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Any resemblance?

Any resemblance?

On Thursday I got braces.  I had been wanting braces for the past two years. Added bonus: maybe I’ll slim down over the holidays.

I had braces at age 15, got them off at 16. My teeth had been remarkably crooked then. We’re talking the kind of bad teeth that make a teenager hold her hand in front of her mouth when she smiles. One of my front teeth actually hung out over my lip when my mouth was closed. My small mouth was so crowded that a new incisor began growing in the roof of my mouth. Yep, they were that bad.

But the braces worked; my mouth looked great. My joke for the longest time was, “I’m never getting braces again!” The assumption being, like bungee jumping, once you’ve done it once, you don’t actually have to do it again. You’ve done your time.

My new theory is that my teeth are naturally inclined to be so ferociously crooked, that they simply couldn’t abide by the neat straight rows, and – though it took 25 years – they managed to get all cockeyed once more.

This is the 4th day I’ve had metal in my teeth, and I’ll lay it out there: not a big fan. Dr. Angle’s office staff is fabulous, and this was loads less traumatic than the first time. Braces have made big changes in all these years. Still, there are multiple levels of pain: headache, jawache, pain chewing, pain in the butt. The sharp metal barbs are tearing the inside of my mouth to shreds, and they catch food particles just as well in 2012 as they did in 1986.

In fact, that’s the basis of the dieting plan: too lazy to clean your teeth? Don’t eat!

Just the thought of using the array of tiny plastic clean-your-braces tools brings a defeated sigh to my lips. There’s a one-inch bottle brush on a  two-inch handle, Eez-Thru floss threader, floss, concave toothbrush, long-handled dental mirror, mini toothbrush, travel toothbrush, and a bottle of fluoride rinse. There is a container of soft wax, to pack around the metal barbs once teeth are cleaned, to minimize cheek lacerations.

There is Canadian Whiskey, to numb the pain of the open wounds. (Actually, Dr. Angle’s office didn’t provide that)

Following the routine as instructed is maddening. The flossing alone takes me 15 minutes because I have to take the threading tool, get the floss up underneath the wire, unthread it, then floss that one gap. Then pull the floss out, get the tool again, thread into the next gap, etc. I’ll have to set my alarm earlier just to get to work on time! So imagine that every time you eat, even just a nibble, even just one bite of Wonder Bread (and it’s as though you’re chewing venison jerky), necessitates the routine. You will have to first spit out all the disgusting food-infused wax (that is, the parts you didn’t swallow), then begin the half-hour clean routine. Kinda makes you want to have the whiskey instead, right?

I drove into town the night before last, to pick up my daughter from the nickel arcade. I had been “dieting” all day. The brief, imagined conversation between me and an attentive officer of the law went something like this:

“Ma’am, I smell alcohol. Can you step out of the car?”

“Honest, sir, I haven’t been drinking. Not actually drinking, just sipping. It’s medicinal really, because of my braces. I mean, heck, I’ve been at the bottle all day long, but just teeny tiny sips. I hold it in my mouth till everything’s totally numb. By that time, it’s partially evaporated. There’s barely enough to swallow.”

I couldn’t anticipate it would go very well. Rather, I just prayed to Bacchus that I wouldn’t attract attention.

Yesterday morning I woke starving! Interestingly, Crown Royal does not sate hunger pangs. Any kind of chewing hurts. Biting a banana seemed too much to bear. I made a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, originally placed into my cupboard to be used in some future casserole. Ah, blessed liquid food! I finished the entire can, and – still hungry – made a second and ate that too. (I didn’t chew the little mushroom pieces. They are small enough to swallow whole.)

At the hair stylist, there was a plate of star-shaped chocolate-coated Christmas cookies. My stylist raved about them, “You must have one!” I broke off one star point at a time, set it on my tongue, and waited till it got mushy, then swallowed. Oh, it was very good. It took me 10 minutes to eat one tiny star cookie. That was enough cookies.

Holiday fudge? Peanut brittle? Peppermink bark? Nope. Roast goose? Ham? You cannot tempt me! Salad? Broccoli? Are you kidding me?  I’ll make an exception for baked yams and all their mushy goodness.

