When I was 21, I had my tonsils taken out.
This was a good idea. I’d been plagued with the world’s crappiest immune system my whole childhood, always having strep or tonsillitis on repeat, but finally (FINALLY), the summer of my 21st year, I had an allergic reaction to penicillin and decided I was DONE being sick. So I took my doctor’s advice and decided that my tonsils and I were going to part ways.
(Interesting side note re my immune system: I was CONVINCED that once I got rid of what were surely my disease incubating pustules [ahem, um, I mean tonsils], my immune system would perk right up. Goodbye endless colds and strep throat and the flu and feeling crappy at a moments notice! Suck it, low grade fevers! Be gone! But, interestingly, that was not the case. It wasn’t until years later, when my weight settled around 130 pounds – about ten pounds more than my high school/college weight), that I finally stopped getting sick all the time. So now I suppose I finally know what people mean about having “a healthy weight.”)
Right, anyway: tonsils. SO, my doctor assured me that having ones tonsils taken out as an adult was significantly suckier than as a kid; a minimum two week recovery period in which you were sure to feel miserable. Kids, for reference, apparently just have a really sore throat for a few days, but as you get older, your tonsils get more ingrained in your body, and removing them sucks more. At least, that is the technical explanation as I understand it, and yes “suckier” is the rate meter commonly used by credible doctors AHEM.
Additionally, there are a bunch of complications that are less rare in adults post-tonsillectomy than in kids post-tonsillectomy, and because I am the most frequent traveler on the path of most resistance, I of course had to take part in these complications.
One ruptured carotid artery later, some more surgeries, and heart rate that your average cocaine addict would find normal, and I’d officially become interesting to medical school students.
(You don’t want to be interesting to medical students.)
Luckily, I was already on an operating table when the artery ruptured, which saved my life. Apparently, however, blood got into my lungs, got infected, gave me pneumonia, and freaked my heart right the fuck out. And while I recovered quickly from pneumonia, throat surgery, and the depression that follows hospitalization, it took many, many more years to fix that heart thing, and if I had twenty hours to write this post I would tell you all about how dealing with my chipmunk heart changed my life in almost every way, but for now I’ll just summarize it as: I used to be sick, and now I am well, and I don’t ever want to feel sick again, which is why I do stupid things like Ironmans or marathons as less than subtle way of reminding myself that I’m not dead.
ANYWAY. The point of all of this (and I do have one), is that my stepdaughter had her tonsils out this week, and it is highlighting one of the many strange things I have noticed since becoming a stepmom: how much I am reliving my childhood.
I mean, there is actually nothing TERRIBLE about being a stepmom – at least, not about being a stepmom to my specific stepdaughter, who I think is one of the best people I know, kid or not. But it’s amazing how quickly I find myself looking at her tweenage years and remembering my own – and wincing.
Being a 13 year old girl is HARD, when I look back, a lot of times I’m not proud of the 13 year girl I remember being. Whenever my stepdaughter is having a hard time, I want to tell her the easiest way to get through it, I want to give her the proper perspective, I want to have her do right all the things I did wrong. But the work division in the parent/teenager relationship is pretty clearly defined — she’s the one living it, I am just the observer, and, hopefully, the helper. I don’t get to live it for her, no matter how many sense memory flashbacks I have.
So of COURSE her having her tonsils taken out has lead me down this path of remembering my own horrible “routine surgery” experience and made me twitchy and nervous and I’m sure very fun to be around. And of COURSE she is totally fine, munching on ice cream, rocking some pain killers, cheering on the Olympics and, you know, that’s another fun part of step-parenting: no matter how much I want to relate her life to mine, she will remind me, again and again, that it’s her turn to be a kid for the first time, and she’ll do it the best way she can. And I’m happy just to be along for the ride.