I have a confession to make. I have a secret fear that I am going to share with you. All three of you that read my blog. Clowns don’t scare me. I am not scared of big dogs (despite being mistaken for a chew toy as a kid once or twice) and I have no problem dealing out the big squishy on bugs of various shapes and sizes.
No worries there.
What I am afraid of, downright terrified of in fact, are dentists.
A big fat wuss, even.
When I was a wee lad, lo those many moons ago, I had the single misfortune of visiting a dentist with the chair-side manner of Orin Scrivello, DDS. (What? You didn’t see Little Shop of Horrors? Tsk, tsk)
Let’s just say that he had a talent for causing me pain. Who knew a simple tooth extraction would turn into a scene from Friday the 13th? Sure, maybe the tooth breaking while he tried to yank it from my per-pubescent mouth wasn’t his fault. But surely he could hear my anguished scream while he hummed a few bars of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, right?
And when I waved my hands to get his attention to let him know that the anesthetic had worn off and it was a little uncomfortable for me, what with him digging the shattered remains of my tooth out.
Maybe he was just too engrossed to notice.
Well, ever since that lovely little watershed moment, I have been reduced to complete globs of jelly whenever someone mentions a dentist.
Sure I brush and floss and what not but the truth is, I’d rather lose my teeth on most days than go back.
Unfortunately for me, one of my molars had other plans.
A filling I had since the Carter Administration, decided to up and leave without telling me one day and my poor molar, bereft and really just a hollow shell of its former self without the filling, was left broken.
Literally. Like a huge chunk missing. Sort of like an off white version of the second death star. In my mouth though.
Ah. Fun times.
I like pain. Loads and loads of it. Heaping tons of it. Don’t you? There is nothing better than pain that feels kind of like someone driving a really thin, sharp needle the size of a railroad spike through your skull.
That’s the best.
But since I need sleep and my constant crying was beginning to scare my kids, I decided to bite the bullet and go to the dentist.
He gave me options. It was adorable. “Would you like to save the tooth? We would simply do a root canal and then you would need a crown of course…”
Suddenly I had this image of a jackhammer being forced into my mouth and a large Hell’s Angel with a really neat tattoo of a skull and spider web and a sledge hammer and a bottle of whiskey –
“It would take about 45 minutes to do the canal work and depending on the…”
And he would be laughing as a really scary Dental Hygienist with a heavy German accent snickered as she wiped the gore off the walls-
“But of course, the choice is entirely yours.”
I smiled like I had actually been listening. Which I was… sort of.
“How much would all that cost?”
“Around sixteen hundred.”
“How much to just pull it?”
“Two hundred fifty-ish.”
Hmm. A bionic tooth complete with GPS transponder and weather detector or a family vacation in the summer? Assuming the Keys doesn’t end up looking like the Alaskan coastline after the Exxon Valdez passed through, a vacation would be nice.
The best part of the whole experience was that, other than the injection for the pain killer, I never felt a thing. Sweet. The tooth stayed in one piece as it was extracted which was a win as far as I was concerned.
I woke up this morning and realized that I got stiffed by the stinking Tooth Fairy.
Sometimes I wish I were a secret assassin, capable of scaling walls in the dark of night to carry out the cold vengeance upon some unsuspecting evil doer. If I had to fight my way through a horde of flesh eating zombies, so much the better.
My Katana of justice would slice and dice the undead into quivering giblets as I stalked my doomed prey without mercy.
Alighting to the second floor soundlessly, I would subdue the guards with a quick twist of the hands and necks would splinter as I gently lay them down. The other guards would sense something was wrong but as I am invisible, they would just feel unnerved.
Yes. That icy sliver of fear your feel?
Doom upon you my hapless friend.
I would flick my wrist and razor sharp stars would find their targets with unerring accuracy. Henchmen would fall, clutching mortal, bloody wounds and ruing the day they accepted gainful employment protecting a soon to be dead criminal mastermind.
Silently I would slip into the master suite unnoticed. Slowing drawing my blade as the victim planned and schemed over his criminal empire, completely oblivious to the fact that the shift in the breeze he felt just now was actually his end come to greet him.
