On Friday, I packed the car full of soft food goodies and hurtled my best Florence Nightingale self down I-94 to nurse my poor daughter Katherine back to health after the extraction of her wisdom teeth.
With dramatic visions of bloody gauze and bruised cheeks in my head and a cell phone with spotty GPS in my hand, I made my way south, certain that when I eventually broke through the redundant Chicago traffic and found her tiny apartment I would discover her reclined, puffy cheeked, incoherent with pain.
She met me at the curb.
“Hey!” she said as she jumped in the car. ‘Let me help you find a place to park.”
“Did you miss your appointment?” I wondered.
“No, I got back a little while ago.”
“How did you get there?”
“I took the El.”
“You took the El to your wisdom teeth extraction? How did you get home?”
“The El,” she said, obviously.
I, who had checked into a nice clean hospital for my own wisdom tooth surgery 30 years ago (I believe I even entertained visitors bearing flowers), stared, aghast. Is this really how it’s done? Does one really hop her lone self on a train, ride off to her oral surgery appointment, and jump a train home?
“What about medications? Did they give you any prescriptions?”
“Sure they did,” she said casually. “I walked up to Walgreens and had them filled.”
And then, chatting cheerfully about the gory details of her morning, she helped me lug my grocery bags up to her apartment, checked her laundry and whipped me up a nice asparagus risotto for dinner, pausing occasionally to shift a frozen bag of edamame she held between two slightly swollen cheeks.
“Shouldn’t I be doing that?” I asked lazily, as I rested my feet on the spare kitchen chair and watched her cook.
“Nah, I got this,” she said.
Oh, I tidied a bit and helped her fold laundry, insisted she rest periodically, selected a movie, slept on an air mattress and tried to feel helpful, but she spent most of the weekend comforting me.
Though I had not thought of it this way, the extraction of Katherine’s wisdom teeth became a rite of passage, she jettisoned the unnecessary and rudely placed teeth and held on to her rapidly developing independence and essential wisdom while, like parents the world over, I stood back and watched in awe.