Monday, January 12, 2015

"Got Your Glasses? Got Your Teeth"


What Goes Around Comes Around

I heard it whenever my mother or my aunts went anywhere with my grandmother. We'd all be ready to head out the door and, just before we stepped outside one of them would ask her, "You got your glasses? You got your teeth?"

It was as common a phrase to me as "see ya later" or "drive carefully" and part of the ritual of traveling with Gramma. She would put on her black and white tweed coat then drop a clean handkerchief into her purse, which would snap shut with a waft of violet (the only gum she ever chewed) while one of her daughters would wait patiently by the door. And then, "Got your glasses? Got your teeth?"

It's not like Gramma needed either one of those all the time. The glasses were reading glasses and the teeth were only a bridge that fit way in the back of her mouth that no one could readily tell whether it was in there or not.

When I was very small I wondered what cataclysm had occurred that this was the ultimate question prior to leaving. Not, "Got your driver's license?" "Got enough money to get where you are going and back?" What horrible thing happened in the past that remembering glasses and teeth prevented?

When I got older, though, I was embarrassed for my grandmother. It wasn't like she was senile or even forgetful. She was sharp as a tack and quite feisty. In fact, I can't figure out why she allowed the indignity of the questions in the first place. Usually anyone questioning her got a, "don't tell me..." Think: an Italian Miss Daisy.

So, to this day, I really don't get what started the two questions and why they were allowed to become part of our lexicon.

Fast forward to present day.

Personally, all my teeth are my own and, unless I'm sleeping, my glasses are always on my face. For the record.

Dirtman, however, has a cap on one of his front teeth and recently that cap has succumbed to a particularly nasty habit he has of chewing tobacco. He will argue this point and say the cap coming off has nothing to do with the Skoal but, let's face it -- it can't help. And I will use any excuse to scold him for this particular habit. The fact is, the cap fell out and we don't have dental insurance or the money to fix it. So he uses denture fixative to keep the tooth in (and prevent us from making fun of him).

On top of this, since only one of the lenses in Dirtman's glasses is of any use (he is blind in one eye), he has taken to not wearing his glasses a whole lot when he is working at home. Since I do most of our driving (you're welcome), he can go days without having to put his glasses on.

And so it happened. The Heirs came for a visit and, since I had some free coupons, we decided to go to one of our local vineyards and do a wine tasting.

I must admit, my goal whenever I leave the house is only that I'm somewhat tidy and don't smell. But when we visit places like a winery, I do tend to succumb to cultural pressures and try to look a little less like a homeless person and more like a middle class person who can actually afford a bottle of the wines she is tasting -- in other words, I put a scarf around my neck because that seems to be the thing.

Dirtman has no such aspirations. In fact, Dirtman enjoys testing the limits of what society will allow. He is true counterculuralist -- an individual; a nonconformist. He would never be caught dead wearing a scarf around his neck. Or combing his hair. Or...

Okay, I'll say it: we have to check on Dirtman before he walks out the door. As a public service.

And that is why, as Heir 1 turned the knob to leave for the winery I said to Dirtman, "Got your glasses? Got your teeth?"

Glasses AND Teeth
The Heirs looked at me as I must have looked at my mother and my aunts.

I almost wish it was still the custom to bury people in family crypts. Because that is what I would have carved in the lintel over the door.