A whisper of wind, the rustle of sheaves of paper scattered on his desk and a blink of steel flashing.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
A red stain spreading across the desk as the light of light darkens. His head hits the desk as his life pools slowly beneath.
I was merciful. He didn’t even know he was dead.
I slip away in the shadows before anyone even realizes what has happened.
Disappearing into the shadows.
I am a ninja.
Wait a minute.
Crap. I’m not.
I am just a professional web geek.
It would have been a great way to end the week.
What is love? What is that thing that binds us to something other than our selves? That powerful emotion that makes us say what we don’t mean, do things we’d rather not do. I’ve been trying to define, for myself, what it means to me directly.
After all, love is the single most personal feeling a human can truly feel.
But what does that mean for me?
It’s been nine days since my wife has been home and when she left, it didn’t seem like such a long time. What’s nine days in the grand scheme of things? It’s not even two weeks. I figured, if nothing else, I would be busy looking after the kids and the house and that time would fly by. I’m a man after all, I can get by without help from anyone. I am pretty self sufficient. I can cook, clean, do laundry, stay on the kids to finish their homework, do my job and still find time to watch a movie with them or go to the school play.
That I am exhausted at the end of the day is not a big deal.
I’m Daddy. It’s what I do.
But what I didn’t count on was my complete inability to exist with purpose on my own. Aside from performing the basic functions of day to day life, from attending to the kids, what other reason did I have to be here? I’ve never really given thought of my place in the world or, for that matter, my reason for existing. Sure I have dreams and aspirations. Goals even. Everyone does. But what is driving me toward them? What makes then necessary to accomplish?
I’ve learned that my wife is that reason. She gives me purpose and a sense of direction.
When I met my wife, we were both recovering from darker periods in our lives, licking wounds we did nothing to earn but had received anyway. We became friends and it didn’t take all that long to realize that I had someone special in my life. And the thought terrified me to no end. I resisted that part of me that wanted to run headlong and heart first.
My heart was broken, shattered and left a smoldering ruin. My logical parts said there was nothing left worth giving anyway.
She was in pretty much the same boat.
And as we grew closer, we both felt that pain dissipate, the empty ruins filled again with a bit of hope. Though our lives together have been great, we did have moments were the road got more than bumpy. It broke. Yet somehow we have managed to survive in a world were no one seems to have the patience to sit through the bumps. If it doesn’t seem to work like it used to, people don’t bother to fix it. They simply toss it to the side and get a new toy.
I am glad that I never gave into that impulse.
If you asked me why, I suppose I would mumble something about love and my kids and not wanting to give up. And each of those things would be true. But this week I learned that there was more to it than that. Something that occurred in me on a subatomic level. A change in me that I never realized had taken place.
This last week I felt an ache growing, building. And I didn’t really know why. Something had shifted off. I tried to say busy, I tried to fill it with other things. I thought maybe I was just bored, looking to pass the time. But then it dawned on me. This pain is familiar. I know it.
As I tried to relax and consider my growing predicament, I realized that my heart was aching again. The holes torn into it so long ago were exposed.
I thought to myself that maybe I am just feeling lonely. And that was certainly part of it. But it was so much more than that. I felt out of place, lost. What happened? It didn’t make sense to me. I was talking to my wife over the phone one night, we were talking about her visit and how things were going and what the kids had been up to.
It was getting late and we were saying our good byes and I felt it. That familiar ache.
Ache is a powerfully descriptive word.
It implies yearning, a desperate need. A lack of something so profound that it causes pain. In nearly 15 years of marriage she has managed to fill the empty places in my life. In ways I had never really appreciated before. That pain helped me realize what was missing.
See, I have a theory about my broken heart. It never truly mended. Somethings are so broken they seem impossible to fix I suppose. I don’t believe that my heart was meant to be fixed so that it could exist on its own. Along the way I lost pieces of myself which made it impossible to fix. But my wife was the same exact way. Broken heart, pieces missing. Neither one with enough to parts left over to fix.
