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Did you wet the bed? I did. Often.

Daniel bed wetter with his faithful dog, Gunther.

April 21, 2016

As excellent–no perfect–as Mark Twain’s writings are, his stories lacked any mention of bedwetting, a common form of enuresis, or involuntary urination.  

So I did a cursory literature review of fiction about children and found that most authors omit it.  Certainly the boys’ books did, such as Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Mark Tidd, Penrod, and that wonderful work of fiction, G-Men Trap the Spy Ring.  I forget who wrote the last one.  Wait.  It was Laurence Dwight Smith. 

James Joyce, in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, included a bedwetting character, as did Orson Wells in one of his stories.

My niece’s son wet the bed last night.  I can sympathize. Identify.

I used to wet the bed almost every night until the eighth grade.  As a result I slept on a stinking, soggy mattress.  Kids in school told me that I smelled funny.  I declined to sleep overnight with the Boy Scouts even if the trip was one night only.  Embarrassment factor. Freezing factor in the winter.

Eventually I developed a method of sleeping with vast quantities of urine.  I considered, and discarded several options:  Sleep in a bathing suit.  Sleep in the bathtub.   Sleep curled up over a funnel of some kind.  Reminds me that in the first hours of my Marine Corps basic training a sergeant told us that we had to surrender any condoms we might have.  He didn’t tell us why, but I assumed that a condom could catch urine and prevent a wet bed.  By the time I had found out how and where to buy condoms I no longer wet the bed.  I wonder if a condom would even stay on a flaccid penis, without duct tape.  I have my doubts, but I don’t know because I have never tried to unroll a condom over one.

My method of coping with my habit of bedwetting in the 8th grade worked fairly well:  1) Place a rubberized pad over the mattress, still wet from the last episode, then make the bed in the usual way with sheets and several blankets.  2) After wetting the bed that night, climb out of bed and sleep on top of one of the blankets that used to cover me.  3)  Find a blanket to backfill the one now in use beneath me.  4)  Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all of the available blankets have been used.  5) get in trouble each weekend for making a kind of “piss lasagna” of the bedding.   

(Mother always seemed to ask me the rhetorical “Why don’t you get up and go to the bathroom?)

Actually my sweet mother finally sat down with me at bedtime. She asked me to mentally visualize needing to use the toilet. “Go ahead,” she insisted, “pretend you have to go.” I did so. I did so several times to practice.

“All right,” she said, “open your eyes. Wake up. Get up and use the bathroom.”

She had me repeat this several times. Well, I really wanted to stop wetting the bed. I really wanted to stop wetting the bed! I practiced several times each night for a couple of nights. Damned if it didn’t work! I was desperate!

Just one more reason I loved my mother so much. Turned out, that was the end of my bed-wetting. Didn’t miss it. I needed to leave home for college in just a few years.

Minnesota in January

Gunther is relaxing.

January 9, 2019

We are in our RV, a Dodge conversion van, about an hour east of Duluth.  Gunther is in the passenger seat, P. is driving.  Thanks to the miracle of wireless communication, I am surfing the internet, seated at the table in the kitchen area.  Gunther looks listless.  Earlier we walked him through a park with snow more than a foot deep.  He refused to try twice.  Turns out even though he can swim, deep snow stymies him.  Plus snow gets between the fingers of his paws and hurts him.

Our quest is to refill the propane tank so we can run the heater to keep us warm tonight.  Again, thanks to the internet we have excellent instructions to find the U-Haul business with a person there who knows how to refill our tank.  Our plan is to pull the camper in front of Todd’s house where we can sleep tonight.  This will provide us with a low-stress visit; I hope for a long visit with outdoor adventures.  That means struggling up and down hills in snow.

We bought candy in Park Lakes for our grandsons.  To bribe them.  They are both physical children, eager to play outdoors.  We want them eager to play outdoors with us.  And our dog, too, of course.

Our daughter-in-law is into making paper these days, a perennial hobby of mine.  Only she is a bona fide artist, with access to people, ideas, and materials to make hand-made paper that would be good enough to print with a letterpress.  My heart!

