Adventures in Dentistry

Yesterday, yes on Memorial Day, my tooth broke. No, it did not break on a freakishly charred hamburger or hot dog from the barbecue. No, we weren’t camping in Saskatchewan or anything and I didn’t have to paddle out sixteen miles while blood oozed out of my mouth, but it still sucked that it broke on a holiday. Why does shit only happen on weekends and holidays? Why can’t shit happen when you can call someone to fix it right now?

And you might wonder why that tooth broke. What the hell? How can a tooth break from out of nowhere?

No, it’s not a story like that. I knew that my tooth was going to break. I did. I’ve known it was going to break for the past fifteen years. I just didn’t know when.

My tooth started hurting when my dentist at the time replaced the filling because the old one was ugly. She then proceeded to grind down the perfectly good molar above it as if it were the offender. That pissed me off because the molar on top instantly became this ugly little nub of a tooth that my tongue didn’t like and has been a distraction ever since.

I changed dentists then. Plus, the woman died, God rest her soul, so I can’t go back to her and complain that my tooth broke because she replaced the filling badly. The statute of limitations has passed on that one. Her soul is probably in one of Dante’s agonies right now since her all-knowing has widened her understanding, on a molecular level, just exactly what she did wrong with my tooth fifteen years ago and how she could have avoided turning the upper molar into an annoying little nub in the process. Hey, Ms. Dentist. I know you didn’t do any of it on purpose, so let it go, okay? You can go back to enjoying your blue heaven.

The person I’m angry at, a live dentist, is the one I’ve been seeing, not in a dating way, just cleanings and fillings and junk, since then. This guy kept telling me that I should save money by putting off any work on that tooth.

Every single cleaning in the last fifteen years, I’ve mentioned this tooth to him and every single time, he had me bite down on a wad of cotton. Pain. Yes, oh my freaking God, that’s the one pain. And he kept saying I should hold off for a while. Why?

Because of that, I’ve been thinking of changing dentists for the past two years. The catch is that he’s a local dentist and I see him walking through when I shop at the market and when I pick books up at the library. There are some problems with living in a small town, I tell you.

Finally, six months ago, he said I should see a root canal specialist. He didn’t even do them any more. ‘Well, what do you do?’ I wanted to ask. Right. You have people bite down on wads of cotton to try to identify what you identified, without a doubt, six months ago was pain, sharp, screaming pain, on that last molar on the bottom.

What did I do when he gave me the referral?

I lived with it.

I decided I couldn’t stand the idea of this man attempting a crown and I lived with it for another six months while I tried to come up with the courage to change dentists. A month ago, at my regular cleaning, he gave me another referral, being a little more certain that the tears that popped into my eyes when I bit down on the little wad of cotton meant that there was, indeed, a problem with that last molar …. well, maybe the next to last molar even though I could chomp that wad of cotton with the next to last molar like a champ.

So, I called his root canal specialist and made an appointment. I even told this guy that I was traveling in two months and wanted to make sure that I wasn’t eating a fresh pain au chocolat at a sidewalk cafe in France on a Sunday morning only to have that tooth break on me.

His advice?

“Let’s make an appointment for a month after you get back. It’s been this long. You should be okay for another three months.”

Yeah, thanks for that. Thanks, really.

Now I have eleven days to get a root canal and a new cap on that tooth before I get on a plane to go to France. And I am getting a new freaking dentist!

Thank you for listening, jules


Eleven Days in Five Countries and My Open When Letters

In a couple of weeks, I’m going to meet up with my sister and her daughter for a trip through France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Spain. I tell you that one country would have been enough, but this being my niece’s European tour, she insisted that she had to get from one interesting place to the next, traversing the same distance you’d go from Indianapolis to Washington, DC to Atlanta and back. If you tell me that you can see all of that territory in just two weeks, I’ll tell you that you aren’t going to see much with all that Interstate travel. I’d prefer to stay in one village and loop around to see things nearby, like the pig with an extra tail and the cave where Jacque Bartier, a nine year old, painted his hand print and archeologists came and thought it was a discovery of ancient cave dwellers for about three weeks. I’d rather experience the people and lifestyle in one place, walking and eating and smelling the air. I’d like to see how the light is different in this different new place. I’m telling you – I’ve lived on the East coast, in the Midwest, and now in the Pacific Northwest and the light is different in each of these places. I don’t need stand in line to see famous paintings. I just want to see the light that inspired them.

My sister and her daughter are even headed down into Italy, a place I’d love to visit, but on it’s own, and not part of a whirlwind tour. As it is, I’m experiencing a whirlwind just planning on how to be polite and ask for bottled water, salad and strawberries in each of the three languages with which I am relatively unfamiliar, French, Spanish, and German. I am going to be a dork, trying to pronounce something in French and having it come out with a high school Spanish accent. And forget about talking in German.

In the meantime, I’m trying to imagine the condition of my house and the occupants in it after I’ve been gone for eleven days. My boy Nick may be thirteen, but I’ve only been away from him two days once when he was four. The whole family has been working on his ability to take care of some things on his own, basic cooking, cleaning up after himself, and managing his homework. He’s so aggravating about it that I want to do the job myself, especially in light of the fact that cleaning up one of his messes might have taken me four minutes and would take him twenty-five as he created more messes just trying to clean up one spot.

