This past weekend I was home to visit my family. Some it was to get some much needed dental work done, some of it was to see family members. Things were kind of crazy my first day there. I was off the plane, into my mom’s car, and then sitting into the dentist’s chair.
I had the dentist telling me that yeah, I wouldn’t need novacane for my little bottom tooth that was so infected. However, the other two top teeth would need novacane. As she said this, I figured it would be a breeze. Then she started drilling. It was like that scene in the movie Marathon Man with Dustin Hoffman. I was expecting her to break out a phony German accent and ask, “Is it safe?”
Finally after a few seconds, and me wincing in pain like a Jew in a Concentration camp that met with the drill of Dr. Mangelev, she asked, “Do you need novacane?” I wanted to yell and scream government secrets that’s how much pain I was in. No wonder torture worked. As she hit my jaw with a needle for novacane kind of hitting my bone I heard her and the hygienist talk about Tim McGraw and his too tight jeans. I wanted to scream at both of them to focus on my damn teeth. The hygienist mentioned there were “more gays than ever on TV. That is why everyone’s jeans are tight.”
No you stupid cow. The gays didn’t just magically appear! These days they get to be themselves without getting locked in a mental institution, and it’s actually against the law to beat them up. Now it is safer and legal to be themselves. Ever thought of that shit?!?! On second thought, nevermind, FOCUS ON MY FUCKING TEETH PLEEEEZZZZEEEE. As I was protesting them, it hit me. My coffee drinking, sugar consuming, and other post-college stupidity put my teeth in this mess. If I would have taken better care of my teeth, I wouldn’t be at the mercy of this woman who missed her calling torturing POWs. Fuck adult responsibility.
Later that night, I went to my parent’s neighbor’s house, The O’Flannery’s. To give you an idea, the O’Flannery’s are super Catholic, but not in that scary way. They are into their faith, but in the way that they also practice what they preach. Generous to a fault, they would give their shirt off their back and last dollar to any stranger that needed it. The O’Flannery’s met my parents when my brother played football with their son Jonah, who is now a priest. Jonah was a few years older than Wendell, and received the calling from God in college. This in addition to a bundle of grandchildren was a blessing for the family after the death of their son, Martin.
A third year medical student at Vanderbilt, Martin had been diagnosed with gastric cancer and died only months later. A handsome fellow with a nice smile and sense of humor, Vanderbilt recently developed a scholarship trust in his name for medical students. The article appeared in the university magazine only days before my visit. I was able to see this because my mother showed me. Also, my sister Skipper is a resident at Vanderbilt so she had given my mother the head’s up, asking if it was the same family.
Either way, The O’Flannery’s were throwing a party to welcome our new neighbors, Greg and Denise. My dad mentioned in passing that they were about my age. It could have been a casual observation, or a slight dig because I live a Princess Pan existence in New York. Because my sister Skipper is on the marriage track with her boyfriend Boomer, my parents have been extra obsessed with my dating life as of late. Puppets apparently don’t count as boyfriends. I had a fiancé when I was younger. Anyone can be married. I don’t know what the big deal is. Most of the time a significant other is just a child who has an adult’s body that you always end up babysitting in my experience.
The second I saw Mrs. O’Flannery I gave her a hug and told her that I saw the article about Martin. She was touched. It’s tough to lose a child. When you lose a spouse you are widowed. When you lose a parent you are an orphan. When you lose a child you have no title. It’s because the pain is too awful for words to describe. Of course, Dr. O’Flannery was there was well. Both were in jovial spirits, ready to cater the dinner party. Originally, my mom was going to try to get me out of it because my schedule had been so busy and I had the shit drilled out of my mouth, but Mrs. O’Flannery told her to bring me. Plus as I mentioned, some of the kindest people you are ever going to meet.
The pain of having the living shit drilled out of my mouth faded as Dr. and Mrs. O’Flannery told stories. I found myself laughing my head off as usual when they talked. They told stories about traveling the world, as Dr. O’Flannery lectured on infectious disease, his area of expertise. They talked about all the places they had gone. Of course, I also met Greg and Denise. They seemed like a nice young couple. Definitely about my age. They had taken the leap to the marriage and house without feeling they were leaping off a cliff. This is how I knew I was outside of New York.
Dinner was fun, and my dad came late because he was working. As dinner progressed, my jaw began to kill me. Yes, the side they stuck the needle in. Plus the last three months of a work schedule that didn’t stop like the drum solo In-Da-Gaga-Davida were catching up to me as well. So I was nodding off. Mrs. O’Flannery offered to let me sleep on her couch. Because we only lived next door, my mom told Mrs. O’Flannery she would walk me home.
I jumped into bed and my jaw hurt again. Yes, I texted my damn mother and dragged her away from the dinner party. Time for King Vicadin. Note: Greg and Denise wouldn’t have to call their mother’s from a dinner party because they were in bed with a medical issue. Yes, I am a Princess Pan.
I ended up having a weird dream where I was in a castle in Germany and partying it up with the World Cup Soccer Team. Pasta II, a local eatery in my hometown, was catering. Then I woke up. Yes, with a slight hangover and stomach ache. Still, the dream was sweet. No wonder people do sexual favors for that shit. Damn. Then as I got sick because it was wearing off, I felt like an idiot. Why? Because it was time for more dental work.
The next dental visit was my bottom teeth. This time I got the doctor that I liked, Dr. McManus. A gay man, we talked about Hope Floats and he made some jokes about my mouth being banged up, and that’s why my jaw hurt. He was kinder and gentler with the drill, although I will admit I still felt like an asshole for doing this to my teeth. Then it hit me, as my mouth was being drilled, I was getting older. If I didn’t start being better to my mouth I wasn’t going to have my teeth. That’s a sucky realization actually. Still, Dr. McManus mad me laugh and made my dental angst not so terrible.