I tried making hand-made paper before, but I really didn’t know what I was doing.  The resultant product resembled wet Kleenex-brand tissues which, although I was able to make some crude valentines, was too friable and weak.  I have a book printed at Grabhorn press in San Francisco on hand-made paper.  That paper is strong and thin.  Turns out the secret of good paper is good paper pulp that must be thoroughly macerated by beating with a mallet, or something like that.  The pulp fibers are separated and not chopped up.

Holiday memories. .

Eddie in one of his halloween masks. This was his tamest, least scary mask.

December 29, 2019

My sister-in-law saw our Christmas tree.  Said it reminded her of Eddie.  Asked me if I missed him.  Yes, I said, especially at Christmas.

I have many memories of the holidays with Eddie.  Most people knew him as “Snow Bird,” but for some reason Eddie asked me to call him “Eddie.”  I remember long ago, I was with Eddie and the driver of the Urban Health Clinic van.  I can’t remember the man’s name, but he was older than I was.  Eddie asked me for a ride back to Billings.  I told him “sure.”  The driver eyed me, “You’ve got yourself a boy, now.” 

Sure. Fine with me, I thought.  I figured the driver was just being dismissive of my friend.

Little did I know how fortunate I was to have a bona fide super hero friend.  We formed a friendship that stretched from about Fall of 1992 until Summer, 2019.  Twenty-seven years.  

He was frugal with paying for necessities, but lavish when he bought fireworks or halloween accouterments.  At one point, when Eddie was facing homelessness because he didn’t want to pay $500/month rent, I suggested that he move under a bridge, a place he had stayed during the warmer months of 1992.  I felt frustrated by his anxiety about housing, on the one hand, and his unwillingness to spend money for it. He had long-term projects, though.

Eddie giggled.  He did take a room in the Colonial Apartments, and I visited him there, on the third floor.  I don’t know the history of the Colonial, but it looks like a huge white wooden bungalow, at least three stories high, with hallways running its length.  In 2003 the Billings Gazette published Ed Kemmick’s piece with great descriptions and history. Ed noted that the Colonial had a reputation for being the housing of last resort, a place where someone might soon be a victim. Some of the 28 rooms had heavy padlocks and the hall had the sweet smell of urine, according to Ed.

Some weeks later Eddie peddled to our house with his tape recorder.  He said a drunken man had cursed at him.  Eddie had had the presence of mind to tape record a truly foul, racist, slurred rant studded with expletives against Native Americans in general and Eddie in particular.  As I recall, several of us urged Eddie to report the incident, but instead, I think Eddie moved to a basement apartment near Billings Clinic.  Or maybe the one across from Goofy’s Bar.  In any case, Eddie was such a hoarder he basically trashed every place he lived.  Part of it was that he documented things carefully, with photographs, tape recordings, newspaper articles, official papers protected in clear plastic at Kinko’s, in multiple copies.  Tape Recorder batteries littered the small paths of floor through the trash bags of other goods at his place.  

His kitchen stove was like a peninsula midst a sea of junk, bespattered with grease, a cheap avacodo-green non-stick frying pan on top with a quarter inch of fat and a pancake turner.  I don’t remember that Eddie got sick from his own cooking.  In fact, he seemed to never get sick at all.  I worried about fires, but none broke out.

I’d know if he had had a fire, but maybe I wouldn’t know if he got sick. He popped into my consciousness in his own time. Generally, whenever we had company. And his birthday. And Crow Fair. Good times.

Nothing important here

Carbon tissue print of the Christiansen house.

December 21, 2019

Today started with my feeling good enough to take Gunther half-way around the block on his daily bombing mission in my bathrobe.  He dropped his poops harmlessly in the alley on some snow, where I dutifully grabbed them up with a plastic bag. 

This, despite a lot of dog shit (I think from my neighbor across the alley).  He lets his two labs into the alley to defile my favorite part of the block.  I’ve had excellent experiences in alleys since childhood.  My friend Mike and I used to smoke our parents’ cigarettes in the alley.  We started fires.  We walked on chamomile when it carpeted the alley in the summer.  We taunted our enemies and threw rocks.  We picked flowers and gave them to our moms.  The alley was our domain.

