“Freeze Frame” is one of the worst songs ever recorded. It’s obnoxious and generates an earworm that chases you around all day. And so when our instructor played it at Jazzercise earlier this week and my tooth started hurting, I blamed the music.
But the next day I was dreamily gyrating along with Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” and thinking that “to the left to the left, everything you own in the box to the left” would constitute the perfect instructions to Porter to clean his chaotic room, when an exquisite pain shot up my eyetooth and reverberated inside my nostril. I couldn’t blame this on the J. Geils band and I left Jazzercise and headed straight to the dentist.
To underscore the severity of the situation, let me emphasize that I’d rather plop my feet in the stirrups and spread my legs for a gynecologist brandishing a cold speculum than open my mouth for a drill-wielding dentist. I miss Jazzercise only in extreme circumstances. A voluntary trip to the dentist before we’d done triceps exercises to prevent underarm waggle denoted suffering of the highest level.
As I sat in the waiting room, I took out my calendar and looked at all the medical visits the Glamores have made thus far in 2007. It was an impressive list.
All three boys had dental appointments, which were unremarkable, except for the fact that we have no dental insurance.
The dynamic duo had more braces added to their already crowded mouths. I had drastically underestimated both the amount of hardware that was going to be inserted into each mouth and anguish that would result. Each boy needed a mother to himself to provide comfort and solace. I am only one woman.
I found myself stretched across two examining chairs, patting two heaving stomachs and wiping four wet cheeks with the edge of my sweatshirt, wondering whether Dr. H was judging me harshly for trying to cut mothering corners by scheduling two sons for one day rather than giving Drew and Porter each his own afternoon. As we drove home, I felt inadequate for failing to supply each twin with undivided maternal attention, but I felt even worse when I realized that I had no soup in the house and had made pork chops and corn on the cob for dinner.
It was the week for teeth. The next day I had two crowns made. I grind my teeth during times of stress, and have now had four crowns made since my mother died, even though I wear a night guard, exercise regularly, take an anti-anxiety medication, and see both a Christian counselor and a therapist. Again, no dental insurance. I urged the dentist to consider a “frequent-driller” program but he wouldn’t bite.
And speaking of the therapist, I paid him a visit.
Finn’s permanent retainer popped off one tooth and the wire pricked into his cheek until I whacked it with my cuticle scissors. It was an easy orthodontic fix, but I was a bit crotchety that he couldn’t have timed the failure a bit better to coincide with my trip to the orthodontist with the twins earlier in the week.
The next week started off in a spectacular fashion. I was teaching Finn to make Chicken Scalloppini al Fredo when an olive oil tsunami erupted as I placed a cutlet into the pan, burning my hand. The boys looked on in wonder as I writhed and “yelled cusses,” as Drew duly reported to Bill when he got home. After my pain pill took effect, I googled my injury and even the most questionable health care sites agreed that a second degree burn required medical attention, so I reluctantly saw a plastic surgeon the next day. I left $50 poorer with a wrapped left hand and a prescription for Silvadene cream.
At this point I was getting testy. My hand was sore and useless, and although the family had been trained to deal with a one-armed mom they weren’t remembering their lessons as well as I had anticipated. The bank account was suffering from co-pays and whole pays, and I’d spent countless hours both in waiting rooms and conversing with medical professionals, most of whom were perfectly nice, but I was getting way behind on my reading.
Alas and anon, the journey was not done. The next afternoon Drew came inside crying and holding his arm in a way I recognized, for it was the way I had held my arm right after I was pretending to be Anton Apollo Ono on roller blades and wiped out, breaking my wrist. Drew’s elbow was swelling, so I instructed Finn and Porter to get their homework done and took Drew to the emergency room. My attempts to comfort him were complicated by the fact that it was his left arm that was injured and my left hand that was bandaged, and so we could not hold hands at all. I had to settle for guiding him by the neck which didn’t seem so much like a consoling maneuver as a that of a guard taking his prisoner to a cell.
We passed a pleasant enough three hours at the hospital, and since I had my Silvadene with me I used some of the downtime to clean and re-dress my burn. When it was time to settle up and I was writing the $250 check I took some satisfaction from having used some of the hospital’s gauze and first aid tape to rebandage myself. It made the whole experience seem like more of a bargain.
The following day Drew and I saw an orthopedic surgeon, who confirmed his broken elbow and put him in a bright orange cast. I sent him to school with a Sharpie and he came home covered in autographs, much to his delight.
Don’t think Porter and Finn were left out of the medical excitement. Porter has a crazy contraption in his mouth designed to make him look less like a chipmunk and more like a boy, but the large springs burrow into his cheeks and create sores, which can really cause a stench if you don’t practice proper oral hygiene. Porter’s natural state is somewhere between grubby and squalid, so getting him to rinse his mouth with oral peroxide twice a day is a chore, but it is imperative. A major part of the second grade curriculum is reading aloud to the teacher and parent volunteers, and word of halitosis spreads quickly.
Meanwhile, Finn has a lymph node behind his right ear that swells up every once in a while and becomes sore to the touch. If I were the doctor I’d stick something sharp in there and see what was going on, but to date the pediatrician has chosen instead to treat him with antibiotics. I managed to take care of the latest flareup with just a phone call, and the Augmentin was waiting at CVS.
To Finn’s chagrin, it was pills, not liquid, and he began dicing each pill into into minute slivers that would slide effortlessly down his throat and into his stomach. But they didn’t slide effortlessly, and he choked them down with great drama and fake retching. As someone who swallows seven pills at a time with a single swig of tepid water morning and night, I have no patience for this nonsense, and delegated the job of ensuring the antibiotics are administered to Bill, who is the epitome of calm and tolerance, which is part of the reason I married him.
Finally, every female has womanly issues, and must visit the ob/gyn yearly, and February is my month. Because of my advancing age and my mother’s ovarian cancer, I can now look forward to a host of procedures next week: the mammogram! the pap smear! the CA-125! the ovarian ultrasound! and the always exciting and dignified exam!
So I was noting all this in the dentist’s waiting room, and came up with 11 total trips to health care professionals thus far in 2007 (the crowns took two trips) for 14 patient visits, counting my imminent meeting with the dentist and my trip to the orthopedist that afternoon to check on Drew’s elbow but not my appointment next week for my lady problems.
After an x-ray, my dentist told me I needed a root canal, which we scheduled for Tuesday, because if Finn’s ear has not responded to the antibiotics by Monday he has to see the pediatrician that day.
Barring further disasters and assuming the worst on Finn’s ear, I’ll have 14 total trips for 17 patient visits under my belt by Valentine’s Day, which averages out to a doctor visit every three days in 2007. I don’t want to tell you what the medical expenses have been. You would start sobbing if you are not already.
It’s times like these that I really miss my mom, because she would have listened to me relate all of this in excruciating detail, and then she would have told me how sorry she was, and what a great mom I am, and how I deserve stars in my crown. Later she would have shown up with some flowers from her garden.
Perhaps we’re having a run of bad luck, and the rest of the year will be healthy. Just in case, I’m writing the national Jazzercisers and asking them to ban “Freeze Frame” forever. It’s a tiny step to make life more pleasant, but at this point, every bit helps.