Pre-Op, August 2009

Pre-Op, August 2009

by Dawn Corrigan

In August my grandmother falls and breaks her hip on a Monday afternoon. She’s 89, and in the past six months her dementia has progressed over from moderate to severe.

Her surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, August 25, at noon. I wait with her in pre-op.

“I’m glad you’re here,” she says, “I would be very lonesome if you weren’t.”

“Where are my teeth?” she asks, for the umpteenth time. The OR nurse asked her to remove them earlier, as they’re a potential hazard for a patient under general anesthesia. After a moment of hesitation, my grandmother removed them herself and handed them to the nurse.

I remind her what happened with the teeth.

“I bet they’re talking about me,” she says.

“What are they saying?” I ask.

“‘She’s always talking!’”

She’s cold, so I ask one of the staff to bring her some of the warm blankets they keep in the blanket ovens at hospitals. They’re the nicest thing about hospitals, I think.

The nurse puts one over her and drapes a second one around her head.

“I look like an angel now,” my grandmother says, “Where are my teeth?”

I tell her again.

“They don’t want me to swallow them during the surgery?” she asks.

“Right!” I say, happy that she remembers something.

“But where are my teeth?”

I tell her.

“They were afraid I’d bite them,” she says.

I laugh.

“Where are my teeth?”

– refers from the phrase “it might remember nothing” in Cal Nordt’s poem What I’ve Forgotten.

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