In recent years I’ve met my neighbors in the alley and we’ve talked about science experiments with sulfur.  Mr. Don Christiansen used to be a high school science teacher in the little town of Stanford, on the way to Great Falls.  He told me a story about a couple of boys who—get this—made nitroglycerine!  Don advised the pair to use an eye dropper to mix the sulfuric and nitric acids and glycerine.  They did, and sure enough, they got a violent explosion that did them no serious harm, but made them cry. 

I always enjoy walking our alley, even with dog shit laying around.

You know, I’ve thought about strategies.  I could post ugly signs on utility poles.  I could shovel up the turds and fling them over his fence.  I used to move the excrement from the margins of the alley into the wheel trackways, but I’ve also scooped them and dropped them into a dumpster.  

Usually I work around the ugliness: when walking in the winter or weed-whacking in the summer.  I’m still undecided, but I believe I’ll do the kindest thing—to myself.  I’ll let it go, but I’ll continue to let Gunther harass the dogs through their fence.  He fiercely growls and barks, eliciting a like response from the labs.  When he tires of that, he poops in front of them.  Then I pick it up with the little plastic bag, the one I bought in quantity at PetSmart.

Mission done this morning, I laid down for a nap.

My beautiful daughter Clara called me.  I reminded her that she is bringing her family to visit tomorrow!  “No,” she replied.  “Monday.”  Then she checked her ticket.  “Oh em gee,” she said.  “It is tomorrow.”  She phoned later to inform me that everyone is organized to travel tomorrow.  “We’ll get in about midnight,” she said.  “You and mom will have to drink lots of coffee.”

I reminded her that my internist has, among other difficult orders, forbidden alcohol or caffeine.  “You will be lots of fun, then!” Clara said.

The past couple of weeks I’ve not taken any alcohol or caffeine and I have had more fun.  Example:  last evening we had a few people over, including two children.  While the adults all drank abundant wine, I sat at a card table with the kids and we drank lemonade.  My granddaughter shared my glass, much to my joy.  She is in junior high and ultra cool.  She’s always been fashion-forward, and careful with her affection.  The children talked about movies I’ve never seen, about music I’ve never heard, but at least I got to be with them.  Actually, it wasn’t that much fun for me.

When it was time to clean up the kitchen I was in the best shape to do it.  (The wine drinkers were talking large.)  I filled he dishwasher quickly.

Unfortunately, being sober the whole night did not help me to play Password.  I went to bed at 10:30.

I left P. and her friend Patty Anne to sit by the fire sipping port and talking about quilts.

Yingle Yingle!

The famous Gunther sits on my neck.

December 20, 2019

This morning P. and I went to the “church of the fervently religious” and set up twenty beds (cots and air mattresses) for the Family Promise guests and hosts that will move in Sunday.  Family Promise is a city-wide alliance of churches that take turns hosting up to four homeless families for a week at a time. 

Our church hosts about four times a year.  The families will spend Christmas at our church this year.  Each will get a tree to decorate, although two of the families have five members, and the church’s Sunday school rooms are smallish, so the trees will barely fit amongst their five beds.

Afterward we wolfed a Rocket Burrito/dish of clam chowder.  

Then we went to the State Liquor store for a bottle of port.  Then to Lucky’s for a bunch of red and white wine, jalapeño peppers, beer, apples, and bananas.  Then to Big Al’s for stuff for making chili, eggs, and ice cream (two flavors), cereal, milk, egg nog, lemonade, sausage, tomato juice, V-8 juice, bleach, dog treats, and pie crusts.  Pillsbury employs union workers, so I buy their brand.  Also a can of packed pumpkin and 5# sugar. And heavy cream. And potatoes.  Lots of potatoes.

I am still not allowed to drink alcohol or anything with caffeine. Or sing.  I plan to sit with the children at supper and have lemonade.

Christmas letter for 2019

Bitter, depressed old man, wishing you Merry Christmas.

