Tag Archives: Tooth

The Day The Last Baby Tooth Fell Out

mouth

My son didn’t lose his teeth.

Nearly all of Tech’s chompers came in all “fakakta,” a Yiddish word meaning completely crazy. They just never got wiggly, so each one needed to be pulled by the dentist.

It seemed like such a chore. Why couldn’t my son just loose his teeth the way other children did? Swallow them accidentally while eating cake or donuts? Why did everything have to be such a production?

I always anticipated a fight on the way to the dentist’s chair. And yet, Tech never complained. Sitting on hard black waiting room chairs, he wasn’t nervous. Not even the first time. He just waited for his name to be called, and after the first time, he was a pro. He knew there would be a shot of Novocain, followed by numbness, followed by pressure. But he had faith in the adults around him. And he always appeared, chewing on a wad of bloody gauze, to hand me a tiny plastic container that held his tooth, or – in one instance – four teeth.

Last Friday, Tech informed me that he had a loose tooth. I didn’t think much of it; I figured eventually I’d call the dentist and make an appointment to have it extracted.

But that night, Tech took one bite into a slice of pizza and spat his mouthful of half-chewed food onto his plate and started mining. It only took a moment for him to find the tiny sauce-covered nugget.

That's it. The last one.

That’s it. The last one.

Holding it in his hands, Tech slurred his words. “Dat’s la lass wun.”

And then I realized what he was saying.

My son had just lost his last baby tooth.

I stopped chewing and looked across the table at my husband.

TechSupport is our only child. At thirteen years old, he is in no hurry to grow up. He tells us stories of classmates who have girlfriends or boyfriends, kids who drink and smoke after school or on weekends at parties he doesn’t attend. He isn’t interested in any of this at the moment. He has only just recently become a little teenagerishy.

And while he may not realize it, at thirteen years old, my son has crossed over. Lately, it feels like he is more on the grown up side of things than on the boy side. He’s tall. And with his longer hair, he looks older than he is – especially when he stands next to some of his friends who are shorter and stubbier than he is.

The Tooth Fairy has always left a little to be desired on our house. Tech figured out I was The Fairy at age 7, when his $2 bill came accompanied by a note typed in my favorite font. When questioned, I could not deny it. He had the evidence. A common-sense kind of guy, Tech has never been interested in magic — except to figure out how the tricks really worked.

That Friday night, after the dishes were done, I found my purse and tried to give my son a few bucks.

He shook his head, refusing. He’d seen the news by then. And even though the story was just unfolding, I think he felt the weight of what had happened in Connecticut.

I moved closer to him. We stand eye to eye these days, and I was surprised to see that night his eyes were light brown, the color of cream soda. I pressed a few single dollar bills against his chest. “It’s the last one! And it fell out all by itself.”

“It just knew to stop holding on.” Tech shrugged. “Kind of like you need to stop holding on, Mom.”

I reached out a hand to touch Tech’s shoulder, but he is squirmy these days, and he moved away. Sometimes he doesn’t feel like being touched.

“Will you just put my tooth in with the others?” he asked.

I raised an eyebrow. How did he know about the purple box in the corner of my husband’s closet?

“Dad showed me,” Tech answered, reading my mind. “I used to think it was weird that you guys kept my teeth. But now… I get it.”

I know it's a little creepy, but...

I know it’s a little creepy, but…

I walked upstairs and sat on the floor inside the quiet closet. As I removed the top to the old blue shoebox, I was surprised by the oddities the box held: an old watch, an ancient skull (a gift given from my father-in-law to my husband, before he went off to medical school), and the purple jewelry box with the psychedelic rectangular pattern on the cover. I opened the purple clamshell and plopped the last of Tech’s baby teeth inside before snapping it shut.

I know that most people do not save teeth. I know plenty of people who think saving teeth is pretty disgusting. I suppose I saved Tech’s teeth because the wonky, misshapen bits are little perfectly-imperfect pieces-parts of a person I love, something that I can hold in my hands. I suppose, one day, those little nubs will serve as a reminder of a simpler, sweeter time: a time when my boy wanted cuddles and Goldfish crackers and not much else.

I shook the purple box.

It sounded like diamonds rattling around in there.