But what I realized is that our broken pieces fit each other. The two became something bigger. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
She didn’t mend my heart. She put her broken heart together with mine and what resulted was something neither of us expected.
A perfect working heart capable of love.
Who would have imagined it?
And when she had to leave for a while, my heart wasn’t able to function without hers. I’ve always known how important she was to me. What I never realized was just how much we needed each other. How much I need her. For the last nine days I have been half the man I thought I was. Incomplete and lost. Missing the very best part of me. Her smile, her laughter, feeling her turn in the night as she slept. A thousand little insignificant details you don’t think about until they are suddenly gone.
And you realize how empty your life could have been.
I’m not perfect, she’s not perfect but we are perfect for each other.
And that is all that really matters.
I am counting the minutes until I go to the airport tonight to get her. Her flight arrives at 10.
Tonight my heart comes home and I will be whole again.
You know, I have had weird dreams. I mean really, really strange dreams. Dwarfs with lightsabers, Nazis on surfboards fighting ninjas.
I once had a dream where the car I was driving had wheels made of Oreos. Took me forever to get home on account of me snacking on the tires.
But last night. Last night I had the mother of all dreams.
First I am going to start with the Raccoons. They were the first sign that something was wrong. I awoke to find the window of the kitchen pried open, little footprints all over the house. Up the walls, over the counters.
The food still in its containers left me a trifle puzzled.
If the furry little burglars were not after food, then what?
Suddenly, with a sense of foreboding I approached my X-Box 360 console. My games were askew.
I knew it! They were after my games!
But ,wait. The games were still there, safe in their plastic DVD cases. Scattered a bit to be sure but otherwise unharmed. Little pellets of Raccoon poo showed that something startled them. They left in a hurry.
They were afraid.
But what could strike fear into the heart of a hard core gamer Raccoon?
Only one thing.
As I rush out into my yard and see people running in fear.
“Russians! They’re everywhere!”
The Russians, apparently, are coming.
The next thing I know, I am on the roof of a tall building, my squad mates calling out enemy positions as they try to surround us. The wail of sirens echoing in the distance. and the roar of troop transports overhead spilling parachuting Spetsnaz.
Its raining Commies!?!
“I have movement on my right! Engaging targets now!”
Kowalski, my sniper, is zapping approaching infantry from the top of our really tall skyscraper like a kid with a magnifying glass.
Of course there is a Kowalski in my unit! The Kowalski is always the crazy bad ass. Every unit needs one. I can hear the staccato of machine gun fire getting closer. Bullets crack into the cinder blocks we are taking cover behind and I can feel the bite of concrete fragments pelting me.
The smell of cordite is thick in the air.
Any minute now I expect the enemy to start raining mortars on my position.
It’s what I would do.
And then I see it. Shining in the early morning light, right next to an air conditioning condenser unit.
Lying there in all its greasy glory.
Glowing magically, it calls to me like Excalibur to Arthur, like donuts to fat kids, like interns to … well… everyone in Congress.
“My God. It’s a machine gun made of bacon.” I scramble over to it, ducking as rounds cut the air over my head.
I pick it up.
Kowalski, who stood up to reload, sees the gun in my hand and this manic, exultant look blossoms across his face, “He’s got the bacon gun!” He plants his boot on the edge of the building and just starts blasting away, laughing maniacally.
For the record, Kowaslki is awesome.
I stand next to him, aiming the bacon gun, and open fire. It kicks hard but, because its not that big, I am able to keep it on target. I can see little puffs of dirt where the rounds are striking below me.
I lead an advancing column of enemy soldiers with my withering fire and I see them drop. Others run screaming “Salo! Salo! Ahhhhh!” in terror.
The ammunition never seems to run out. I wave the gun all over the broken ranks of soldiers beneath our position, the smell of bacon filling my nostrils.
I can hear the rest of the men in my squad cheering as enemy forces break ranks and run. Somewhere behind me a massive American flag is unfurling, I hear it snapping crisply in the breeze.
Dawn has broken.
The enemy is fleeing.
America is safe and old Glory flies high.
I love the smell of bacon in the morning.
Smells like…. victory!