Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jaw Tales: Part One

Some years back I had to have jaw surgery that resulted in my jaw being wired shut for five weeks. For weeks before the surgery I packed in the food, relishing my favorite dishes, especially from Baja Fresh, our favorite restaurant at the time.

So, the night before the surgery while relishing what I knew would be my last grilled vegetable burrito for a long time, I suggested to HOB (Husband of Betty) that in a dramatic show of love and support he should swear not to ingest Baja Fresh food until I could partake again with him. "It's a love pact," I said. He shook his head while wiping salsa from his lips. "Think of it," I said, "It's like you'd be taking some sort of romantic food celibacy vow. It would be a test. It would be nearly spiritual." He shook his head again while shoving even more Burrito Mexicano down his throat. I pounded on the table, "Put down your burrito! Show me your undying love and support! Make the damn LOVE PACT. NOW!! " People turned to stare. HOB turned to go get more guacamole.

Not only did he not restrain himself from Baja Fresh, after the surgery, he and his parents would have this kind of conversation in the hallway just outside my room while I sat in bed, my face bruised and swollen, my jaws wired shut:

"That pizza last night was good. We could go back there."
"Not pizza again. How about In N Out for burgers and fries?

"Fast food? No, let's get Italian. Lasagna sounds good, or manicotti. Garlic toast sounds good too."

I think she's flailing around in there. What's she agitated about? Why are her eyes bulging? You'd better get her the syringe."

Oh the syringe. It was not a needle, but a large tube with a plunger in it and a pointed end. To "eat" I filled up the tube by pulling back on the plunger, watching the tube fill up with the vile liquid Ensure and then, squeezed the point back between my cheek and teeth to a hole left by the surgeon to insert the liquid. I pushed on the plunger to release the Ensure. Since most of it came back out of my mouth, this whole process had to take place at the bathroom sink. My chin was completely deadened by the surgery (and remains somewhat so today--a nicked nerve. Note to oral surgeon: let's be a little more careful in there, OK?) so I could not feel the liquid dripping down my chin. I just saw it, a pale pink waterfall into the sink. It matched my spirits exactly.

Three or four weeks after the surgery we had some people over for my older son's fifth birthday. It was a small gathering, just some neighbors and a few friends, but after being cooped up at home, I was thrilled to see people and try to get back to normal life. We sat in a circle on the back patio. My son Evan was just four months old and I held him close on my lap as I smiled my weird wired-shut-smile at the people around me. I was nodding, enjoying the sunshine, and feeling so good to be with people again. I tried to join in the conversations that were around me by making wild eye contact and nodding excessively.

I noticed some people glancing at me, and then averting their eyes. I noticed some who excused themselves to go get some more food. I just sat, smiling my goofy smile, holding Evan close. One of my good friends came up with a towel and motioned to my chin. I wiped it off and then glanced down at the top of Evan's head--his little sunken fontanelle, absolutely filled the drool that had steadily been coming down my chin for the last half hour or so. It had started to expand out to the rest of his head as well. I sopped up the pool of drool in Lake Fontanelle, handed Evan off to a friend and went back to my room.

A mouth that opens is really important. You can't even have a good cry without it.

Tomorrow: Part Two of our Tale. The Monkey Visits Betty and Betty Let's Him Come in and Play.


Brian said...

Your writing has taken on an especially effusive quality of late. I like it.

Glad everything worked out with your jaw. And I think it's only fair that babies should know how it feels to get drooled on.

Unknown said...

I got a tear in my eye about the drool. I am glad that everything worked out -- well except for the slightly dead jaw feeling! Thanks for stopping by my blog...I read the post before this one too...I saw that coming having grown up on a farm too...I only wish that you had too. You've got quite a way with words...great content!

Bossy Betty said...

Brian--That effusive quality you sense is just procrastination talking! School starts on Monday. What better way to avoid working on class content than writing long, involved blog entries?

I think you are right--babies should know that thrill!

Brian said...

I meant effusive in a more literal sense.

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Joey Lynn Resciniti said...

I've never actually encountered someone that really had to have their jaw wired shut. Horrific and those rats were eating pizza! Unbelievable. Shame on you HOB!

Pat Tillett said...

Wow! your blog is a time machine! two minutes ago, it was Nov 3rd. Now it's freaking January 9th.

People can be so creul! You should have written a note (or used sign language) to INSIST that HOB share some of your medical gruel...