Later that day came some updates in family drama. My Aunt Amelia, who is developmentally disabled/learning disabled, is between houses. She lived with my grandparents and took care of them I their final days. Anyway, my grandparents house had to be sold, and when it was being shown my Aunt Amelia was living in her car. This was about as terrible as you could imagine. She hasn’t worked in years, both a combination of a bad last boss but also because being my grandparents in home caretaker has been her full time duty. She was there when they both passed, which was this last year, months apart from each other. The house was left to her, but unfortunately the upkeep would be too expensive to take care of.
Right now, Amelia is living with another aunt of mine. Of course, part of my duty this weekend was reconstructing her resume. It’s because now that she is going to be on her own, she needs a job. In looking for apartments for my aunt, her request was a backyard for a fairy garden. Yes, she goes to the Ren Faire. Most people want a sidewalk view, be near a store. But she wants a fairy garden. I suppose we all have different needs. However, this is a need that is indeed, well, different. Still, we all have needs, and a fairy garden is an important one for her happiness.
Of course I was receiving this update while stoned on painkillers from my dental adventures. While it is partially astounding, it also sounded amazing. Actually, damnit, I wanted a fairy garden too. Of course, on occasion, because my aunt is 50 going to 18, she won’t answer her phone when my mom calls. It drives my mother crazy. I want to encourage my Aunt to say, “You aren’t the boss of me!” Now that would be amazing.
As the craptacular ideas spun in my head, I felt as if I could fly I was so loopy. Suddenly, I wanted to be a fairy in my aunt’s garden. Fuck New York. Fuck Ambition. Fuck the house and the man. If I was going to do this Never Never Land thing I was going to commit with ever fiber in my being.
Then the painkillers wore off.
In between those adventures I was in the pool with my parents, getting sun on my breakout skin. I felt like a teenager again. Of course, I am Skipper’s maid of honor, so dips in the pool were spent planning the wedding. I told my mother, as my casting director hat came on, that we needed to work with the talent that we had. We have a cousin who will be three when wedding time comes. My mother and I debated if she could be flower girl. Going back and fourth, we wondered if she would still be too young. Then I suggested the Craigslist Flower Girl. Yes, go on craglist, rent a flower girl, and pay her fifty dollars. Granted, it would probably be one of Aunt Amelia’s Ren Faire friends but still. Oh the shittily brilliant ideas painkillers give a lady.
In between all of this, my dad asked me when I was getting married. In between my break neck work schedule and my apartment that is an occupational hazard, I never thought much about it. He gave me some speech about getting older and wanting his daughter to be taken care of. About settling down with a decent man. Meanwhile, I had been shitting myself silly the week earlier because I had run my body down so massively. And now I was drooling because I couldn’t feel either side of my mouth. A decent guy would throw me change and this point, and that would be it. And then I thought of Greg and Denise. I was not ready to go to dinner parties with significant others just yet. And then a sliver of drool came down my mouth. Oh yeah….
Sunday there was a mixup into who was supposed to stay with my Mema Ralph, my dad’s mom and my last remaining grandparent. My dad and his remaining siblings take shifts. Somehow there was a mixup because another aunt of mine went on vacation or something. Either way, we rushed over Sunday to take care of her.
Mema Ralph, who is going to be 90 this year, was working on a puzzle. Yes, she works on puzzles. Despite touches of dementia, she is still pretty much with it. She has arthritis in various parts of her body, so she was using a spaghetti stirrer to help her reach the puzzle pieces. On the television was Murder She Wrote. Yes, it’s an old people show. However, it’s based off of Agatha Christie.
As a family, we all got sucked in. It was as if time had stopped, and I was 10 again. We were at Mema’s, and this was her favorite show. And there I was, misfit and wannabe writer as well as avid Ms. Marple fan. As a family, we all would guess the killer. My dad and I usually were able to crack the case. It was a time machine back to when times were simpler. When if I had a cavity, it was still a baby tooth so they would let it fall out. My big worry was the drama at Andrew Jackson Elementary School, but my big triumph would be winning the Biggest Reader Award.
Now my worries were would I book that job? Would I get turned down because the producer of the event doesn’t like ventriloquism? Would my article/screenplay get accepted by whoever? Would I get to do what I wanted, or fade quickly into obscurity, not earning a place in history? Would I be damned to worry about money forever, and if my health insurance, or lackthereof, would cover whatever was wrong with me? Suddenly, moving into the fairy garden seemed like a great idea.
On the other hand, change is the only constant in one’s life. As I grow up, I know now to take dental care seriously, because it sucks to have that many cavities. I will know to take better care of my body, because it sucks to be so tired it breaks down. Additionally, I will have a new brother in law, Boomer, soon. Greg and Denise probably just took the plunge but are just like me, holding on to the bumper wondering how the fuck to do this whole adult thing without killing themselves or someone else.
Throughout life, you need to have a sense of humor and past time. For my Mema Ralph it is her puzzles and dominos. She weathered the storm of raising 7 kids and losing a husband to a heart attack while she still had little ones at home. Not to mention she buried my Aunt Margaret, her oldest, ten years ago after losing a battle to cancer.
Or you could laugh, like the O’Flannery’s. While the death of Martin wasn’t easy, they keep his memory alive by being grateful. Not to mention they tell awesome stories too, knowing that unfortunately life comes with good and bad. Same with my parents. My mom laughs about my Aunt Amelia’s antics, because what else can you do. And my dad laughs about my Mema Ralph’s outbursts. Life is too short. Nothing is that serious.
Life is a sailboat ride. Sometimes you will get calm waters, sometimes it will be choppy, sometimes it will be a water fall. That is as deep as we are getting here, kids.