By Dosi Cotroneo
Recently I got to thinking. Why is it that the majority of Italian immigrants of my parents’ generation end up with dentures? I suppose the lack of education regarding oral hygiene, a global depression followed by a world war, could be the answer. Lately I’ve been spending an awful lot of time between my father’s dentist appointments and my mother’s denturist appointments. It’s an absolute miracle that both are tenants in the same building (not my parents, but the dentist and the denturist). Sometimes, while my father is having the last of his front row extracted downstairs, I’m with my mother for an adjustment or realignment at the denturist upstairs. The same rings true for their medical appointments. Sometimes while I’m with my mother playing interpreter at her appointment upstairs, my father is getting blood work done downstairs.
Then there’s the hair situation. My father’s barber is literally two blocks away from my mother’s hair stylist. Sometimes, while my father is getting a number one at the barber’s, my mother is getting a wash, comb and set at her hair stylist. Truth be told, I often find myself shuffling back and forth between their appointments, with barely any breathing room in-between. For example, two weeks ago, my parents were both booked for a barrage of routine examinations at a nearby x-ray and ultrasound clinic. While Ma got her bone density scan, my pop had his sore feet x-rayed. As the daughter delegated to all things medical and hairy, I have finally learned how to strategize this juggling of appointments.
For example, when it comes to waiting rooms, I find it best to bring my own magazines. There’s nothing worse than facing a long waiting room stay with outdated, dog-eared issues of The Economist or MacLeans magazine hanging around. Bringing along a thermos or drive-thru order of freshly brewed coffee doesn’t hurt either. This is also a great time to clean out the old wallet and the bottomless pit purse situation. There’s no telling how much loose change has accumulated down there, and this also an ideal time to discard any old cosmetics, receipts, and grocery lists. Also, investing in one of those Orthopedic chair supports is a great idea, although I would steer clear of the vibrating variety, particularly if you don’t want to draw
attention to yourself. Once, during my mother’s six-hour upper and lower GI test, I was able to do both of their income taxes, write four chapters of my next novel, and read the latest edition of Hello magazine.
How do I manage to keep my sanity throughout all of these endless appointments when I think the last time I saw a doctor was when I last delivered a child, some 16 years ago. The terrifying reality is that if I don’t get myself into a dentist’s chair soon, I will become a candidate for dentures sooner, rather than later, don’t even think of getting me started on the hair situation, especially since I’ve become my own barber and stylist due to a lack of time.
This is why I feel that rewarding oneself for a job well done is of the of utmost importance. When I can make it through an afternoon of my parents’ appointments coupled with numerous stops to multiple fruit, vegetable, olive oil and toilet paper shops, without becoming unhinged and without signs of self-inflicted pain including bites and hair pulling, I like to reward myself with a little shopping trip on my drive home. This could explain the current purse and shoe collection situation I’ve been facing.
Once again, I find myself grappling between roles. On the one hand, I reward myself for being patient, tolerant, and a downright good daughter to my parents, while on the other hand, I find myself being lectured, scolded, and downright threatened by the husband and the young brood because of the very gifts I rewarded myself with. On the one hand, I feel unselfish, kind, and downright saint-like, while on the other hand, they call me impulsive, impractical, hold an intervention, and threaten to sell my beloved collection on Kijiji. I can’t help but wonder if there are sons and daughters of Italian immigrants out there who find themselves trapped in a similar situation. If so, perhaps a support group should be formed. Here, in an environment of confidentiality, non-judgment, and cappuccinos, we could band together to offer a word or two of advice, a shoulder to cry on, and perhaps recommend therapists who specialize in intergenerational Italian issues.
That being said, I must now rush off to yet another appointment for my parents.