Dec. 16, 2019

Christmas letter from Dan and Penny Struckman

Do you like getting Christmas letters?  I don’t. Well, I might, depending on how well I know the sender.  They mostly seem impersonal.  I’m often jealous of their great good fortune. I get bitter. Depressed. Shit.

If I had any real world interactions with the sender during the previous year I always scan the letter to see if I made the cut and was mentioned.  Was our adventure with the sender letter-worthy?  No?  Then I read with a certain dysphoria.  (Not the word I want, but if I write a second draft I’ll change it and delete this sentence.) No.  Dysphoria will have to do.

Anyway, Penny and I are about the same as we were last Christmas, just older.  So is our dog, I should say trusty dog, Gunther.  He is three, almost four years old!  As I write this he is sitting on my neck.  Penny is sorting Christmas gifts at the dining room table.  Do we have a gift for this dog or that dog?  Penny thinks little treat bags would be appropriate for Clara’s dog Kirby and Gunther.  Olivia’s dog Velma has a great bag of cow hooves in store for her chewing pleasure.

I am still undecided whether to have Gunther wear his Christmas sweater from last year.  He looked cross when I last put it on him.  Come to think of it, he always looks cross because of his facial hair arrangement and his underbite.  Reminds me of Sergeant Moser when I was in USMC basic 50 years ago. Exactly 50 years ago!

Last August I followed Bob Struckman and Josiah Corson up the 32 turn zigzag trail to the Froze-to-Death Plateau in the Beartooth Mountains.  My black toenails are finally falling off these last few weeks.  Josiah said he will carry me to the top next summer. (Joke.)

Penny and I are both jobless but we have been volunteering.  She helps 5th graders at Broadwater School and, at Family Promise, helps families who are temporarily homeless. 

I help build stage sets at NOVA theater and ask businesses for donations.  I also help the families and individuals who are without a warm safe place to sleep.  I used to sing a lot with the church choir and the symphony chorale before my internist ordered me not to sing because he said my throat has some kind of trouble.  He also ordered me not to drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks.  I’m looking forward to Christmas, but without the usual fun experiences. Instead I plan to eat lefse and cookies.

P. and I see lots more of each other because neither has a job.  At first we had trouble getting along, but we’re learning.  

I hope you all have a good winter.  If Christmas is good for you, that would be so much the better. I enjoy snow and all that. Do I have a choice?

Do you have New Years Resolutions?  I do.  I hope to increase my physical and mental stamina.  I want to hike to Granite Peak next summer.  I hope to do a lot more writing.  Seems I have more to say.  Politics?  Don’t start with me!  Antiwar sentiment?  You betcha!  Singing?  If I can get out from under Dr. Malters’ prohibition.  Alcohol and caffeine?  Surely!  Just not yet.  I’ve always enjoyed my share of substance use.  Seems like more and more I don’t get to indulge. I re-read the same old books: Catch-22, Diaries of Adrian Mole, The Great North Trail, Slaughterhouse Five.

Depression?  Currently under control.  I keep my psychiatrist appointments.  Sleep apnea?  I have a harder time complying with Dr. Kohler’s orders to wear various contraptions to bed.  Penny laughed aloud night before last when she saw me with the light on. 

I’m inured to it, and I’m not kidding.  I was wearing the four-inch wide strap that goes under my chin and around the top of my head to keep my mouth closed.  Also the hose that goes up against my nose to blow air to keep my glottis (?) open with 8 inches of water air pressure.

75 Years Ago in Belgium

Buddy and his sergeant posed for this photo in New York prior to embarking to England on the USS George Washington. Although most thought the war with Germany was practically over both of these soldiers would soon die, their bodies never to be recovered.

Dec. 14, 2019

Today is the 75th anniversary of Hitler’s aggression in the Ardennes region of Belgium in 1944.  My uncle and his fellow American soldiers were a few hundred miles away in Southern England, quartered at Camp Piddlehinton.  They lived in long red brick barracks, each with kitchen facilities.

