My mother is recuperating.
I brought her a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a large shot of brandy as she whimpered and dabbed at the spitty blood dripping over her new teeth. Her blood pressure, which had been at 219/63 when she arrived at the oral surgeon, had lowered itself to something about half that.
"I woulda rather had a baby," she said, and started her shaking that is at once laughing and crying.
My brother dropped her off at the oral surgeon in the morning. She was to have five teeth removed. She was beside herself. I'm glad I wasn't there.
My class got out early, so I stopped at home first to get my book and down some chocolate and tea for stiffeners.
I picked her up around 11:30. She wheeled herself out from behind a door and motioned for the bathroom. Her face was horribly swollen, and she looked a little crazed. Wild. Desperate. She wanted me to come into the bathroom with her. My favorite. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in there – other than her washing her hands – so I assume she was just scared.
She shuffled over to the desk, where the sweet young thing with perfectly straight, white teeth yelled, "That will be $325 today, Mrs. Wagner."
My mother couldn't talk. Her mouth was packed with gauze. Lots of it, and it was saturated with blood, which had started to leak around her lips, turning them bright red. She motioned for a pen and paper and made dying-dog yelps, those sad, not-faint-enough cries that tie your guts in knots.
She inquired in her increasingly poor handwriting if that was the full amount. It was not. She wanted to pay the full amount.
Chickie looked at my mother with amusement and pity. She shook her head a little and said she would figure the full amount for her. She had this dubious grin that said it would be such a large sum no one could possibly pay it all at once.
"OK, I've got the full amount for you!" she bellowed. I didn't realize having teeth pulled also yanked out your ear drums. I'll keep it in mind when I'm 82. "That's $751 for all of it." My god. My mother would surely have to sell one of her grandchildren to come up with all that. She wrote the check and howled goodbye to the girl who has yet to learn that old people have been saving money for decades and are considerably wealthier than their tatty clothes make them appear.
Some of the blood around my mom's lips was beginning to dry and turn black.
She whimpered herself into my car and started writing on an envelope. She wanted to go to the store ("kill time," she wrote) and buy some soft food, enough for two days. We started thinking up soft food. Applesauce. Baked beans. Pudding. Soup.
I ran in and bought her food. When I came back to the car, she was taking out her gauze. I'm amazed she didn't get blood all over everything. She repacked herself and we drove home.
She spit and spit and spit and then looked herself over. Then she got laughy-teary again.
A couple hours later, after lots of spitting, dabbing, and bitching, I dropped her at the next dentist who would fit her with her falsies. The bleeding had nearly stopped. I had to leave her there to be home for Kelsey.
I arrived to get her just as she had finished. She was still dabbing her mouth, but her teeth looked great. Nice and straight and appropriately gray-brown for an old smoker. It was weird to see her with straight teeth. She always had crooked, snaggy teeth.
This is my favorite part:
I held the door for her, and she said, "They had to pull another one! That's why it's bleeding again." The oral surgeon hadn't done it all. To have to go through that again, that poor woman. Looks like the dentist didn't tell the oral surgeon about that last tooth. Oops. He didn't charge her.
Well, she could talk again. And she could eat. And, boy, did she eat. She hadn't eaten all day. She's worried she won't be able to get her teeth out to clean them and that they'll stink. She said her teeth are so perfect people won't even recognize her. Ha!
So, she's settling down now. And she looks pretty good in her new teeth.