A lighthearted look at how Ken Dafoe let himself be talked into what he should have gotten done years before.
Karrie liked to talk. So she talked, and I listened.
Even when she finished talking, she still had more to say so I still listened because, as she said, it wasn’t about me as much as about prevention, and with six kids we needed as much prevention as we could get. This meant it was my turn, she said, since she had four of the six kids herself, and by caesarian she added. The other two were mine. First marriage.
“No sense in you worrying about the pain,” she said, while rinsing dinner plates under the hot water, “because the operation is a little thing, over in a few minutes, without even a minute’s notice.” She said I should look at this as something positive, something for the two of us, and to stop being such a big baby and just get it done.
I’ve never been afraid of clichés. I pulled out the best three.
“What happens if there is a nuclear war, honey, and only you and I survive to repopulate the species?” I asked.
Karrie stared at me for a good ten seconds, water still running. I was shocked by her insensitive reply to the human condition: “Well,” she said, “I guess we’ll just be the end of the line then, won’t we?”
Next, I appealed to her more anatomical interests. “What if, after the operation, sweetie, things don’t, you know, work right anymore?” An honest question, deserving of an honest answer.
This time she didn’t stare but laughed. A deep, husky female laugh that I felt went on a little too long to be funny.
Two down. She forced me to bring out the trump card, the one true expression of male faith. At least true in our male hearts, real and undeniable: “But I already went to see a doctor, sugar plum, who took one look at me and said, ‘Mr. Dafoe, I can’t touch this. It would be a crime against humanity.‘”
My ears still sting when I remember her laughter. I heard the cries of small animals, all missing limbs. Trees struck by lightning. That night I awoke screaming, convinced I saw a horse’s head at the foot of my bed.
At sunrise I called the doctor, and booked a consultation for later that week.
Dr. Moreau welcomed me into his office while talking on the phone with someone else. It took me a few tries to understand when he was talking to me, and when I should just stare in awe. In my experience, staring in awe at a doctor is a good way to gain favour before a sensitive operation.
Dr. Moreau asked how he could help. I wasn’t sure how far back I should go, so I began with my birth and worked up from there. I got to kindergarten, when he shook his head no to me, but nodded yes to the phone. He asked the phone if it understood the procedure was clinically irreversible. I smiled. He asked the same question three more times, while looking straight at me. I told him we had six kids. He shrugged, and said to book an appointment with the receptionist on the way out. I thought about magpies, and checked the change in my pockets after leaving.
On the day of my operation, I began to feel anxious. I had to have my gall bladder out too, so it was kind of a two-for-one special. I suggested to Karrie that we turn the car around. “I really haven’t had the chance to say goodbye to my gall bladder yet,” I said, “not in any formal way.”
“See you at noon,” she said, closed the car door and sped away, as I looked up at the Out Patient sign.
In the operating room, a nurse said I would be put out so I didn’t have to worry about screaming obscenities like the mothers on the maternity ward. I told her my biggest fear was that they would remove the wrong thing. With a marker I wrote ‘not this‘ on my underwear. Something jabbed my arm. Seconds later, everything around me began to fade.
Karrie picked the bumpy, country roads for the drive home. I know it was just the anesthetic, but it was the oddest thing. As we drove past cows, they stopped grazing and looked up at me. One even winked. Another said, “Moo, moo to you too stranger.” Even our neutered poodle on the car seat beside me, seemed friendlier. It kept calling me by my first name, and asking if I wanted to go for a walk off-leash.
My father called to ask if there was much swelling. “Maybe a little,” I said. “When I sit on the toilet, I can feel the cold water in the bowl.” But in time, all things fade. Normal became a position of comfort in jeans. I considered wearing wide-leg, and even thought about getting sandals with black socks.
In a follow-up visit with Dr. Moreau, he told me we still had to use some form of protection. “At least for another twenty or so times,” he said.
“But that’s another two or so years before I get the return on my loss of investment,” I said, calculating the averages. He shrugged, shook my hand, and told me to see the receptionist on the way out.
In bed that night, Karrie leaned over and asked if I was all right. I said yes, and then no, then added I don’t know, because I realized for the first time that our last baby in fact, was our last baby in truth. And that when my daughter Ally looked up and said, “My Daddy,” she would be the last child ever to say those words. I was left with a hollowness, a questioning of whether I had done the right thing.
That was until braces.