Hitler’s reckless decision to attack set in motion the circumstances leading to my uncle’s death ten days later and my grandma’s lifelong grief.

I was familiar with my grandma’s grief, her loneliness, her inability to explain her feelings.  December 12, 1944, two days before Hitler attacked Belgium, she posted a letter from Kalispell, Montana, to her son, Carl “Buddy” Ralph Bonde, Jr.  She told him she was mailing him a package.  She told him about his sisters and his dad, how they were getting ready to celebrate Christmas. No doubt one of his sisters, home from college, would sleep in his room.

His mother asked him to be kind to the other young men in his company who were likely to be homesick.  Her letter was returned undelivered.  And January 25, 1945, she received a telegram saying he had gone missing in action.  Eventually he was declared killed in action.  She only had her imagination to tell her what all that meant.

The story of Buddy’s fate, according to a West Point graduate I spoke with on the phone, was famous.  Text book material to the cadets, because hundreds of troops died because of a myriad of poor decisions and miscommunications.

That Christmas Eve morning in 1944 about a thousand soldiers boarded the SS Leopoldville, a Belgian luxury liner that had been converted to a troopship.  They were to steam from Southampton with the tide the 60-plus miles across the English Channel to Cherbourg, France.  They were part of a diamond-formation convoy that zig zagged to avoid submarine attack.

About six o’clock that evening a German U boat, U-486, under the command of Gerhard Meyer, fired a torpedo at the Leo.  It missed.  He fired again and the missile struck the Leo below the water line near the compartment where Buddy was berthed.  Some of his buddies were above, watching for the lights of Cherbourg to appear on the horizon. I eventually met some of these guys. Three were on the Leo, three others were on another troopship, the HMS Cheshire.

The Leo had water tight compartments.  It had lifeboats, it was only five or six miles from port.  It had plenty of life preservers.  Many problems: the life preservers were barely adequate, hard to use. They consisted of two flotation bags attached with several ribbons. Soldiers called them “teabags.” The lifeboats and life rafts were welded to the deck or too complicated for the soldiers to deploy with no training.

Many other problems, but one in particular was challenging:

It was Christmas Eve.  You can imagine.  The junior officers were on duty, of course, and they could tell through a binocular something was wrong with the troopship because it stopped dead.  Companion ships went in a sub-hunting mode, something the observers in Cherbourg were familiar with. 

Radio silence.  The Leopoldville could radio the base in England, but not Cherbourg because the frequencies were different.  The Leo used its signal light to tell Cherbourg they were in trouble.  Cherbourg signaled back to ask what kind of trouble, but never got an answer.

General grade officers in Cherbourg partied. They could not be persuaded to take action to aid the troopship stopped out on the Channel, at least not right away.  Aboard the Leo the American troops assembled on deck and awaited instructions that never came.

The crew of the Leo, all civilians, launched lifeboats and rowed to safety while the soldiers watched. Some soldiers said they heard messages of reassurance on the ship’s loudspeakers that the ship wouldn’t sink.

The captain of the Leo spoke only Flemish and kept to himself, listening to classical music.  None of the American officers could approach him.

A British warship, the HMS Brilliant, pulled alongside the Leo and took several hundred soldiers, those lucky and brave enough to risk the 10-20 foot drop to the deck below, and the potential to be crushed as the two ships crashed together with the stormy sea. A few others descended a rope net to the Brilliant.

One survivor, Bill Moomey, told me jumping from 20 feet was terrifying.  Both he and Hank Anderson, another survivor from Buddy’s Company E, 262nd Regiment, 66th Division, said they credited God with their survival.  Both remembered my uncle Carl.  They said he was a jokester and smart.  And they liked him. Bill broke down when he told me about him.

In the end, 764 soldiers died Christmas Eve when the Leo was struck or when it sunk the 150 feet to the bottom of the Channel.  Witnesses said many bodies washed ashore near Cherbourg during the next few days.  They stacked bodies on the pier like cordwood, they said, then trucked to St. Lo for burial.  Other remains were not recovered, including that of my uncle Buddy.  Many went down with the ship, including the reclusive captain.