May 2017

“The timing of death, like the ending of a story, gives a changed meaning to what preceded it.” -Mary Catherine Bateson

teeth

In exactly 500 words, what is happening here?

Michael Lejeune says:

If you had told me when I was a child that it was teeth that made the lumps in my ankle, I’d have thought you were lying to me. Those critical thinking skills kicked in early for me, earlier than they usually do. Ever notice how often people lie to kids? Just make up stuff and say it with a big smile? I hate that. Never understood it. Why not tell them the truth from the beginning? It’s hard, but so’s life. May as well start learning how to handle it early on. Makes for a more prepared adult.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t suspect adults were lying to me. I think it had to be that way, living in my house. Mom was a liar. A real bad one. That was what people who got to know her took away from interacting with her. That, and the fact that she was missing a foot and refused a prosthetic. After she died, dad once told me something I’d heard him say to others but never to me: she was a remarkable woman, and not in a good way.

So yeah, the lumps in my ankle. Dad told me they were spots where a fairy had kissed me, which I didn’t believe. Mom strangely avoided the subject. The doctor said they were benign. It wasn’t until I was twenty-two that they started irritating me, probably due to wearing tight shoes for track. I was living on my own at that point, in a new city. My new doctor told me they needed to go. Said they looked like adult teeth. I didn’t believe him either, until I saw them on the tray.

Ever used one of those websites that finds your family tree for you? I did. Found something pretty interesting that, best I can tell, was kept from me growing up. The missing foot thing wasn’t isolated to just mom. Her mother too. And her mother before her. Always missing the left foot, which is the same one that I just had four huge wisdom teeth yanked out of. Why hadn’t either of my parents mentioned this?

I called dad up and asked him about mom’s mom, Linda. I only met her when I was very small and I don’t remember it. I didn’t mention the foot. I had meant to, but just let it go somewhere along the way in the conversation. “What was she like?” I asked. He told me she was a lot like mom. But one thing he said really grabbed my attention.

“I think she’s where your mother caught the taste for spinning tales,” he said.
“Wait. Really? She made stuff up like mom did?” I said.
“Oh yeah. You want to know what’s even stranger, her husband, your mom’s dad, he told me her dishonesty was a product of her upbringing,” he said.
“You’re kidding,” I said.
“Nope. He’d catch her lying and yell, ‘Through the teeth, Linda. Through the teeth.'”

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