Monday, November 24, 2008
It was, I'm quite sure, my first lesson in irony. I remember taking my bike to the dentist's office in town, where the otherwise bland waiting room wall was decorated by a single picture, a 5x7, featuring a kid from the Spanky-and-Our-Gang era whose head was tied with a bandanna, chin to forehead, knot on top. He'd just come from the chair, and, once outside, he'd picked up a piece of charcoal or something and graffitied the sign outside the dentist's office, scratched the "painless" out of "Painless Dentist," and scratched in "liar."
Ha ha, I thought--not funny. I knew I was supposed to laugh but I didn't. In fact, the stupid picture made me mad because I knew that in just a few moments I'd ascend that elaborate torture apparatus myself and suffer the same painful horrors Spanky had.
I'm thankful to my parents for a myriad of blessings, but good teeth aren't one of them. I've suffered more oral indignities than is rightly fair, methinks. In fact, one of my few repeated nightmares--hardly qualifies, but it is horrifying--is that my teeth suddenly fall out, even though I'm eating nothing more dangerous than a tomato. Boom, crack--suddenly they're not there.
But I'm sixty, and I've got 'em. For years, I was sure I'd have to set the false ones out at night the way my parents did. Not so. I'm still outfitted, but I count among them a number of counterfeits.
Not long ago, I met a man with a shiny set so beautiful that I was downright covetous. When the man smiled, life became an American musical. Blessed with a set like that, I thought, I could be something. No kidding.
Two weeks later, his sister tells me the design was the dentist's. I should have known. Such perfection doesn't really exist in this world.
As John and Abigail Adams age in that wonderful HBO special series, their teeth become an embarrassment. What's there is black; what's not is gaping. When they smile, they look like zombies. Those of us heavy-laden with soft teeth can thank goodness this isn't the 18th century.
Soft or not, I am happy to have my teeth. While they're not perfect--whose are?--they'll do me just fine for awhile at least, my dentist says. So this morning, just now finishing up this morning's wonderful honeycrisp apple, I'm thankful for no less a blessing than my teeth, perilous as they are. At least they stay put.
Not a dime's worth of irony here either, I swear.