And then I thought about all those kids from the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I thought of their teeth.

I know it’s weird, but grief isn’t logical.

I thought of all those baby teeth that hadn’t yet fallen out.

Of all those permanent teeth that hadn’t yet come in.

How nothing is permanent.

How everything is breakable.

And I wept, alone in the closet.

Because the sky isn’t up there; it is between us.

I have never been a hovercraft parent, but right now, I’m holding on like one of my son’s stubborn teeth: not ready to let go.

What personal mementos of your children are most precious to you?

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I’m unplugging until December 27th, but I want to wish those of you who celebrate a Merry Christmas. And to everyone else, I hope you enjoy the time off with family and friends. Let’s get ready to ring in 2013.

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Things are Breaking

In the middle of December, I pilfered some of my son’s leftover Halloween candy; I had been craving sweets, and his box of purple NERDS looked strangely enticing. I dumped the entire box in my mouth and proceeded to chomp down on the little pellets, which turned out to be grape-flavored rocks in disguise.

Seriously, those things were friggin’ ridiculous.

I had hoped for sweetness – and initially, they were sweet — but I was utterly unprepared for the unyielding, rock-hardness of those tiny artificially flavored stones.

I felt my teeth crunch against something unnaturally hard, but my sweet tooth was unrelenting.

At some point, it occurred to me that my particular pack of NERDS had come from somebody’s leftover Halloween candy from one maybe two years ago, and I just so happened to be the unlucky recipient of that box.

Nevertheless, I kept chewing until every last bit of tart purple goodness had been devoured.

Later, my husband came home after an unseasonably warm day. The world was clearly confused. There was no snow. The sky was blue and tiny flowers were trying to bloom in my garden.

My husband asked me if I had heard that The Pretty People had separated.

I hadn’t heard.

photo by Jordan Gillespie @flickr.com

I opened my mouth but there were no words.

“What’s wrong with your teeth?” he asked.

I stood in front of the mirror and stared at my teeth, or rather, the now missing parts: the pieces that had been there but that had disappeared at some point along the way without my even noticing it.

I started to weep.

Partly for my broken teeth, but mostly because of The Pretty People.

Early the next day, I made an appointment. I couldn’t wait to see my dentist so he could get his gloved hands all up in there and make things right again; it didn’t seem like it would be too hard.

But it was.

My appointment lasted over an hour during which time I lay back in the chair and listened to the dental assistant go on about another employee whose dog had recently run away, how devastated she was to have had him unexpectedly wander out of her life.

When the dentist finished shaping and bonding, I had two new teeth: nearly as good as the originals – but not exactly the same. I kept looking at them.

“Will they last forever?” I asked my dentist when he finished.

“They’ll be good for a while,” he said, “but once something has broken… well, all fixes are temporary.”

I thought of The Pretty People.

I’ve always assumed every marriage has cracks and weak spots, but that these minor imperfections are things we can excuse in our spouses. Short of infidelity or abuse, I’ve believed most grievances are petty things that we can forgive in each other because we all possess our own heinous fault lines.

I mean, on any given Thursday I want to strangle my husband after I have punched him in the throat and given him a Super-Atomic wedgie.

But Lord knows, my husband is a patient man.

It is January now, and I can’t stop thinking about the impermanence of things.

I can’t stop thinking of friends who are wrestling with health related issues; another friend whose son had to be airlifted from Bolivia to Miami to receive treatment for something doctors have not yet diagnosed. I am thinking about the dental office worker whose puppy ran away. And I am thinking about the Pretty People – their children, their home, their lives.

An eternal optimist, I’m hoping the best for all of them. I’m praying that a Divine Spirit will cure my friend’s tumors, that my friend’s son will miraculously turn around so that his father can stop worrying about diarrhea and measuring urine output. I’m hoping that The Pretty People will rediscover what they once saw in each other after a little time away from their daily routine. I’m hoping that dental assistant’s puppy will find his way home.

Also, I’m hoping that my new teeth will hold.

I know nothing is solid, but I suppose in matters of the heart I prefer the illusion to reality.

Up until that December day, my biggest worry had been getting my sugar fix.

Who knew I had it so sweet?

What has rocked your world lately?

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