Tag Archiv: smiling

Cheers

The numbers of people potentially offended or irritated by this post grow in my mind with every passing second. Nevertheless, it happened on County Road 21, and seemed to me both true and beautiful.

Dinner time was drawing to a close. My son thought he remembered that it was All Soul’s Day. I explained that All Saints Day was Nov. 1, All Souls Day on Nov. 2, and therefore past. Remembering the dead is not something I do easily. Sometimes I celebrate my mother’s birthday. Sometimes I do not. Although the dead I know now include my mother, my paternal grandparents, and my miscarried children, it is only on some days that I find myself comfortable loving across the chasm that divides us. The loving seems too often to come with aching.

This difficulty with the dead does not exist for my children. Maybe because they have tasted death mostly in farm animals, or maybe because they are children and see things differently. My son didn’t worry himself with fine lines of time and place.

“I’m going to say a prayer anyway,” he said cheerfully. Chewing. Thinking. We waited.

“Ok everybody, get your glass. I’m asking this prayer for all the people in palliative care right now.  Cheers.” He raised his glass and waited for us to clink glasses with him.

“Do you know what palliative care means?” I asked.

“Yeah. It’s people that are dying.” He smiled and raised his glass to clink against mine.

The idea was very enthusiastically received. Other children’s prayers and glass clinking quickly followed. Their father tried valiantly to maintain the dignity of the occasion while being asked to clink his beer bottle with everyone after each of the prayers. We made it through without laughing until we cried by avoiding each other’s eyes until it was all over.

My worries about how strange we are got the best of me. “Ok, so this was really nice,” I said. “It was a good thing you all did, saying those prayers, doing cheers. But just so you know, there isn’t anywhere else in the world where people do it like that. You won’t ever find a place where people are praying and raising glasses to say cheers afterwards. It’s fine. It’s good. I just wanted you to know that people might not get it if you tried it somewhere else.”

Quizzical looks. Shoulder shrugs. Mom is strange. Business as usual. Are there any more Doritos?

“There’s something right about it, you know?” my husband said when it was over. “I mean I know it’s different. I can’t really explain it. But there’s something good about it. Something that’s the way it should be.”

He’s right. They’re right. So may God bless you, my readers. May love hold each of you gently and tenderly today. Pour the milk. Pour the wine. Cheers. Raise a glass.

Dental reflections

I hate the dentist. It isn’t personal. I hate all dentists, but since I’ve had the same one for almost twenty years, I suppose it’s possible that she could get confused. I remember when I was eight and my mother took me to the doctor to have plantar warts removed from my feet. The doctor used liquid nitrogen to burn them off. It hissed and smoked and hurt. My mother thought I should be grateful but grateful I was not. I would stare at the top of his head, bent over torturing my feet, and I would hate him with everything in me. Even at eight, I understood that I was being irrational, but the knowledge did nothing to change how I felt. Away from him, I could say he might be a good man. In his presence, I despised him and clung desperately to mental images of myself hitting him with a baseball bat or kicking him over and sizzling part of him with his own torture device.

I have progressed very little in my relationship with my dentist. The last time I visited her, I told her that it was quite difficult to like her, given the amount of misery she caused me. I expected that she would take this tongue in cheek. It is not the kind of thing that adults say to each other in earnest. The fact that it was technically true was to me a very private matter.

This week I had to go back to the dentist for a marathon two hour appointment to get a crown put on. Somehow it came up that she had taken my pretend/real admission rather personally. I can’t remember how it was that she communicated this unfortunate piece of information. What I remember is that I then had to force myself to be warm and appreciative for two hours, while drooling and being simultaneously poked, pushed, prodded, and gagged.  Attempts to make up for hurting her feelings instead of quietly hating her, came at such effort as to make the whole thing an odd kind of religious experience of an intensity I do not often experience. Smiling and friendliness (in the brief moments of respite when my mouth was free of her meddling) cost me something. I left feeling tired but different. I was grateful for the grace that came, but I didn’t want any more of it very soon.

Still, I wonder about ramifications. Having softened to the human behind the evil metal dentistry tools, I am stuck wondering about the what if. What if there is something be said for being human to people who hurt me . . . or at least trying?