Recently my happy-go-lucky, remarkably polite, phenomenal great-grandfather, Ed, passed away. (How it came to be that someone my age still has (had) a great-grandfather is a story for another day.) As usually happens, this resulted in a family reunion, of sorts, and a lot of quality time spent with aunts, uncles and cousins we don’t generally get to see much of. While at my grandmother’s house, a few days before Ed died, we were talking about our individual visits and how Ed looked when we went to see him at the nursing home. My Aunt Gia said something along the lines of, “What struck me most was how his mouth was gaping open“. My uncle made a “Hm” noise that seemed to indicate he had no clue what she was talking about. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I knew immediately what she meant. I had visited Ed the day before, and when I walked in, I saw him sleeping with his mouth open. But it was more than that. His mouth was wide open. Really wide. And his jaw was slightly crooked. His skin clung to his jaw and his lips were invisible. I actually thought he might have passed away, and no one had yet noticed. I moved closer, put my hand on his chest – and his chest raised. We both exhaled. There was something about that mandible posture that just looked…..deathly. As his end neared, and his dentures were removed, this just became more pronounced. His lips were now completely gone, sucked into the chasmal opening of his mouth, his face more skeletal, and the gape even wider. Still about the same amount of crooked. It made me wonder, “Is this what my mouth will look like when I am on my deathbed? Is this just what happens? Or, did he always sleep like that?”
A few days passed by and then lovely Ed was gone. But, our brief family reunion continued. My uncle from California had just knocked out his front teeth (no fun story there, he has had a bridge since childhood, and it broke when he was eating cereal, of all things. How boring). As a joke, my dad thought it would be funny to bring him Ed’s dentures. Get it? He needed teeth? (Sidebar: There are two types of people. People who find this type of joke hilarious and people who find this sort of thing repulsive. If you are the type who finds this repulsive, I probably don’t like you very much.) Since everyone in my family has a
demented good sense of humor, we all got a good chuckle out of this.
But, then I asked, “What will become of the dentures?” I mean, I’m not a sentimental collector like my grandmother (who would save an empty tissue box for 25 years if someone she loved told her they liked it), but I mean… these are his teeth. You can’t throw them away. He just had them in a couple of days ago. They were basically a part of him. These are what could be used by the police to identify Ed, as Ed (I think, although this made me question, could you identify a body from dentures? Are they as unique as real teeth? I really don’t know!) So, the question was asked, “Do you want them?” I looked around. Was anyone else looking like THEY wanted them? I wouldn’t want to take them from someone who maybe was closer to Ed than I was. Shockingly, no one jumped to claim them. I scooped them up and put them in my purse.
Incidentally, this all happened right before I was on my way to my cousin’s fancy schmancy wedding shower. I so respect my cousin, that I followed all of the fancy rules of etiquette and I didn’t even take them out. Not even once, just to take a peek. Once I got home, I went into my craft room. I have about 30 Ball jars on shelves, used as decoration and as beautiful storage vesicles. I gently placed the teeth in one of the empty jars, as a memory of Ed, and a reminder that even during sad times, it is okay to enjoy one another and to even make a joke.