I've had a bit of a memorable Memorial Day weekend so far. I was at work Thursday, toward the end of my shift, when I bit into a piece of bread and snapped my tooth right off. No pain, no hint of a problem other than that particular tooth's usual grey color looking more grey than usual. It's been that color since I was a teenager. Way back when, when the orthodontist yanked my old-fashioned steel torture hoop braces off, that was the tooth that had a little tube on the side of it for my headgear to fit into. The entire bicuspid was steel grey. I'd gaped in the mirror, horrified, but the orthodontist had just shrugged. "That happens sometimes. You're going to lose that tooth." Thirty years later, it snapped off on the soft crust of a roll. I guess I can't complain.
I walked to the convenient dentist's office across the street, where a co-worker suggested I go. Thankfully they were still open. I showed the receptionist my snaggle-toothed grin and she went in the back to tell the dentist. He agreed to see me. He poked and prodded, crammed some temporary white medicinal something into the gap and told me to come in the next morning at 8:30am for a root canal. Leery of gruesome tales of smoking drills and excruciating pain, I nonetheless showed up the following day. The dentist, a kindly man with a gentle voice, made light conversation while both his hands and spinning metal tools were in my mouth. The conversation was somewhat one-sided although I gaggled enthusiastically. There was no pain at all; the nerve had been dead for years. He cleaned out all the mess, yanked on the jagged remainder of the tooth, and declared there was enough there for a cap. He sprayed water, blew air, and spackled the hole. I shook his hand, gave him one of my comic flyers for FREAK, slapped some money down and ran out the door at 9:50. At 9:59, I clocked in at work and began to open the store.
There was a bit of flubby lip going on for the first hour, but by the time guests began to arrive, my speech was almost normal. Conscious of the gap in my smile, grins were not quite as ear-to-ear as they usually were, and one of my buddies asked if I was sad; he didn't normally see me so subdued. I finished my shift and went home to read a pile of comic books. I'd bought a gorgeous hardback of famous speeches that changed history but Conan and Elfquest were calling me at that moment.
Probing the spackle with my tongue, I gummed some cottage cheese and reminisced about tooth memories from my past. When my adult teeth first came in, there were far too many, which were far too large, for my small palate to handle. Some stuck straight out, some hid behind others, and one molar grew straight across the roof of my mouth. It never even erupted. I didn't know what it was; it never occurred to me that the roof of any body's mouth was anything other than convex. When I was fitted for braces, they pulled five teeth, including the roof monster. I asked my dad to drill holes in them for a necklace, which I wore to the orthodontist's. He took a picture and put it up on the office bulletin board.
I had a real fondness for monster movies. Still love them, but then again, I love almost all genres of film. I made vampire fangs for myself from the white plastic on milk jugs, securing them to my gums with my dad's false teeth glue. Wore them to school in junior high and got in trouble.
When my son Leland's adult teeth come in, they were even worse than mine had been. His two front teeth looked like a pair of running legs; one straight out, one straight in. They pulled nine teeth for his braces and he wore them for over four years. I have never seen him in person without his braces; they were removed when he was a senior in high school, after I'd sent him to live with his dad. Rhianna's teeth were always perfectly straight, as if she'd already worn braces, but they were natural.
My dad had terrible teeth. A typical side effect of the Depression's poor diet and worse dental hygiene, he went into the dentist for only four extractions when I was five or six years old, but woke up without a tooth in his head. Mom says she could hear him cussing and screaming from the waiting room. They screwed up his false teeth and he had to gum raw hamburgers for weeks. It was Christmastime. He took me shopping for Mom's present at Sears. A vain man, very conscious of his extreme good looks, Dad kept a sober closed mouth when we were riding the elevator. It was full of holiday shoppers. The evil imp got ahold of me, and in that crammed to capacity elevator, I looked up at my scary father and said, "Smile, Daddy." He glared for silence but I just grinned and repeated the words. He yanked me out on the next floor and snarled a warning, but I was way too delighted to have gotten to him to be scared. That, and everybody in the elevator had been snickering by the time we flew out of there. It became a favorite story of his about me.
Let's hope the rest of the Memorial Day weekend is uneventful. I go in Tuesday to finish the root canal. Have a great weekend, eat lots of hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill for me, or potato salad and hummus if that's your bent, and remember all the heroes we celebrate this day off for. Take care.