[Note:There was no way that I could chose one eccentric relative, even if I narrowed it to my crazy Italian side,(all of whom I knew better than the mostly- Irish side). So the story below, which I had put down some time ago, shows that my mother was well aware of her family’s traits, even if she was a bit optimistic about herself.]
Although my mother hated to see doctors, she liked to visit the dentist. She never needed lidocaine through the deepest drilling and filling, and nearly seemed to enjoy the work. (You might want to keep this in mind when judging the validity of my mother’s statement later on.)
I have to admit that all of the care she put into them paid off, for during the last days of her life , at age 83, her attending physician complimented her on having kept the vast majority of her teeth…and in good shape.
Once she was about to see a new dentist who was part of a large practice. The office was in a big, old, converted house, and in the late afternoon the waiting room was packed . The after-school crowd was there, as was the left-work-early-for-the-dentist crowd, and with them were parents, spouses, children, siblings, hand-holders and post-anesthesia designated drivers. This was before Patient Confidentiality laws and as in any waiting room, there were the few people who, out of ignorant nosiness or sheer boredom, listen to the other patients attending to business at the desk. My mother was used to this, and since she enjoyed great health most of her life, it did not bother her as the receptionist asked her the standard questions; “Do you have any history of heart trouble? Any allergies? High blood pressure?….”etc. , but the woman must have been new, and apparently forgot the last question on her list. Taken by surprise at seeing it as she looked back at her paperwork, her voice raised half an octave and some decibels as she jerked her head back up and clearly queried, “OH! IS THERE ANY INSANITY IN YOUR FAMILY?”
Because of the raised voice, the normal buzz of the waiting room stopped, and most looked up… and then even those with great self-control lent their eyes and ears to the scene because my mother hesitated. One of my mother’s sisters had had a nervous breakdown and been hospitalized for a short time some years before. My mother believed, rightfully, that anything other than complete openness with health care professionals is suicide, but also felt that since she was going in for a routine procedure that this question was not pertinent. Not wishing to embarrass my [unknown-to-any-of–those-people–and-lived-several-hundred-miles,-two-states-away–so-there-was-little-chance-that-she-would–ever-be–seen-by-any-of-those-people-even-if-they-remembered-my-mother] aunt, she looked hard at the receptionist, as now all of the other staff members and assistants had joined in the watch.
I looked at my mother. I knew that she was fiercely protective of family and was in a quandary. I held my breath for the outcome. It seemed a very long wait. Finally Mom answered in what she later stated she felt was more on the mark than going into her sister’s history. She said to the receptionist, “Yes. Everybody but me.” Everyone there roared with laughter and when the receptionist regained her composure,( but was still chuckling), she hastily wrote something on the chart which we can assume was a ‘No’, but my mother, when questioned, maintained that she had not lied on her medical record.