I Have to Pee


John was waiting for me to get in the car and I yelled down that I was ready, but that I first had to pee.


I’ve said “I have to pee” a lot in my peeing career. To clarify, not that I have to pee a lot or often, just that the opportunity to say it audibly presents itself from time to time. I imagine you’ve said it your fair share, too. If you’re honest.


Can we be honest? (Also, full disclosure, the following paragraph is just a sidebar and has nothing to do with the point of this post. Work with me, here.)


Once when I was driving my car and had just left a voice mail for someone I did not know well, I thought I had clicked the “end” button. And…I really, really had to go. And it was “a little more involved,” if you know what I mean. I needed to pull an upgraded version of what I often call a “pee and flee.” I was comforting myself by talking to myself. (You’ve done this.) This was before it was against the law to hold your phone while driving and I was sweating, nervously surveying the parking lot looking for a spot so that I could run into a bathroom. Things had gotten real and I was repeating the words, I have to _____, I have to _____, when I looked at my phone and realized I hadn’t clicked “end” and I was still being recorded.


Back to our story. (Please switch gears.)


So when I say, “I have to pee” aloud, I often think of someone from long ago. You know how you have certain things that are memory triggers? “I have to pee” is a memory trigger.


When I say that I have to pee, I think of Norma.


When I was fifteen, a couple who were my parent’s age, came to visit from Pennsylvania. I had never met them before and they were going to stay for a couple of weeks that summer.


They seemed nice enough. And then came that moment.


Early on in the visit—and it may have been the first day—all the adults were chatting and I, being one of those kids who always listened in to adult conversations, was in the wings. Not clandestine, mind you, but most likely I was on the periphery, leaning in with that curious ear. Norma had the floor and was communicating in what I would come to know as her animated, energetic style when she stopped abruptly and spouted, “I have to pee!” and busted out down the hallway to the bathroom. She pulled a “flee and pee.”


I chortled. And that’s when I knew I loved her.


We sometimes have an image of a little light bulb that flickers over our head when we have an idea, maybe it’s even an epiphany. So, apply that concept to a heart. In that moment when Norma unabashedly verbalized that nature had suddenly called, my heart light bulb flickered, signaling a heart epiphany. In that instant, she morphed into a peer, but only much better. She was a teacher. She was identifiable, she was real. Even though I was fifteen and Norma was forty-five, she went on to be one of my best, most authentic friends and would have a profound impact on my teen years. Well, my entire life thus far.


It may be debatable whether or not I obviously appeared needy as a child, but oh was I. Several years earlier, I had someone who capitalized on my neediness, what I call a capital offense. We know that predators spot an especially vulnerable child and use it for their own satisfaction. So I had known both ends of the spectrum, someone seeing a needy child and using it for their own purposes, and now, Norma, someone altogether different. She would swoop in and heal me for my own good purposes, someone who would teach me life lessons that I still hold true and dear.


I don’t know, exactly, if Norma saw me as vulnerable, because she didn’t treat me that way. She treated me with flat-out respect. She met me in the middle; she became fifteen while staying forty-five and allowed me to become forty-five while staying fifteen. She was such a close friend that, years later, I asked her to be one of my bridesmaids. She declined, saying she would feel a little out of place, standing with my peers.


I understood. But oh, the place she’s held, how tall she stands—towers—in my life, somehow managing to tower at eye level.


It was Norma’s way to be honest, to be real, to say it like it was, no matter who was in front of her or in the wings. I don’t know if the work Norma did in my young life was deliberate, or if it was just natural. Either way, she answered my unspoken call. Norma and I have lost touch over the years, but she will always be one of my most important teachers, mentors, significant peers, one of my very best friends.


Maybe I’ll pick up my cell. And tell it like it is.