Thursday, August 28, 2008
That Strange Guy Who Sleeps With My Mom
When I was born, there was this weird guy in the room with my mom and the doctor. It turned out to be my dad. Not just a voyeur or a guy who got lost on his way to the bathroom as I suspected at first. Just a dad. With glasses and a 1979 haircut. (And, I learned later, a pretty sweet record collection.) He turned out to be a nice guy.
Dads are strange because they know a lot about life but not a lot about being a girl. And so it's weird when you get your period at 12 (or whenever) and find it kind of difficult to tell this person you've known since birth that your lady business just started bleeding. Most dads are probably grossed out. I'm pretty sure my dad said, "Well, congratulations!" and went back to eating his sandwich. I feel the same way when I talk to my dad on the phone about his prostate issues.
"Oh, it's enlarged. Is that bad?...Oh, it is. Well, then... I sure like pretzels. Don't you?"
Technically, it shouldn't bother me that much considering that at one time in my life my dad's colostomy bag sat at the dinner table with us and the contents of said bag were discussed in great detail. What colostomy bag, you ask? Well, let me enlighten you.
When I was in 7th grade, my dad's appendix burst. Not once, but twice. He was out working on the tractor when the intense abdominal pain he had endured for a week suddenly stopped. "Well, that feels better," my dad thought to himself. "La-de-dah, I need to work those edges now." The next day, his burst appendix started to get infected. "Something sure doesn't feel right," my dad thought to himself ten days later. My mom took him to the doctor. His appendix had sort of healed itself a bit after the first rupture and then ruptured again. "Well, that smarts," said my dad. And then the doctors operated on him. A lot.
He came home several days later. His bandages were covering a very much still open incision from right under his breastbone to right over his pelvis, and there was a big fat colostomy bag hanging from what can only be described as a whole new belly button. All I could think was, "Are those my dad's guts there?" when I watched my mom change his bandages the first time.
Of course, my dad being a trooper, he was soon feeling well enough to find humor in the entire colostomy bag situation. Because what's not to laugh about? Every time you look down, you see a bag of your own shit. At the dinner table, in the shower, at church when you're taking communion. And it makes little farting noises, like a tiny grandmother who can't control her bodily functions. "I think this orange blob might be cantaloupe," my dad would muse. And, "Is that corn?" And so my dad amused himself for the next several months by eating things and seeing what they looked like when they came out.
He was in and out of the hospital for the next year for infections that came and went. And he still talks about the day he had the bag removed and got to take his first real crap in several months. The doctor told my mom that, had he been older or in anything but the best of health, he probably would have died. That doctor seemed to forget that this was the same guy whose hand had been horribly mangled by a combine belt only the year before. Silly doctor. There is no time for dying when there are chores to do.
A few months before I moved to New York, the old scar tissue from what is probably the biggest appendix removal crime scene of all time resulted in seven hernias. SEVEN. "What's this weird bubble thing here?" asked my dad, as he poked at it during breakfast one day. And then he headed out to do his chores.
I suppose I could have told you a less gross but very amusing story about my dad, like the time he wanted to get me and my sister interested in golf, so he bought us a giant bucket of pink golf balls on Ebay.
Or I could tell you a sentimental story where my dad saved the life of one of our bucket calves with just a pocket knife and a lot of swearing.
But I feel like a gross story really suits my dad. He did, after all, spend a good part of time when he was farming putting his hand up cows' vaginas, packing bearings with grease, digging post holes, killing snakes, and hauling away dead things. You just can't just "pretty up" a guy like that. He's not a celebrity chef, or a professional wrestler, or a the guy who hoses down the elephants at the circus. He's just a guy with glasses who delivers propane now. He didn't need that appendix anyway.