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.
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.