Tooth Extraction Postponed Due To Weather So My Grandfather And I Talked About Death And Hockey

I was supposed to lose another tooth today, but when I woke up I found my little village under almost a foot of snow. I also found a message on my answering machine from my grandfather, who was going to give me a ride to the dentist, saying the weather was bad but he’d be at my place early and to meet him in the parking lot downstairs.

So, with the phone still in my hand, I looked out my window and of course there he was. It took us about twenty minutes to get out of the driveway because of the new snow and old ice, then after a hundred yards the road just mostly wasn’t there anymore. So we ended up at my parents’ place, the idea was we’d hang out until the snowplows took care of the road.

Over tea and cookies we went through our usual discussion cycle… politician X is an idiot; the Ottawa Senators are ruining hockey; life in his assisted-living residence is killing him; the British were assholes to the Acadians and French-Canadians in general; electric cars will bankrupt the energy grids… which got us talking about some of the jobs he has worked on around the world.

As an engineer my grandfather worked on some of the largest construction projects in the world, including the Churchill Falls hydroelectric dam, which is the largest underground powerhouse ever constructed and also one of the world’s largest power producers period.

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Every time we talk about his jobs I learn something new. Like how one day on his first job out of university — he was a surveyor on a crew building a 500MW dam on the Ottawa River back in the late 1940’s — during a lunch break one of the demolitions guys he was working with sat down on a box of explosives and turned himself into air.

My grandfather told me it wasn’t unusual for some of the guys recovering from their time at war to “accidentally” die on the job sites.

This time we were discussing how nearly impossible it will be to switch from fossil fuels to plug-in electricity powered cars, just based on the cost of building new power plants alone, when he told me that back in the day it was expected for every $1 million dollars the project cost at least one person would die on site.

One hundred men died building the dam on the Churchill River. Including four of his friends when their plane crashed into a mountain.

It’s always strange when my grandfather starts talking about death and dying. He’s eighty-six, and he knows what being that age means. But last year he also admitted to me he has thought about suicide as an option. It started off with him joking about how his favourite spot at the residence is also the best spot for someone to hang themselves.

I don’t know why but suicide always seems like something new to me. Like we’re the first generation to take our own lives. Suicide in the past, in my head, is something overly romanticized and something people did only after losing someone. Or finally realizing they’d never have someone. It was something which happened in books.

Of course that’s because we’re the first generation to have the numbers at our fingertips. We are the first generation to have suicide as the leading cause of death… at least to know suicide as a leading cause of death.

“In Canada, suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 25 to 29 and 40 to 44, and for women aged 30 to 34. It is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 15 to 24. For each completed suicide there are 100 attempts, and over 23,000 Canadians are hospitalized each year for a suicide attempt.”

–Canada Safety Council

In recovery, any recovery, you have to accept there is a problem, then identify what the problem is before you can treat both the problem and the issues surrounding the problem. I think we’re at the point with suicide where we’ve identified there is a problem, but not much else.

Blogging is really the first form of public communication ever used to share stories of suicide attempts, fantasies and statistics. Newspapers have always refused to print stories of suicide. I’ve always felt it was out of cowardice, and had nothing to do with the bullshit excuse editors and publishers give — that they’re worried about copycats.

I’ve had the discussion in every newsroom I’ve worked in, a few I was just visiting, and in bars with reporters and editors. And the answer was always the same “we don’t publish stories about suicide because it could cause other people to copycat.” Horseshit. Nobody published them because they were petrified after twenty or thirty in a month people would stop buying the paper or start asking what the fuck was going on.

It was always amazing to me how many of the reporters had bought the bullshit as gold. But then again huge numbers of people thought Ozzy could cause suicides with his music, and most of the reporters probably had no experience with suicide.

And that’s exactly what happens when something is romanticized and never spoken about, all we’re left with is lies, rumours and innuendos, and Ozzy’s records pulled from the shelves.

Plus there are no neat endings with suicide stories. Robberies and rapes have endings. This person died because someone shot them, then someone writes a headline. And besides, only a few of them make it into the news-cycle. Suicides, meanwhile, require 800 words just to get to the “why” part of what happened.

Sooner or later we have to mature to the point where we can talk about this stuff openly in the real world like we’re doing in here.

Anyway. I guess the good news is neither myself nor my grandfather are suicide risks. And I get to keep my tooth for another week. The infection’s totally gone, so I can bite down on stuff. But the roots of the tooth are still exposed, so actually chewing stuff still occasionally hurts like a motherfuck.

