My sister was the queen of sweets growing up. So much so that I didn’t know cereals like Count Chocula and Frankenberry had marshmallows until college (when my sister wasn’t around to help unpack the groceries).
While I thought she was eagerly searching for the prize in every box, she was actually sifting through the cereal to retrieve and hoard all of the marshmallows into a separate ziplock bag for her own private stash.
The upside to her antics was that I spent my first 31 years cavity free, until one day my dentist broke it to me that I need a filling. A filling? OMG. You would’ve thought my world was ending. I was devastated, embarrassed and depressed. And I HATE needles.
I scheduled the appointment for a Friday afternoon so I could leave work half a day to get my filling and relax at home. I knew it was going to be traumatic.
When I arrived at the dentist, they got the ball rolling right away. The assistant came in, talked me off the ledge, shot my mouth full of Novocaine and quickly departed the room.
She kept popping in and out though (apparently to check the Novocaine’s progress), asking me all of these questions as if I was my sister, which was funny because my sister never went to this particular dentist’s office (and I did twice every year for the last fifteen years).
Unfortunately, following a back surgery, my sister spent a year in a wheelchair and later needed a cane to walk. Since my mom (also unfortunately) spent a lot of time at this dentist’s office, she kept the staff updated on my sister’s progress. The assistant (mistaking me for my sister) thought I was recovering well, all considering.
At first, I didn’t correct her and politely nodded my way through her interrogation to get rid of her. I just wanted to sit alone and sulk in silence as I mentally prepared myself for the filling, but she wasn’t giving up. On and on she went asking me all kinds of things about my recovery.
Finally, speech slurred, I let loose that wasn’t me, it was my sister. She apologized and told me she didn’t know my mom had more than one daughter.
Seriously??? Fifteen years And they thought I was my sister the whole time!
After that, things went downhill fast and I got my filling.
I’m not gonna lie. It was as bad as I expected, if only in my head. I left the office in tears, without any feeling in half of my face and traumatized.
I headed home to the apartment I shared with my sister and her little black lab, Liberty, or Libby for short. She doubled as my sister’s best friend and service dog (after the back surgery), and was almost always at her side, opposite the cane.
My big day at the dentist was an exception though and Libby was home alone when I arrived.
So, I took her for a quick stroll around the grounds and headed back to our apartment. I just wanted to get inside and continue feeling bad for myself. But of course, just steps away from our unit, one of our neighbors stopped me.
Being new to the complex, I’d never met him or spoken to ANY neighbors yet.
Face numb, drooling and unable to formulate any recognizable words, this made a fantastic day for introductions!
him: Oh, what’s his name? I see him with your sister, the one with the cane, all the time. Is he her service dog?
me (in my head): Yes, but she’s a her, Liberty.
me (in reality): YETH, buth thees a hoowr, Libootheeeee.
him (with a look of horror): I’m sorry, what was that?
me (in my head): Liberty. HER name is LiBERty!!!
me (in reality, frustrated): Libootheeeee. HOOWR naaaaaaabe ith LIBOOTHEEEEE!!
him (backing up a little): One more time?
me (in my head): Liberty. Like LIBBY for short.
me (in reality): Libootheeeee. Lithe LIBBEEEEE fo shoath!
him (shouting): OH!!! Libby, LIBERTY???
me (in my head): YES, LIBERTY!!!
me (in reality, wiping away the drool and grinning like I scored this round of charades): YETH, LIBOOTHEEEEE!!
him (shouting even louder and slower): OHHHH, DO YOU GUYS SHARE HER???
me (in my head): No. There’s nothing wrong with me?
me (in reality, looking at him like he’s on crack): NO. Theese nubbing wong wid BE?
him (suddenly making a quick exit): OH… OK… NICE… TO… MEET… YOU!! (pausing and thoroughly enunciating every word).
He parted quickly, so Libby and I retreated to the apartment where I felt a lot less bad for myself knowing that my perceived hearing loss and speech impediments were sure to fade by morning.
I’m pretty sure word about the encounter spread around the complex.
For the remainder of our stay, no one ever stopped to talk to either of us directly after that.
People often waved big at my sister (like she couldn’t see them otherwise) and any greetings and salutations that came my way were always slowly shouted at me.
I suspect we were likely referred to as those poor sisters sharing their little service dog, Liberty!