Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wisdom extracted from the dentist chair

Sitting tensely in the dentist chair yesterday, while several sharp, spinning, buzzing, grinding, smoking tools aimed at my mouth and my dentist cheerily whistled a tune, I realized these are one of those moments when I probably might want to question the wisdom of my past habits in life.

I never should have used my face to block those soccer ball shots when I was so bravely playing defense. Perhaps developing that chocolate addiction as a kid has come back to haunt me. Chewing on those hard peppermint candies my mother gave us kids to silence us in church probably was a no-no.

And I admit it, I never should have bobbed for beer bottles floating in that barrel of ice cold water when I attended that one pre-wedding party back in my much younger days. For years after that the dentists kept remarking how they couldn’t understand why I had so many chipped teeth.

Funny how we think we’re invincible at that point in our lives. Or at least our teeth are. I recall we actually admired the guys in the community who could get the cap off pop or beer bottles with their teeth because finding a bottle opener would have been too inconvenient. Of course, now that I think about it, the fact that these same guys were down to only two or three teeth should have been a clue that maybe we should have sought more deserving heroes to earn our praise.

So there I was in the dentist chair, trying to figure out how many teeth the dentist wanted to tackle. I was struggling to understand the differences in terminology but dollar signs kept floating through my mind. Maybe it was because of all the talk of silver fillings and gold crowns.

But I knew it needed to be done. It’s been tough to write cheery blogs on our website and make pleasant conversation in the office when all I wanted to do is growl arggggghhhhhh, arggghhhhh and hunt down more painkillers.

Whenever I’m in a dentist chair, I try to think of happy, pleasant, serene thoughts. Like fishing with my family on a warm summer evening on one of our favorite lakes. Casting a line in a lazy loop over the water, listening to it spin out of the reel, and the gentle plunk of the lure hitting the water as a ripple of circles emerges around it.

Thinking of the farm is always a good escape. Yesterday, I thought about some of the things we were taught to chew on at an early age.

A blade of grass, a long hay straw. Wild berries, ranging from bitter to sweet. Crab apples, plums and other fruit off trees in our yard. Petals of wild roses. A handful of soft wheat kernels in mid-summer, followed by hardened kernels during harvest time that we’d chew until it became gum. The first carrots and radishes that emerged in the garden. Sweet sap frozen into icicles dripping from maple trees.

We were fairly self-sufficient on the farm, buying only a few of the necessities we needed for groceries. Shamefully, I realize it was when I moved away from the farm that I probably adopted the bad habits that led me to the dentist. Bobbing for beer was probably the worst.

“See you next week,” the dentist cheerfully said as I left his office, my left cheek puffier than a squirrel after it has packed in a few acorns.

I just nodded, richer in wisdom, if not in the pocket.

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