The Reality of Plastic Sheeting

My Dad is having surgery in two weeks. The surgeon is confident, hopeful, that it will remove all of the cancer. That there will be no need for radiation therapy or chemotherapy. This is good news to cling to.

A side effect of any kind of prostate surgery is incontinence. It can vary from a few drips to full on opening of the floodgates. My Mum told me my Dad asked her to buy a plastic sheet for the bed, just like the ones we used to use when we were being toilet trained as children. He was embarrassed by the thought of it, slightly mortified; the first step towards his loss of independence.

In the scheme of things incontinence is a small blip on the radar. There are so many other things that would be much more unbearable, yet all day I mused on the indignity of a plastic sheet on the bed of a grown man. A man who values dignity above all else.

I often find that when I have something on my mind there will be an event that highlights it, that forces me to face it so I can see it for what it is.

That event happened this afternoon when I went to the hardware store to buy some rope Nick needs for a science assignment. It’s some kind of gadget he’s building with levers and ropes designed to make an everyday function easier.

But I digress.

In the hardware store there was a lady buying plastic sheeting. It looked like the kind you buy to protect carpets, very thick and sturdy. As the hardware guy unrolled it and I noticed the stiff inflexibility of it, I burst into tears. Right there, blubbering away among the hammers and cans of varnish.

The lady who was buying the plastic sheeting came over, thinking that somehow I had hurt myself and everything came pouring out of me. How worried I was about my Dad. How I felt I couldn’t cope with the fear in his eyes. The problematic nature of aging and the humiliation of plastic sheeting.

The lady, whose name was Sonia, put her arm around me and let me talk. She told me of her own father who had become incontinent after bladder surgery but was nonetheless, fighting fit. She gave me the name of a place where you can get plastic sheets for beds that are so lightweight you wouldn’t know they were there.

I felt better. I felt cheered. I wondered if someone had sent Sonia to the hardware store just to help me out. It felt that way. Definitely.

Plastic sheeting on the bed is not desirable. Most of us wouldn’t choose it if we had the option. But for many people it is reality. And they cope. Sonia made me see that. She also made me acknowledge another form of reality, a reality we all need, the gentlest and best sort – the unexpected kindness of strangers.

15 thoughts on “The Reality of Plastic Sheeting

  1. good heavens, selma! the encounters you have with strangers! you must be like a magnet for kindness – it must be quite something to be yr friend in real life…


  2. I’m dredging the memory banks … a hotel I once stayed at where all the beds had waterproof sheets. They were rubberised plastic on one side, and looked, and felt like just an ordinary sheet on the other.

    And, I didn’t realise till I spilled some coffee on the bed, and the chambermaid said no problem; we’ve dealt with much worse!


  3. Hi JASON,
    I guess I do have a few encounters with strangers. I wonder if it’s because I often help strangers out. Maybe it’s a what goes around comes around thing. I don’t know if it would be quite something to be my friend but it would certainly be an interesting trip down the idiosyncratic highway. You are kind to say that!

    I think I stayed in the same hotel. I was drinking tea in bed and spilled it (of course) and in the morning – I kid you not – the spilt tea smelled like wee. I was mortified. I remember spraying perfume on it to get rid of the smell. The cleaners must have thought I was bonkers. I wonder if it was a reaction between the plastic and the tea. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😆


  4. Sad as this was, it was a good story to share, Selma. God does indeed send us angels in human form just when we need them most. What are the odds of this lady being nearby with the comfort and information that would be most helpful to your hurting heart? I’ll be praying for your Dad, and for you.


  5. Heartwarming stranger – you seem to attract them! Losing one’s independence is a most difficult experience…Being a burden is a big fear for those who’ve always hoed their own rows and been sufficient – Hugs around you all!


  6. SOPHIE:
    Things like that often happen to me. It’s usually after I walk around going : ‘I’m on my own. I have to cope with this on my own’ and then WHAM, I get a little message. The universe better be careful or I might start believing in something…..

    I think that is my Dad’s greatest fear – becoming a burden. He is not the type of person to ask for help, either. It may be a good lesson for him to learn that most people don’t regard the people they love as burdens. Thanks for the hugs!


  7. The kindness of strangers.

    My heart goes out to you. Your dad will have it tough but he will cope & adjust and be back on his feet in no time. Cause he has a loving daughter who cares for him.


  8. Old Grizz knows the problem. Enlarged prostate can also cause the same problem and a good percentage of men over fifty have an enlarged prostate including yours truly. If I have to go somewhere there are no facilities close at at hand I protect myself from embarrassment by using pads for man, A little uncomfortable but much better than an “accident”. Just part of getting older. I certainly wish him luck.


  9. Kindness of strangers indeed. I cling to the belief that most people will help and will do the right thing to help out someone in need. 🙂

    As for you dad, I wish him the best. The Man’s father has Parkinson’s, it took a long time for us to convince him to wear what he called “adult diapers.” He still doesn’t always wear them (and yes, he has accidents.) I wish it were easy to age… not looking that way.


  10. Well I hope, by the time I get to enjoy age related incontinence, that Huggies are marketing a range of Pull-Ups for the over 50s.


  11. ROSHAN:
    He will be OK. It was just a case of everything hitting me at once. Thanks for your kind words!

    It is just part of getting older. You are so sensible about everything. It is great to talk to you about these things!

    I believe that too – although sometimes I see things and just shake my head. Most people, though, are kind.

    Parkinson’s is very hard. I am sorry to hear that. You’re right – aging is difficult. That’s why I’m going to make the most of it by dyeing my hair purple, getting a pearl-handled walking stick and calling everyone ‘Sonny.’

    You crack me up. I’m surprised Huggies aren’t on to it already. Thought they might have flooded the market *snort*


  12. I’m snorting with you over your comment to Bear….lol.

    I’m so glad Sonia was there to comfort you Sel. I’m relieved to hear that the outcome of your dad’s op sounds very hopeful and you never know, he may not even need that plastic sheet.


  13. KAYDEE:
    Bear always lifts my spirits. It’s like having a teddy bear come to life, I swear. 😀

    The op does sound hopeful. Let’s face it, a plastic sheet on the bed isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. Reality just struck me at that moment, that’s all. Sonia was amazing. I still can’t believe she was there!


  14. “Incontinence” is a word, an embarrassment, a condition that holds little meaning for a young adult.

    Live long enough…have your parents, family and friends live long enough…and the word becomes known. And as words such as incontinence, frailty and mortality become known…the word “love” deepens in its very meaning and significance.


  15. Hi JONAS,
    What a profound observation – ‘the word love deepens in its very meaning and significance.’ I am so moved by that. *happy sob*


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