There is something to be said for the fact that my most memorable childhood malady had little to do with Cystic Fibrosis. Instead it involved a vacuum cleaner and a cup of tea.
There are two things that I enjoyed at three years old that I continue to enjoy to this day: running around buck naked and tea. My mother says I like tea because she drank it while I was in the womb. My initial reaction was to be doubtful of that, but I was buck naked in the womb as well, so her story checks out. One thing that I enjoyed at three years old but have cooled on in the years since is standing on things that I’m not supposed to stand on.
There is no financial incentive in having a child with CF, so both my parents worked during the day. My grandmother used to come over and babysit me, which gave me a great opportunity to talk her into some of the crazier ideas that my parents would never go for. At the time, we lived in a house with a fairly open kitchen, so I saw no reason why my childsize wading pool could not be turned into an indoor childsize wading pool. It was safer than me swimming outside in the cold. My parents never took to this line of reasoning, but it must have made sense to my grandma, because she would often let me swim inside under the pretense that we clean it up before one of my parents got home. If your kitchen can accommodate this arrangement, I highly suggest it.
On the day in question, I was not interested in swimming indoors. Well, I probably was thinking about it for later, but at the time all I was looking for was a spot of tea. Having not been able to successfully convince my grandmother that I could use the stove, she started the water and made me a cup. Upon adding my standard two sugars and a generous amount of milk, she placed it on the counter and told me it was ready.
Getting it myself proved to be a hassle though, because I was standing on a chair and having a goddamn blast. Being of average three year old height, I was constantly looking for things that would bring me up to adult height and man, was that chair doing the trick! I was having so much fun that I couldn’t bring myself to get down and get the tea.
Luckily, the chair I was standing on had wheels. Being the gifted child that I was, I figured if I could shift my body weight just right, I could scoot the chair over to the counter, grab the tea and be heralded as a genius for solving this problem all by myself.
While this worked in theory, I did not have the coordination required to shift my body weight just right. Instead, I delivered one pelvic thrust that sent the chair toppling over and my face racing towards an upright vacuum cleaner on the ground. It did not end well.
The forceful kiss I laid on the vacuum cleaner cracked my gum line and produced a metric fuckton of blood. Being that my grandmother didn’t drive, she called my mother at work. My mom rushed home to see her little angel bloodying up a healthy pile of dish towels in a vain effort to keep some blood in my head. She screamed upon seeing me. Not quite grasping the severity of the situation, I was just happy to see my mom home early for work. I figured, as with most cuts, the blood would dry up soon enough.
Instead, I found myself spirited away to the local orthodontist. There, a nurse asked vaguely leading questions as if to make sure that my grandmother did not bounce my head off of the vacuum herself. I assured her, with some sense of defeat, that it was my own damn fault.
Thus began the process of knocking me out so the orthodontist could right my wrong. I don’t remember a whole lot about this, but I remember being told to drink something and I remember some adults remarking that it took more than usual to put me down. If I drank now, I’m sure that would make a neat party trick.
I woke up with stitches, but the healing process must’ve been pretty smooth, because I remember little to nothing about it. For her part, my grandmother still feels terrible that my major childhood accident happened on her watch. While I should probably hug her and assure her that it could’ve happened to anyone, I think it’s funnier to pretend that moment was the beginning of my downfall and my life would have been perfect if she would’ve just brought me that tea. If that makes me sound like a dick, well…if it walks like a duck and all that. However, I’m sure Gram understands.
For my part, I ended up with a slight gap in my teeth and a little snaggletooth. I was given the option of braces, but refused, both because I thought the gap added character a la Letterman and because there was no fucking way I was going to deal with braces.
Perhaps that experience at the orthodontist’s wasn’t as smooth as I remember it.