When it comes to wisdom teeth, the world is divided into haves and have-nots. Those that have suffer stoically while those that have-not continue on, blissfully unaware of their good fortune.
Sometimes the have-nots playfully roll their tongues to the back of their mouths and say: “Oh, I don’t think I’ve got any! But I’m honestly not sure!”
You’d know, trust me.
Not only have I got a wisdom tooth, I’ve also got a wisdom tooth infection. Just in time for Christmas.
Arriving home to my parental home in poor condition has become a festive tradition. Last year I spent Christmas wrapped in a blanket hogging the sofa nursing Lemsips.
This year I came in dental agony, prompting fears that I am in fact poorly all-year around.
Having never experienced intense, shooting pain like it before, I asked my mother tearily how she ever managed to give birth.
“Your toothache might be worse than giving birth!” she said modestly. “At least with childbirth you know it’s going to be over in a while.”
My father took me to a dentist in Sandymount.
“Oh, you poor pet,” the dentist said, looking into my mouth.
Then she sent me to stand in an X Ray machine, clasping a piece of plastic in my mouth.
“Your tooth needs to come out,” she said. “But it’s too risky for me to do, as it’s right on this nerve.”
My nerve is a long white snake stretching from my tooth to my ear. Pain has been shooting along it for days now. I will probably need to go to a German hospital to get my tooth pulled. My way of dealing with that eventuality is to ignore it.
My father came with me to Rathmines to pick up some antibiotics and intense painkillers.
I paid for them using my VISA card. Then I went into the hairdresser’s to book an appointment.
Last night my father said: “I marvelled at the debonair confidence with which you sailed through your errands in Rathmines earlier.”
I blinked at him.
“You remind me of your sister (the one in America)” he said. “She also pays with plastic.”
“How do you pay?” I asked him.
“I pay with cash,” he said nostalgically.
“Yes, but what do you do when you don’t have enough?”
“I write cheques,” he said. “A dying art.”
My father opposes change of any kind. As long as we avoid talking about politics, it’s not much of a problem.
In fact, as an emigree, the certainty that nothing will change at home can be reassuring.
My father’s constancy is primarily associated with food.
Therefore, I can be absolutely assured that no matter what time of year I return home, there will be a bowl full of soaking butterbeans on the kitchen table and a half-open packet of Lidl cream crackers.
Yesterday my mother made her trademark exquisite celeriac soup. Later she hung up our walnut baby Jesus on the Christmas tree.
In the evening we watched a poorly-dubbed version of Ceclia Ahern’s “PS Ich liebe dich” on German television.
And I curled up wrapped in a blanket munching Dominosteine on one side of my mouth.
There’s no place like home.