middle of the night and wake Louie, so that Louie could go to the bathroom.

Louie woke, looking fuzzily about him, just barely coming out of the deepest child's slumber. Then he went back into a doze where he dreamed he got up and went to the bathroom...

And Louie wet the bed.

Dad was livid! Louie was defying him! Dad couldn't have that!


Dad made Louie sleep in the pigpen. He wouldn't let Louie sleep in the house.

We survived many harsh things as children, much harsh and unkind treatment. At times our very lives were threatened. Somehow this story, of Dad putting Louie outside in the cold to sleep with the pig, gets to me just about the worst of all.

They called it "discipline" and thought they were justified.

How could they think like that?

Had they never read, in the Bible, "the quality of mercy is not strained". or any of the many words of grace and kindness that inform the Christian world?

I will never, never, never understand it, no matter how long I live, to the end of my days. It is a haunting mystery to me.

Louie grew up and became a scholar. He, like me, hid himself away in books. He was awarded a Ph.D. in Classic Languages (Greek, Latin and Hebrew), though he doesn't use the "Doctor" appellation. He went to Rome for his dissertation, to the Vatican, and translated a previously untranslated Latin poet into English. He did not receive the university chair he was after, so he furthered his studies by going to Rutgers University where he was awarded an MBA, which used to obtain a high position in the Civil Service.

He is retired now. He is the proud father of two daughters, and the proud grandfather of one granddaughter and two grandsons.

Louie is content now. He belongs to the Society of Friends (Quakers) and is active with his church and family.

I remember my dear brother from my childhood, when he was in his early teens and we three were the little 'uns. He was the best babysitter of the older kids, by far. He was the kindest, most patient, and most fun. He was ticklish, too!

My good-hearted Louie sometimes worries too much--he can get a little obsessive at times. He is SO CONSCIENCTIOUS! Even worse than me! I try to reassure him, to extend back to him all the many kindnesses he showed us as wee tots. Always I tell him, "Louie, you're a good person, one of the very best, and you have been and will always be."

If I could go back in time and alter one thing, maybe it would be to get that five-year-old Louie from the pigpen and bring him inside; clean him up with a nice hot bath; wrap him up in his PJ's and a blanket; give him hot cocoa and cookies and rock him to sleep in my arms. I'd tell him what a good boy he is, and what a fine man he will become.

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Comments 31 comments

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Yes, Mike. This story still makes me cry. And Internetwriter, I'm sure the parents knew not what they did. Mom really was a good money manager, the tiny bits she got.

Internetwriter62 profile image

Internetwriter62 6 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

Your brother is an amazing person, with a very holy heart, to forgive and rise above so much cruelty is a gift from God. I don't understand how your mother was able to feed and clothes six children on twenty dollars a week back in the seventies. I know things were cheaper, but still I was a teenager in the seventies and your mother must have been some sort of frugal magician.

You are an amazing woman, to have endured so much and the love and compassion you feel for your brother is beautiful.

Thank you again for sharing, can't wait to read the next chapter. Excellent hub.

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

What a tragic story. It is difficult not to feel seething anger toward your father. Everyone is a product of their times to some degree, but most retain their humanity. You and your siblings are to be commended for the strength you demonstrated as children. You endured much. I hope your brother has a peaceful and serene life now, he is surely deserving.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

This story, in particular, still brings a tear to my eye. Every time. Thanks for reading!

Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

Your stories really touch me. I can't stop reading or crying. What compells me is the fact that as children you were so resilient. I am going to read as much as I can today.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Yeah, made me cry, too. Sure thing, Listener! Thank you!

Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 6 years ago from trailer in the country

Paradise 7 I just featured you with some other writers in one of my hubs...hope you don't mind...would you like to come over and give me an approval on including you? Hub is called True Stories You Can Read.

Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 6 years ago from trailer in the country

that made me cry...

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

So am I. This story still makes me cry.

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Justine76 6 years ago

Oh, Paradise!!! Im so happy you all got to get away, and still have each other.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Yes to everything you said, Mega...yes...

mega1 profile image

mega1 6 years ago

I know what you write is true - but I wish it was fiction. Again, you demonstrate your kind compassion - how you and your siblings love for each other really is what helped you hold on to that love and compassion - in that way you are very lucky! sometimes the enormity of abuse is practically unbelievable, isn't it.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you so much for your kind, kind comments, Jen. I wish you all the best. I can tell from YOUR hubs, you're a TERRIFIC person, yourself.

You know, this story still makes me cry, to this day. And it always will.

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 6 years ago from Delaware

Paradise treatment such as your dear brother received could easily have changed him into a monster, filled with hate and bitterness as a defense mechanism to what he faced. What an amazement that he did not become such a person.

The more I read the more I see how special you all have always been. It is a genuine pleasure to know you in such intimate terms. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Well, it gets to be a fairly convoluted tale as it moves on. Thanks for reading, Duchess, and thank you so much for your continued support.