Honey, be a dear and top off my glass, will you?

tracks in the snow

Arno and I are getting to know each other still. And we will continue to, of course, for years to come. He has seen that deeply personal messages sent originally to him will sometimes end up in a public forum. He said he’s realizing that <in his words> I am a writer, and a writer is going to write.</in his words> And the fact that it ends up posted on the Internet for all the world to see does not cheapen the intimate moments we have shared.

So yesterday at lunch when he told me my last email to him about my mother’s death was so passionate that it made him cry, I told him “Well, I just typed and then clicked Send. But if it’s that good, honey, it will probably end up on my blog.” Well, here is a part of my email to Arno. Only slightly edited.


snow rabbit

I stopped for the night at a hotel in Ritzville. I need to write Mom’s obituary. I was going to do that today, but got interrupted by packing up her things. It was hard, and upset me. Jim feels bad now, and I know he didn’t realize what a difficult thing he was asking of me. I don’t want him to feel bad about it. There is enough pain without adding more.

This morning when I woke up, I heard Mom’s ragged breathing. I had to look over to reassure myself that the hospital bed was gone, and Mom was not there, suffering. I knew I couldn’t bear another night there. I guess we probably all have a limited amount of tolerance for trauma. People who suffer with trauma for extended periods of time must go half crazy and get sick too. In the moments of her death, I thanked Mom for making it so easy on us. The quick journey through her dying was a gift for us and for her. Gramilda (Mom’s mom) said she thinks Mom did that on purpose, to make it easier on us. Ha, I can’t help but think she’s probably right. If Mom could find a way to take care of us while she was dying, I’m sure that’s what she did.

whose little feet made these?

So anyway, I may linger here alongside the freeway and take care of my last critical task. I can send the obit to the paper via email. My car is packed full of her stuff, and I may or may not get to it in a timely manner. Being away from the cabin makes it easier for me to fall into my old pattern of avoidance. I wish that trauma didn’t make me want to run. I went for a walk in the snow today (when I saw all those great tracks and sent you pictures from my phone), and I thought “I just can’t walk far enough.” No amount of running fixes anything. Today the walk didn’t even make me feel better. But being away from the cabin helps. I was still trying to take care of everybody. Maybe they didn’t need it. Maybe they didn’t even want it. But I can’t help but try to shoulder responsibility and boost everyone else’s feelings. It just sucks my energy out. I am not good at moderation. I seem to want to do things fully or not at all.

Man, I’m so glad I went to north Idaho when I did. The whole thing was so much quicker than I ever expected, or was mentally prepared for. But I’m tremendously glad I was there. When she died, it was such a relief to hear her quiet and at rest. Finally. I just wrapped my arms around her and held on to her and cried and cried. I felt greedy for the last bit of her life. Her body was warm, and I remember thinking I wanted to have her warmth, because that was all that was left. I held her until I realized it was my own body still keeping her warm in the cold room.

When I was finally able to leave the room, it was my biggest step toward letting her go. I did not look at her again. I did not watch when they took her away.

Driving away from the mountain, everything I saw was her. It was like the essence of my mother was in the air. Those mountains, the valleys, the river, the town of Bonners Ferry – they are all my mother. All I ever knew of those places is because of her. I was always with her there. I would never have gone there but for her. I know it all so well, and it’s always been flavoured with her perspective, her stories, her spirit and influence, her friends, her dreams, her thoughts.

I think the next time I go back will be another step of letting her go, if I can learn what life is like without her, then go back. If I can look at that part of Idaho in a world without my mother, I can re-frame what I see with new definitions. What will the snowy peaks look like without Mom? The yellow fields of cut hay and wooden fences and horses? They will still have her face and her voice when I stand there. The birds will sing in the trees the way that they do because of her. The squirrels will scold with all their boldness in the world she polished up for them. But how will that world change when she’s not here anymore?

And when I get home, what will my world look like without her? Her artistry is behind my world too. What is the next chapter of my life, where I am the mother now, and I look behind me at Tara instead of in front of me at my Mother? I don’t even want to know. But I guess I will find out.

One of my many guises

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