I know exactly where the idea for ‘The Cat in the Hat’ book came from. Do you remember all that pink snow? That was Dr. Seuss standing by and letting a kid clean up his own mess and watching it spread like mold growing on old bread on a summer day in South Carolina. I’ve stood by and watched as my grousing son made a little mess on a table top into a big one on the table and down two legs, on the back of the chair, on the covers of three books, and embedded into the carpet forever. I’m telling you that I look forward to fourteen hours with a book on an airplane. I really do. I just wonder what the house will look like when I get home and whether or not Nick and Mike will be talking to each other or me when I get back.

So, in light of all that, I’m going to write some Open When letters. You know the ones I mean. Last week, I read about a man who’d been deployed to the Middle East and how he wrote seven or eight letters to his fiance. She was supposed to get lonely and open the one that said ‘Open When You’re Lonely.’ Then, she was supposed to wonder if he loved her and she was supposed to open the letter that said ‘Open When You Wonder if I Love You.’

Well, I’ve been trying to begin Nick’s letters. Here’s a list of the titles I’ve come up with so far:

Open When You Have a Tiny Mess to Clean Up

Open When You Have Made that Tiny Mess into a Big One

Open When You’re Procrastinating Your Homework

Open When It’s a Half Hour Past Bedtime

Open When You’re Whining

Maybe I should rethink writing these letters to my son. Maybe I should write some letters to my beleaguered husband. They might read as follows:

Open When Nick’s Turned the House into a Pigsty

Open When Nick is Whining

Open When It’s a Half Hour Past Bedtime and Nick has Procrastinated his Homework

Yeah, that will do it. I’ll leave Nick a single letter – Open When Your Patient Dad is About to Hit You – and I should be good to go.

Thank you for listening, jules


Box Pain and Yoghurt Toxins

One of my family members is making yoghurt in the living room. Oh, I’m not talking about one of those nice little warmers with the jars. I have one of those. They’re nice, but I rarely make yoghurt these days, except when I take too long to do the dishes. I’ve never had the nerve to taste the shit that develops when a glass of milk is left on the counter too long. It’s too dicey. If it hasn’t been primed with real yoghurt, I could be growing something toxic.

When I make yoghurt with my nice little warmer, I spoon in my favorite brand, add milk, stir, and screw the lids tightly onto those little jars in case any of my floating toxic yoghurt germs plan to drop in and start to grow. It makes me think of a book I used to love called Momma Makes Up Her Mind, in which the main character wonders about the safety of eating her Cheerios while her mom is throwing possibly toxic mushrooms onto a white sheet of paper on the kitchen table in order to identify the spore pattern. 

In spite of all that care with my little jars, I made some pretty bad yoghurt. Did you know that when you use real cream, you get this greasy layer on top of what you fermented? I guess that’s butter, but I didn’t want to eat it. Then, I tried to make skim yoghurt for my husband. It was too watery and he didn’t touch it. One of the jars fell over in the fridge and all that sticky muck spilled all over the inside of my fridge. I thought those jars sealed. Guess I was wrong.

On a whim, I tasted the cheesy little glob of stuff that stayed inside the jar after all the sticky mess had drained out. It was delicious. Really! I’m not kidding. I’ve never recreated that stuff, though I’ve imagined the mess I could make trying to let the wet skim yoghurt hang in cheesecloth for a few days while the sticky part drains out, preferably not under my cheese drawer in my fridge.

These days, I’m too damned busy to make yoghurt, rather, the intentional kind. I should, even at this moment, be packing boxes. No, I’m not moving. My mother is coming. My husband has decided that it’s a good time to add stress to that fact by insisting that we get new flooring in our den and guest room, a.k.a., my office, before she arrives.

If you’re breathing differently and have a mini-panic attack just trying to imagine your mother coming to visit, then you may know what I mean. If you’ve got that kind of mom whom you rush to call when the baby spits up for the first time on his own, then we’re in different camps and you just need to keep quiet and nod your head while I whine.

This insistence my husband has to finally get around to putting in a floor over the painted concrete foundation after twenty-three years of living here means:

1) My husband is indeed cowed by my mother’s personality after twenty-three years of acting all cool and wise while visiting her house.

2) I’m in charge of boxing everything up – the contents of four bookshelves, all the Christmas ornaments and stuff stored under the stairs, all the camping gear, all forty-six blue decorative and commemorative plates his grandmother used to decorate the walls of her apartment before she died, and all the toys and clothes my boy has outgrown but we can’t seem to throw out or donate.

3) We seem not to be able to part with a lot of stuff, but this activity definitely puts us out of the running for the next hoarders episode. I’m pleased to tell you that all parts of things that might have been repaired if we just had more time are now history. I just knew that the toasted toaster oven was never going to work again, but I quietly nodded my head at my husband’s insistence that he’d get it working again. In another life, he did indeed get that stuff working again. Someday, you can ask me about the TV in our bedroom, repaired six times without a schematic.

4) This means that my stress levels about cleaning the cobwebs off the second floor windows has just quadrupled because I don’t think I can wash all those windows AND pack half of our possessions into boxes so that careless men can come to my house and do a shitty job laying flooring a week before my mother comes to visit.

5) My neck hurts from hauling all this crap over to our new storage garage. Maximum amounts of anti-inflammatories, ice, massage and procrastination have not loosened it. Right now, it’s hard to drain my Perrier because my neck doesn’t go that direction. So when people ask me how I’m faring with my boxing project, I can say, without blinking an eye that it’s a pain in the ass, I mean, neck.

6) While I’m procrastinating packing all those damned boxes, I’m also ignoring my usual duties and there is yoghurt growing in my  living room. Maybe I’ll taste some this time, toxins be damned.

Thank you for listening, jules