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Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

it amazes me that you seven made so much of your lives. At least I assume you all did. I await the rest of your stories just to see how far you have all come. It's good you had each other as children.

sukhera143 profile image

sukhera143 7 years ago from Home


sukhera143 profile image

sukhera143 7 years ago from Home


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks, Ralwus, for your continued support. Thank you for continuing to read these. I wondered if you would, because there are so many happier things to write about and think about. These stories in particular, though, are part of our lives, and for some reason I need put them on the record. Thank you.

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ralwus 7 years ago

Goes to show that not all bedwetters and kids raised this way turn out to be ghastly humans as adults. I commend you and your brother for raising above such harshness. Thank you for being so brave to share.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you so much for your comments, rmcrayne, Laura, and Catherine R. You are all such good, kind sensitive people that I wouldn't blame you if you gave up reading these stories. I know they're upsetting--I cry myself, every time, and I've had years to get over all of this. I have a lot of other topics to write about, fortunately, that aren't nearly so grim.

But I do so love my brothers and sisters, and we're all coming to the back half of our lives, now. It's good to see how far we've come, and it's good to love us, the children we were, unconditionally, and show it in this writing.

One reason I made it through was because I had brothers and sisters and we had each other. I don't know if any one of us could have made it through as a only child.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 7 years ago from South Africa

When I read your stories of your life I can understand where your resources are coming from to write. You must have so much hurt inside - you can actually feel the pain when you read.

I feel for you and Louie and I too cannot fathom how any parents can be so cold and brutal. God bless you Paradise for making us all realize how fortunate we are if we have or had a normal home with loving parents.

rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 7 years ago from San Antonio Texas

In the face of abuse, what a wonderful story of hope and overcoming adversity. Louie's accomplishments are amazing.

Catherine R profile image

Catherine R 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

Although I read this hub hours ago I was unable to respond because it upset me so much. In fact it made me feel physically sick to think of Louie being sent to sleep in the pigpen. As you know my little girl is 6 and such a precious little soul - as all children that age are. How you all made it out of there is beyond me - but not only did you make it out you have managed to achieve so much with your lives. It must be ghastly for you to write these hubs. I am filled with admiration for you and your siblings.

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

I think it is good you keep writing these stories Paradise. In an interview a couple of years ago someone asked Christina Crawford why she continues to share her story of child abuse when so many people do not believe her, but she sticks to her story, and says she hopes it will help people reconsider how they treat children. I for one have always believed Christina because she would have no motive to lie about the horrible way she was treated, and it is sad so many people do not believe her just because they admired Joan Crawford as an actress. Just because she was a good actress does not mean she was a good mother.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you so much for your kindness, your empathy and your sympathy, Veronica, Myownworld, and Sweetie Pie. I cried while I was writing this. It is you that gives me the courage to keep on.

But I will keep writing these stories, every Sunday, for I love my brothers and sisters in my deepest heart, and I love who we were as children, too. These stories should be told, on behalf of the children we were, and for the sake of all the children out there who may be subject to too much "discipline".

If they make just one parent stop, think, and treat their child better, than they've done their job.

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

Poor little Louie, but I believe he showed his dad by being so successful in life. What his dad did not realize is many kids wet the bed, and often it becomes worse when they are nervous. I think in the previous generations people were harsher on their kids than they are today, that was just part of the culture. However, that does not make it right, and making a kid sleep in a pig pin is just cruel and unusual punishment. My heart goes out Louie :(.

myownworld profile image

myownworld 7 years ago from uk

i just broke down reading this...and really felt your pain.. (being the mother of two small children now, I see how vulnerable they are)....this was beautifully narrated...so thank you for sharing! sending much healing your way...x

Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 7 years ago from Georgia

Your life stories always bring me to tears. But you always leave me with the satisfaction that no matter who we are, where we come from, and how we are raised - if we truly apply ourselves and forego self-pity or self-loathing, we can overcome traumatic experiences and move on to be thriving and loving adults. Your siblings and yourself, could have grown up to be so different. You could have easily been a "product of your environment" (in the negative sense) and decided to hash out and replay what had been done to you. Nevertheless, you all choose a different course; a better course; a healthier course. I often wonder at people who may have been mentally, emotionally, or sexually abused as children, and who turn out to be career criminals, or individuals who victimize others the way they had been victimized themselves. Although I feel that this may be a considering factor as to why they made these choices (taking into consideration their mental state as well), survivial stories like yours and your siblings (and so many others) show that in the end, a person does posess the power to make better choices in their lives. Paradise7, you have a voice that screams survivial and ebodies postivity. Please continue sharing your life experiences with the world. You may never know just how many individuals (young and old) that you will help. You all have nothing to be ashamed of. You all were young victims, and your lives today truly show how strong you guys truly are.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, Dohn, for the lovely, sensitive comment.

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

Someone was certainly watching over Louie all of these years. It's wonderful to hear that he became such a successful scholar, father and grandfather after the trauma he endured as a child. I'm sure that those experiences fueled him and helped him to find his niche in which he never gave up on. What a heartfelt, personal story. You're love for Louie certainly shines. Thank you for this.

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