It's not about the house.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Knowledge Comes

Yes, yes, yes. I will finish the schmortgage story. Someday. Soon. I swear to god. Really! I would hardly take you right up to the precipice, pivot, and jeté away now, would I? Well, yeah, I might. Lord knows I’ve done it plenty of times before. But not this time. I mean, look, I’ve already taken the lord’s name in vain twice in fifty words -- I wouldn’t risk that kind of hellfire on an empty promise! I’ll finish the damn schmortgage story. Soon! But first a conglomeration of knowledge I've acquired since the last time I was here…

If you’re forty years old, and your wisdom teeth have been fully “erupted,” as they say, not bothering you one whit for twenty years, but your dentist insists you get all four of them yanked in one hour without sedation anyway – and if they tell you all the gruesome details of the procedure at your consultation but then make you wait two full months in agonizing anticipation of the actual event – it really helps if you can arrange for your mother to die four days before. Takes your mind right off those bloody forceps.

Also? Crying for the technician when the dentist leaves the room will guarantee you extra Novocaine at the slightest whimper. And if the first two extra shots don’t do it, hollering “It HURTS!” gets you a third (it comes out sounding like “Ih HUH!,” but it’ll do). None of that, however, gets you prescription pain meds. Sheesh. What does a screaming baby have to do?

Here’s another interesting tip: If you’re forty years old, and your wisdom teeth have been fully “erupted,” as they say, not bothering you one whit for twenty years, but your dentist insists you get all four of them yanked in one hour without sedation anyway – you don’t get stitches! What you get instead is very specific instructions on what to do so as not to (caution: this is disgusting) suck the clots out! Don’t spit, don’t smoke, don’t use a straw, etc. When he tells you not to spit, you just might laugh. You don’t spit, you might think. What sort of yokel does he take you for? Well, do me a favor. Tonight, when you're going to bed, try getting the toothpaste out of your mouth without spitting. You are allowed to rinse, but then of course you can’t spit that. I’m telling you, that last little rope of drool is a stubborn bugger, and you will eventually give up and grab at it with your hand. (You, however, might not decide to wipe it on your pjs...)

Ooh, speaking of which: If you can arrange for the funeral to be put off until three days after you get your teeth out, even better. Then do yourself a favor and spend a little time reading about dry socket on the internet. You will be so consumed with the fear of developing this painful complication and missing your own mother’s funeral, that you will become Model Post-Operative Procedure Girl. Which really isn’t like you whatsoever. Normally, if they tell you to “keep it clean,” you say “yeah yeah yeah” and go home and clean the basement (or not "clean the basement" necessarily, because that’s not something you would ever do, but the point is you’re just generally none too particular about post-op instructions). This time, though, you are salt-rinsing and not-spitting and cold-compressing and hot-padding it up to beat the band. And gobbling down the last of your husband’s leftover prescription pain meds. On an empty stomach.

The not-eating thing isn’t exactly what they told you. They told you “clear, cool liquids for the first day after surgery, and then reintroduce solid food as tolerated.” But you’re not sure what “the first day after surgery” might mean. You got home at 5:00 p.m. – does it just mean till bedtime? Does it mean 24 hours? Or does it mean until bedtime the next night? You figure better safe than sorry, so you eat nothing for two days. Then you wake up in the middle of the night and swallow leftover mashed potatoes straight out of the refrigerated cottage-cheese container, dropping them from your fingers straight down the back of your throat so you can gack them down without contaminating anything but your tongue.

The next day your husband makes you scrambled eggs and you eat six. He really does make the best scrambled eggs ever. The secret, as always, is loads of butter. But after two days of no food and pain meds and salt-water rinses, all that butter makes you feel a little sick. You’re afraid to puke, because you don’t want to puke the clots out, and you’re afraid to Alka-Seltzer because you don’t know if they might float away in the fizz. So you decide to just roll around and moan.

You also discover a new joy of post-operative procedure, which is that there are actually these gaping holes in all your jaws now, and when you do eat (semi-) solid food, they all fill up. It is dis-gus-ting. You open your mouth and look in the mirror and see these tiny little bowls of scrambled eggs. The sight of it gives you the courage to rinse a bit more vigorously than you have been, but in all that internet-reading you learned another vile tidbit, which is that sometimes blood-clots lose their color after a few days in the mouth. So you develop a nasty habit of examining everything you spit out in the sink. Could that be a blood clot? No, I’m pretty sure that there is scrambled-eggs...

But you do a decent job of taking care of yourself, and by the time the funeral rolls around, you know you’re safe. At which point you are suddenly, overwhelmingly exhausted from all the worrying and the relief. You are really, really glad your mom had no desire to be waked, because for three days you've only brushed your front teeth, and your back-teeth swamp-gas breath could kill a horse.

You take Communion for the first time in twenty-five years at the funeral service, realizing as you blow your horse-killing “Amen” in the Monsignor’s face that it’s the first bite of solid food you’ve had. It sticks to the roof of your mouth just like it always used to, and so, on a quick whim, you take the wine. Never got to do that bit before. You were too young for it when you left the Church. Some other time I’ll write about why it’s okay that you took the sacrament you don’t believe in just this once. For now, though, I have one final warning:

You can say there won’t be a receiving-line all you want, but people need it. And if you don’t give it to them at a wake or at the church, then they will improvise one at the luncheon after. A hundred and forty people. And as you say hello to all those strangers and hug all those old friends and kiss all those cousins that you haven’t seen in years, you will wish you hadn’t done quite such a good job, after all. Because if your face was just a little swollen, they would all at least have had fair warning.

“Poor girl,” they’ll all think (after they've picked themselves up off the floor). “So overwhelmed with grief, she's totally abandoned dental hygiene.”


pork luck said...

oh dear... lunchtime.. i'll read this later. i got to the "suck your clots out bit..."

Anonymous said...

Ugh - suck the clots out? So glad my other half's just popped out to buy me breakfast.
I've had 2 wisdom teeth out as an adult. One at a time. I thought that was bad enough - I feel for you!

Jen said...

Oh Erin. 2010 WILL be a BETTER year!

1. What is it with Docs these days not wanting to pass out the good drugs?

2. I had my wisdom teeth removed at 17, the Tues before Thanksgiving. I thought my life was over and begged my parents to bring me to the ER. The were mean and made me suffer eating jello and chicken broth while they had Turkey and Dressing. I hated them.

3. They game me some sort of syringe to clean out the scramble eggs. Nasty.

4. Yes I still recall that smell.

5. Glad you are back.

Micky said...

Peeing my pants reading this and also...I HAVE NO WISDOM TEETH.

Daisy said...

Glad to see you back. And now I feel bad that I squeezed your face at the church! No drugs...They gave poor Tony 12 percs after getting 4 impacted wisdom teeth out. Loads of stitches. Then made him feel like a drug addict when they were gone in three days!

EGE said...

PorkPie -- Sorry! But if I weren't so honest, you wouldn't love me so much. Right?

12 -- Ditto what I said to Porkie!

Jenni -- Thanks. I read on the internet about that special syringe, but nobody mentioned it at the office. Must be related to those good drugs they don't pass out anymore...

Micky -- Hang on, do you mean you NEVER had wisdom teeth? They just didn't come in?

CuzDonna -- Did you? Squeeze my face? I don't remember. I just remember you told me I am a good kid, which was SO what I needed to hear...

Cake said...

Is this the right time to mention that I have no wisdom teeth and have never had any wisdom teeth?

*ducks the punch*

I thought not.