The tooth is fairly close to the front of my mouth, which means my camera can see it clearly so I think I’m going to do a photo essay on its last days as a part of me. Like it’s last time chewing bacon… that’ll be emotional. And the last time I brush it, floss it and generally try to make its last few days as enjoyable as possible.

…just generally try to reassure it that nothing that’s about to happen was its fault, and maybe the Tooth Fairy can find him a nice new, clean home.

.

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About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression in 1989, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. I have an 8-year old son, and a 4-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Depression, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Tooth Extraction Postponed Due To Weather So My Grandfather And I Talked About Death And Hockey

  1. thordora says:

    I’ve always found suicides were covered and made into something else. We’re the first generation to say “stuff it” and just cop to it. People get very uneasy when I talk about my attempts, but I keep it up. They wouldn’t get weird if I nearly died of something else, would they?

    I wonder if we had the stats, if we’d see that suicide is up, that we have less to motivate towards…I always wonder about that.

    I wish I had someone to talk with that way. I envy you that.

    And good-bye sweet tooth! Goodbye!

  2. Bromac says:

    What I find interesting about suicide is the debate on whether we should allow people to kill themselves without argument, or even assist them in this endeavor.

    My aunt and I have had many conversations on this topic. She feels yes, people should be allowed to commit suicide if they feel they have no way out. My uncle, her husband, recently lost his son to suicide, and this particular suicide also included the murder of a mother of two. This is the second child my uncle lost to suicide. There was a period of time, a day or so, where he drowned himself in whiskey on his houseboat. My aunt knew he might not ever come back, and fully supported his right to make that decision for himself. Not once did she intervene, she just waited. I thought she had unbelievable courage, but still found it quite shocking.

    The jury is still out with me. But I don’t think that suicide is something that should not be talked about. By keeping it in the dark, it is more stigmatized and more likely that someone will not reach out for help for fear of this stigmatization and such.

    Sounds like a nice morning with your Grandfather.

  3. Gabriel... says:

    Hi Thor. There’s a language, or a code, reporters use when a suicide has to be mentioned… it’s too soon after eating half a pound of bacon for me to remember it now, but you’re right. If you know the code you can read about the occasional suicide. Of course murder suicides are considered legitimate, which makes no sense using the logic of the news outlets general ban on suicide reporting… like maybe the reason there are so many murder-suicides is they keep reporting them when they happen.

    Suicides are up in Canada. They’re down in Britain and I think the number in the States has been pretty stable for a while…

    The numbers are actually pretty easy to find, just Google: suicide rate Canada, then change the country to whatever country you want the stats for. A lot of the smaller countries don’t keep track, but Europe, Japan, North America and Australia all have fairly up to date statistics.

    There’s actually a Wiki page dedicated to suicide rates world wide, it uses numbers from the World Health Organization… which I don’t entirely trust to be updated, but it’s a decent marker.

    The conversations I generally have with my grandfather are not something I’d envy. I know what you mean, and what you mean is what I want as well. But it’s not something I get from him. His experiences and stories are interesting, and he knows hockey, but I find it… draining, I guess.

    Hello Bromac, welcome to blogging. We need to get you an avatar.

    Because suicide is such a hidden phenomenon people who feels suicidal don’t know how to react… they think they’re the first person to ever feel the way they do, and the only way to deal with the way they feel is to take a handful of pills and chase it with some JD.

    But if we were talking about it then maybe they’d have some coping mechanisms, or maybe the people around them would have a clue as to what coping mechanisms are available.

    In terms of suicide as a means to stop pain from a disease… it should be an option. But in terms of ranking from Option A to Option D, I think doctors should run through the entire English and Cyrillic alphabets and then well into the Greek alphabet before the Thanatron gets hooked up.

  4. thordora says:

    I used to enjoy the reasons given for why the subway wasn’t running when everyone knew it was a jumper….

  5. Thor: Yeah, those were always interesting. “There is a blockage at track level”.

  6. Gabriel... says:

    I think I remember them being “…an emergency at track level.” It was probably the zombie lover in me but the first time I realized what it meant I was surprised when the subway did finally come it wasn’t splattered in gore. But I assume they sent a fresh train while the other one was sent back for decontamination.

  7. Clare says:

    I’m morose now. Goodbye, Toothy, we hardly knew ye!

  8. Clare says:

    I didn’t mean to be flippant about your blog entry. Actually, reading it has unsettled me for personal reasons that are so raw I can’t express myself well.

  9. Gabriel... says:

    I’ve been told many of my posts have the same effect on people, but flippant is always encouraged Clare. If you need to talk through anything I’m always around somewhere…

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