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Today Yours Truly had a melt-down. Not a radioactive melt-down. Just a sweet, sticky pile of melted ice-cream kind of melt-down (‘cept a whole lot saltier).

You see I’ve been teething of late. Like a baby. I can relate with their tears now: that burning, aching, soreness in the center of your noggin. So close to your brain. If I were a baby I’d cry about it. A baby can’t compare it to falling off a bike, or an amputation, or nuclear war. It’s the worst pain they’ve ever been in and it’s pretty bad.

Wisdom (incarnated in my teeth) decided to visit the left side of my mouth first. A dear friend made me a homeopathic serum of coconut  and clove oil and it did wonders for my swelling gums. Then, wonder of wonders, the pain went away.

And, like a fool, I thought my troubles were over. Maybe that’s why Wisdom decided to revisit.

Mind-you, I was supposed to have my wisdom teeth out over the summer. The dentists said so. “Yeah, you should get those out,” they said in a very nonchalant, off-handed-suggestion sort of way. Like, “Maybe you should try onion-and-tomato ice-cream.” Like it’d be good for me but understandably unpleasant. So needless to say it didn’t happen.

Well when two days ago I woke up with seething, pressurized pain on the OTHER side of my mouth, I wished I had been wiser. I sat through classes with my hand massaging my jaw all day. I also suffer from TMJ, so my mouth was freaking out, too. I couldn’t sing in choir. Then last night the pain was so bad I couldn’t concentrate–I fell asleep (ever-so-slowly) with a hot-pack against my face.

an-illustration-of-a-patient-with-toothache Remember those children’s illustrations where the character has their head tied up in white cloth under their chin with a bow on top? They wear a face of great discomfort and their cheek’s the size of a tennis-ball? That’s how I felt.

Thanksgiving break hasn’t time for surgery. Waiting till Christmas would mean over a month of pain and meds, AND risking infection, orthodontic work getting messed up, or the teeth attaching to the bone. Immediate action was called for.

So my mother and I slipped into high-gear, and a flurry of e-mails (something near 20) were exchanged in a matter of an hour or two trying to figure out where to go in the middle of nowhere in Michigan for oral surgery (and as soon as possible!). Needless to say, working through brain-waves intermingled with radiating dental pain was bound to go awry. I had called one place, thinking it was the dentist who could give a consultation that would enable me to have prescribed medication, and miraculously got an appointment for a half-hour later. I’d gone over to the college Nurse’s Office (leaving lunch early to get there before they closed), and there I got a host of directions including how to get to said dentist office. (Did I mention I don’t have a phone or car?) A college-security gentleman drove me over to the place. “Take care of your pain!” he called as he dropped me off.

But no sooner had I arrived and started filling out paper-work then we discovered that I was at the wrong place! The appointment I’d made was with the oral surgeon: over a half-hour away and already over. So as my mom, (on the dentist’s phone), and the receptionist sweetly tried to sort out all the details, the many mistakes, and reschedule appointments, I clung to composure.  I thought about my missed appointment, being stranded at the dentist, the classes I was missing, the crazy amount of effort put into getting there all for naught, and the three papers I still needed to write (which would no-doubt be the far worse for being written directly after oral-surgery). And I thought about all this as the pain made my head feel a mushy, foggy, bog.

So yes, I had a little mini-melt-down. I stood in the anti-room between the entry doorways and let the tears slowly fall. Like melting ice-cream and so many sweet dreams.

The receptionist had kindly called multiple numbers for me, and a security man was on his way to pick me back up. The same man. I tried to dry my tears before I got in the car.

He was an older gentleman, closer to eighty. His name was Jim. As we drove through the little town we passed by a nondescript collection of running water and some small houses by its bank.

“That’s where me and my wife lived.” he commented, almost to himself, like he couldn’t help saying so in passing by.

I recollected myself and presently asked, “Have you always lived here?”

“My whole life.” he replied. “Well,” he said, “I used to live in Jackson.” Jackson was the town next-door. As someone who’s moved seven times, once across the continent, this didn’t seem to really count (but I didn’t tell him so). “But I didn’t like it,” he continued. “Here I know all the fishing and hunting spots.”

“Was your wife from here, too?”

Yes, she was, he said. Silently I wondered if she had passed away but at last asked, “Did you go to school together?”

The answer was yes, but he said it like there’d been a barrier, “Weeeellll, I was two years ahead of her.”

I smiled and replied, grinning, “My boyfriend’s two years older than me, and I think it works.”

He laughed quietly. “Yesss,” he mused, “it all worked out pretty good.”

The way he said it, it wasn’t about going to school with his wife, it was his whole long, beautiful life he was thinking about.

And that made me think. Perspective, people. Here was a man who had lived his whole life in the same twenty-five square miles. He’d married a girl he’d gone to school with, lived along the banks of a back-water town-stream, and in his old age worked Security for a college. He’d spent the last few hour of the day jumping college student’s cars and taking me to and fro from the dentist.

And his life was beautiful. And he was a beautiful, kind old man.

My teeth suddenly felt more like a baby-problem. And as the rest of the day passed, and I was comforted by calls from my mother, my boyfriend, and sweet girl-friends who offered rides and post-surgery nursing, I couldn’t help but thinking how blessed I was—and that my own life was pretty beautiful, too.

Kinda crazy. Maybe dark-chocolate and rainbow-flavored. But beautiful.