Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Three Legged Bed and Other Things You Get Used To

My Dad lost all his teeth when he was 15. He didn’t lose them really, he had them pulled out. The story is that he had a lot of cavities and rather than pay for the treatment, my grandfather, a legendary pennypincher, had the dentist extract. My Dad, at age 15, had to go to school for two weeks, maybe longer now that I think about it, without any teeth, while they made his dentures. At the height of puberty. In High School. Obviously there are worse things to endure, but I think it’s one of the defining experiences of my Father’s life and goes a long way to describe the funny/sad/rageful part of his personality.
The weird part is that my grandfather was a nice guy, well nice isn’t the right word, he was interesting, and he was smart and funny; he was calm, though maybe if I had been around him more, he would have tortured me too (calmly). It seems like something more than just frugality would cause a father to make such a decision for his child. Still when my Dad recalls this story, he doesn’t say it with bitterness, so much as a shoulder shrug. Yeah, I had all my teeth pulled out when I was 15. In the middle of the school year. No big.
It reminds me of the things we get used to, in our families mostly, like a three-legged bed or a person's absence (literal or figurative) : things that seem like they could be directly addressed but just get overlooked until they become part of what is normal to you. 
I was thinking about this idea recently when I remembered this cook at a diner where I worked. In the summer he used to sweat so much he looked as though he had been sprayed with a hose. If he shook his head, the sweat would splat and hiss on the grill. It's true the kitchen was like a sauna; there may have been one tiny window, but what difference did it make? It was 92 outside and 100% humidity. But still. There was no way he didn't sweat directly into every platter of food he served. I'm sure we had the thought that this was a little, you know, gross; we may have even given each other a side eyed glance as we picked up the plates but we never mentioned it. It was just part of the deal.

1 comment:

  1. As usual, a high point of my day.