I’ve always been pleased to think of myself as a lifelong learner. I am proud, usually, of my intellectual curiosity.
I now have absolute proof that I am a nerd. I should really buy myself a Nerdy Nonni Tshirt.
Here’s what I mean.
I woke up from the pounding head pain last night and realized that the word “disgust” comes directly from the Latin root for taste, or “gustare”. Huh, I thought, holding the icepack to my temple. “Gusto. Gust. Disgust. Offtaste. Bad taste. This tastes disgusting.”
Side note: nobody mentioned to me that I might experience a sensation referred to as a loss of taste or a diminishing of the sense of taste. But I do have that. And guess what? Everything tastes disgusting.
When my Dad had heart surgery many years ago, we were all gathered around his bed as he came out of anesthesia. We asked him what he was thinking, clearly expecting some deep words of wisdom from the philosophical man at the center of our world. Dad paused and said, “I was using Pythagorean theorem to calculate the number of ceiling tiles in my room.”
When I woke up from my own surgery (after my round of trying to throat punch all the white coats), I found myself avoiding the pain by recalling all the lyrics to every old Russian folk song that I learned a half-century ago. I was able to recall every word of “Katiusha!”
What an interesting experience I am having! I’m learning many new things, about myself and about the world around me.
One thing I have learned is to use my icepack as soon my head feels like it’s being jumped on by a troop of chimps.
In an effort to comfort myself as I impatiently await surgery to take the acoustic neuroma out of my brain, I am attempting find humor in the situation.
“Oh, hahahaha! Funny, funny me! I was awake all night because of the incessant car horn that beeped every 15 seconds in my brain.” Nope.
“So let me tell you about how funny it is to carry a load of clothes downstairs without looking either up or down because you’ll fall if you do.” Old lady, falling downstairs. Nah, not that one, either.
H’m. How about a funny story of drinking a martini when you can’t feel a quarter of your tongue?
I like a martini now and again. Either a lemontini with fresh lemon or a good dirty martini with cheese-stuffed olives. Yum. I don’t indulge all that often, but given my new personal motto (“Leave me alone! I got a freakin’ brain tumor!”) I decided to have one the other night.
It was right after I made the epic mistake of googling “Recovering from acoustic neuroma”. I may have been the tiniest bit shaken by what I read. I may have been pacing around the living room looking for a distraction.
Or I may be a budding alcoholic looking for an excuse.
At any rate, I realized that, in the wise words of my dear departed father, “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” So I got out my shaker, the lemoncello, a lemon and a glass. Then I opened the freezer and pulled out the bottle of vodka that I always keep on ice. Old Russian trick, learned in my time in the Russian Department in college. Always keep your vodka icy.
I mixed up a super cold, super delicious, sweetly tart lemon martini and sat down on the deck to have a sip.
Now, I have to digress for a moment. Even though I am a mostly well-behaved old grandma, I have been known to overindulge in my wild youth. I mean, I WAS a Russian major, and we DID have a small freezer in our department office. A couple of shots between a literature class and a conversation class could make all the difference in fluency.
And after college, I worked for a couple of years as a Russian interpreter in Boston. Once an immigrant family had settled into their new home, they would have a little dinner party to thank the American social worker who had helped. I served as an interpreter at dozens of these dinners (lucky, lucky me….Oh, man, the borscht, the blini, the pelmenyi).
The conversation would go like this:
Russian raises a glass with a shot of vodka: “Many thanks to our wonderful American hosts! We can never repay you!” I interpret into English. We drink.
American social worker raises another shot: “Welcome to our country! We are lucky to have you!” I put this into Russian. We drink.
This could go on for 15 rounds before dinner is served. I am not sure of how accurate some of the later interpretations were, but nobody cared because nobody was clear enough to notice if it didn’t make sense.
At any rate, I learned rather quickly to slow down, to drink water, to keep talking and stop drinking when I noticed a few things. The first sign of complete inebriation was the tip of my nose feeling tingly and numb. The next warning sign was when my tongue tip turned numb. It would sort of feel like a big dose of Novacaine was wearing off. Itchy, numb, tingly.
I haven’t had this happen in years, I swear. I am old now. I am a good girl.
But the other day, as I took my first sip of ice-cold therapy, I realized that both the right side of my nose and the right side of my tongue tip are already numb, itchy and tingly. So is my cheeck. And the right side of both lips. And part of my right eyelid.
In fact, I feel like I have simultaneously been socked in the cheekbone and put on Novacaine. Alll day and all night. And it will be like that for at least another month, as I wait for my surgery date.
It was a rude awakening, for sure. It was so upsetting that I almost didn’t want the martini. But I don’t like to waste. So I drank it.
The second was better. By the third, both sides of my face were numb and I felt so much better!