You ever had one of those days?
The Pain of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite time of year, you know, carving the beastie bird, eating the pies, and need I say . . . the leftovers. Of course, when I was reluctantly reminded by my lovely wife that her parents were coming to share Thanksgiving with us, the festive occasion began to lose some of its luster. It’s not that I dislike them or anything—it’s just that I can’t really be myself when they're around, you know, break wind, drink heavily, or unbuckle my pants to let my belly hang out. I gotta be cool with all that, plus act my age. I gotta be...responsible.
Well, the day started off pretty good, until my youngest daughter, Rebecca, gave me an old hard piece of Halloween candy, you know, the kind that is pushed to the bottom of the bag until all the good stuff is gone. My little darling does this so that she can get away with eating candy early in the day, but hey, it’s Thanksgiving—kids deserve to have fun too. So, I let her stick the piece in my mouth. It tasted okay, but when I tried to bite down on it a large chunk of my back tooth broke right off. I quickly spit out the whole mess, and sure enough, there was a piece of my tooth laying in my hand—of course, the candy wasn’t even dented.
Feeling around with my tongue, I discovered the missing section. I rinsed my mouth out with cold water—that’s when the pain shot straight through my head. “Okay, so if I don’t drink anything cold, I should be all right, right?” I sucked some air in my mouth and quickly discovered the tooth didn’t like an ice-cold breeze blown directly on it either. “Okay, no cold water—or air!” I poured a hot cup of coffee and tried to calm down a little. “Yeow! I can't drink anything hot either.” I dumped the coffee, and after a bit, the pain finally started to subside enough so that I could function normally again. So, I got back to preparing for the festive fun-filled family holiday.
To make a good impression with the in-laws, I had a cord of wood delivered earlier that week and went outside to prep it for the fireplace. I was working away thinking of all the great food we were going to eat (providing my tooth would let me) and I swung the ax down on a hard piece of oak. There was an after-shock that ran up the handle of the axe, through my arms and jolted my body like I'd been kicked by a mule. I felt a stabbing pain in my lower back and immediately bent over at the waist as if I’d just been shot by a lone gunman.
I tried to stand up straight, but the pain was so intense I had to remain in a bent-over position. “Jesus," I thought. "I can’t even get up! Now, what am I going to do?”
I carefully staggered over to one of the outside chairs. I felt that if I could just sit down, I’d be all right in a minute or two. I slowly turned around and plopped my butt down in the chair. “Holy crap!” I screamed. It was the glider chair and it glided right out of the way and spilled me to the ground.
I felt my back start to spasm. “Oh God, oh God . . . .” I lay there on the ground holding back the tears. I knew in my mind that I’d never be able to get up again and desperately tried to find a body position that would give me some kind of relief. I felt as if someone were shoving a six-inch blade in my back and twisting it every time I moved. I was even having trouble breathing—the simplest motion proved to be sheer agony.
I just lay there with my knees pulled up to my chest. I must have looked like a hard-shelled beetle flipped over on its back. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes, when your body has intense pain, your mind kind of goes into a state of shock. There was a moment there when I felt this euphoria run through me and the vicious pain finally began to recede. I remember looking up at the blue sky with its large, autumn clouds billowing overhead like some soft white angels. And then I thought I heard them softly calling to me to come and rest my poor aching body upon their gentle, compassionate breasts.
I decided to just stay right where I was. Maybe eventually, someone would come looking for me, or maybe just discover my body and decide to bury me right where I lay. But, no such luck. No one came and after about five minutes of respite, I attempted to get up on my own. Using all the techniques I had learned from my guru-chiropractor, I was able to work my way back to a standing position. “I’ve gotta act normal,” I thought, as my tooth began to hurt again. “Everything is gonna be fine, and Thanksgiving will go on as planned.” I crept back inside the house, leaving the small amount of wood I had managed to gather lying there on the ground. “To hell with it.”
I could smell the turkey in the oven as I entered and saw my four beautiful daughters playing a marble game they loved to play called, Aggravation. Everyone was having a great time and I didn't want to spoil it. In my mind, I was moving along just fine, but in reality, I must have looked like Tim Conway doing his “little old man” routine. Taking tiny, baby steps, I shuffled my feet across the carpeted floor.
I hadn’t realized it, but as I was trying to walk, I had been clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth from the agony in my back. I could have sworn that I could feel the ghost of that awful pain walking beside me, pretending to hold me up—just waiting for the right moment to jump back in there and get to work delivering more excruciating pain.
“Come on, Dad,” pleaded my nine-year-old as I passed through the family room. “Play Aggravation with us.”
“I’m already playing honey,” I said, trying to smile. “Check back with me in a little while and I’ll tell you who won.”
“Bill, are you back inside, already?” my wife called out. “Where's the wood, honey? Oh, never-mind. I need you to check out the oven for me real quick. The controls are sticking and I can’t tell what temperature I’m baking the turkey at.”
“Sure, babe, I’ll get right on it.” Acting nonchalant and trying to stand up straight, I did my shuffling ‘old man’ walk toward the kitchen.
I examined the digital control board on the face of the oven. It kept flashing different numbers like a Keno Board gone haywire. So, I got my electric screwdriver out and unscrewed the four screws that held the lobotomized brain of the antique oven together. The panel came loose in my hands and I lifted it out to take a look at the circuit board. It looked like the guts to some damn radio. I had no idea what I was doing, so I blew on it to clear the dust from the relays. “That oughta fix it,” I said. Then I started to put it back together again. Somehow the panel touched the oven door and grounded out, because I saw a bright blue flash of electricity arc before my eyes, and then was knocked on my butt. I remember vividly that it was at that precise instant that the pain in my back decided to come back.
Shaking my head to clear my vision, I realized the 220 volts of electricity that had left my arm numb and tingling, had come very close to actually killing me. I didn’t think about it long though, because the pain in my back was already doing a bang-up job. Of course, my wife chose that exact moment to enter the kitchen, only to find me on the floor unable to move, the control panel for the oven swaying back and forth, and sparks flying off in every direction. There was no way we were going to finish cooking dinner or anything else in that oven ever again.
Just then, the doorbell rang, and all the kids ran to the front door to let Grandma and Grandpa into the house. I looked at the horrified expression on my wife’s face as I lay there on the floor. “Honey, I can explain,” I said.
And I would have too, but my tooth started hurting again.